Oklahoma State continues its 2023 tour of the new-look Big 12 with a trip to Houston, a familiar recruiting ground and now a new conference destination.
Week 11: Houston
OSU will visit Houston for its penultimate conference matchup this fall, following a trip to Orlando against UCF and just before its home finale against BYU. Imagine reading that sentence to your 2021 self.
When: Nov. 18
Where: Houston, Texas
This will be the Cowboys’ first game inside TDECU Stadium which opened for Houston’s 2014 season.
Series history: 9-10
Last meeting: Houston 45, OSU 35
The unranked Cougars took down the No. 5 Cowboys in Stillwater back in 2009 after Case Keenum threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns in the win. It was an early feather in Kevin Sumlin’s cap in his second year at Houston. He would go on to parlay his successful four-year run with the Cougars into a job at Texas A&M, coaching the Fightin’ Johnny Manziels.
Fun fact: The two programs haven’t met in 14 years, but this isn’t the first time they will be conference foes. OSU and Houston were both members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1951-56. OSU went 1-5 during that stretch.
Bonus Fact: Entering the Big 12, Houston is 1-12 against current Power Five teams since beating future conference confederate Arizona back in 2018. The Cougs need to step up if they want to play with the big dogs.
Houston in 2022: The Cougars went 8-5 in their fourth year under Dana Holgorsen, a former OC at Oklahoma State under Gundy. It was a step back after a 12-2 season, and No. 17 finish, the year before. It was also the swan song for Clayton Tune and Nathaniel Dell, Houston’s version of Rudolph-2-Washington. Some big cleats to fill.
One of the biggest hits the Cougars took last year was on the defensive side of the ball. After boasting one of the top defenses in the country in 2021, Houston gave up 32.2 points per game (112th nationally), up from 20.4 points per game the year before (19th).
Houston in 2023: Dana’s got some experience coming in, though, with former Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith coming by way of the transfer portal. He appears to be ahead of sophomore Lucas Coley in the competition for QB1. Whoever takes snaps will have some options to target with several wideouts returning as well as the additions of a couple of former Cowboy receivers in Stephon Johnson Jr. (Oklahoma State) and Joshua Cobbs (Wyoming).
On defense, the Cougs return several starters up front, including a few that missed time with injury last season, and they add Oklahoma transfer David Ugwoegbu on the edge. They also filled out their back end with quality transfers.
Key matchup: The Battle of the Former Tech QBs
I’m working on the assumption that, at this point in the season, Alan Bowman and Donovan Smith will be leading his respective offense. If so, they’ll do it in different ways.
During Bowman’s time with the Red Raiders, he threw for 5,260 yards and 33 touchdowns. He can move around, but he’s more your prototypical pocket passer. Smith brings a dual-threat dynamic that the Cowboys didn’t get to see last season due to shoulder issues. But he was on fire before he went down, rushing for seven touchdowns and throwing 12 touchdowns last season.
Each is the biggest wild card to his team’s success this offseason, and each is set to be one of the biggest contributors to his team’s season success. That could be on full display when the Cowboys and Cougs meet up in Houston.