BIGGEST OFFSEASON QUESTION
Holgorsen likely doesn’t get very long to figure out life in the Big 12. He was hired to get the Cougars in position to compete in a conference he coached in back at West Virginia. The 2021 season looked like the start of a magic ride into the new-look conference. Instead, it feels like a mirage after a disappointing 2022. Holgorsen is 27-20 in four years at Houston. The Cougars fired Major Applewhite after two years and a 15-10 record.
WAY TOO EARLY 2023 OUTLOOK
Houston brought in Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith to replace Tune at quarterback. The gamble better pay off. The good news is that Smith has plenty of Big 12 experience and was a gamer during his time in Lubbock. The offense was solid for most of 2022, so the biggest jump forward needs to be defensively because it is hard to envision the Cougars scoring at the same clip in the Big 12 with Smith as it did in the AAC with Tune. The return of running back Alton McCaskill should be a big boost.
Transition is never easy. The week-in, week-out competition only gets harder for Houston. The USFs and Temples of the world are replaced with Oklahoma State and Baylor. Kansas, the usual doormat of the Big 12, improved enough to beat Houston last year by three possessions. Texas and Oklahoma are likely still in the conference, and the Longhorns will play in Houston if that remains true. TCU is fresh off a College Football Playoff berth. Texas Tech is on the rise. Kansas State returns a lot. Newcomers such as Cinci and UCF look closer to instant success. The point is, even reaching .500 might be a difficult task.
An eight-win season feels like a success in 2023 given the potential schedule and amount of talent the Cougars must replace offensively.