BYU's football team is leaving the state of Utah for the first time since Week 1 to face Houston in a Cougars vs. Cougars fight.

Interestingly enough, Houston is the only undefeated team left on BYU's schedule, and the Cougars in Scarlet look impressive as they lead the nation in turnover margin. However, Houston's opponents so far have a combined 10-20 record, leading many to wonder just how good this team really is.

From offense to defense and special teams, here's what you need to know about the Houston Cougars.

Lafe Peavler is a sportswriter intern at the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @MasterPeavler


Houston's known for its quarterbacks, and it has a rising star in John O'Korn.

The true freshman had to step up after David Piland left the Temple game with a concussion. Piland has since left the program, citing his multiple concussions.

However, Houston's offense is in capable hands.

O'Korn has had an impressive d├ębut season, averaging 226 yards per game with 11 touchdowns and just one interception on the season. The BYU secondary will have its hands full trying to stop O'Korn on Saturday despite O'Korn's inexperience.

The secondary will have to keep a close watch on sophomore WR Deontay Greenberry. Greenberry leads the Cougars with 606 yards, and he has three games with 146 or more receiving yards this season. Junior WR Daniel Spencer is another dangerous target with four touchdowns on the season.

On the ground, the Cougars in Scarlet will turn to Ryan Jackson. While Jackson had two games with 100 yards or more rushing to start the season, he rushed for just seven against Memphis last week. Jackson and the Houston running game will have a difficult time moving the ball against Kyle Van Noy and BYU's front seven.


BYU's offense better make sure to secure the football, because Houston excels at taking it away. Houston leads the nation in turnover margin with 10 fumbles recovered and eight interceptions on the season while turning over the ball just four times for a net margin of 14.

That's not good news for BYU as its turnover margin is negative three.

LB Derrick Mathews is a key leader with 49 tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Senior DB Zachary McMillian is another dangerous defender with 26 tackles and two interceptions this season.

This defense will challenge BYU as they allow only 127 yards rushing and 19 points per game. Granted, Houston has faced only one team with a winning record so far this season, but if BYU doesn't secure the football Houston will make the Cougars pay.

Special teams

Kicker Richie Leone has had a busy season. He's made all of his 20 PAT attempts, and he's made 10 field goals. However, he hasn't been the most reliable kicker as he missed a 26-yard kick against UTSA and a 35-yard kick against Temple. His career long is just 40 yards. Leone also handles kickoff and punting duties, averaging 41 yards per punt.


Houston head coach Tony Levine is in his second season as head coach, and he learned from one of the great offensive minds in college football in Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin. He's already matched last year's win total and Houston looks like a serious competitor in the American Athletic Conference.

Defensive coordinator David Gibbs has turned Houston's traditionally weak defense into a turnover-grabbing machine after just one year on the job. Hiring Gibbs may be Levine's single greatest move in his short time as head coach.


On paper, Houston is a formidable foe as it is No. 19 in scoring offense with more than 40 points per game and No. 22 in scoring defense allowing just 19 points per game. That 5-0 record should say it all.

However, the Cougars in Scarlet beat FCS Southern, win-less Temple, a decent 4-2 Rice squad, 2-5 UTSA and 1-4 Memphis. The question remains: Just how good is Houston, anyway?

BYU better be ready for a fantastic team that loves to force turnovers. The Cougars in Blue will have a big fight on their hands as they travel to Houston on Saturday.