The School: The University of Houston
Record: 7-0 (4-0 in the AAC). Their conference wins? 3-4 Tulsa, 1-6 SMU, 2-5 Tulane, and 0-8 UCF. Nobody tell the AAC that Austin Peay is available for 2016.
Ranking: #18 in the AP Top 25 and #19 Coaches' Poll. The formulas have Houston rated 20th in the Real Time RPI. They are ranked 11th in Warren Nolan's power rankings (Vandy is #89, and Temple, former #1, is back up to 4th in the nation).
Mascot: The Cougars. Learn more about the UH campus community at www.cougarlife.com.
Location: Houston, TX. No longer America's fattest city. Thanks, Hidden Valley Light Ranch Dressing!
Coach: "One of the best offensive coordinators in the country," according to Derek Mason, Tom Herman. Of course, he's the head coach now, and Mason has no idea whether or not he's actually calling the plays, but at least he got his first name right.
Conference: The American Athletic Conference, which up until 2013 was just a typo on poorly made Chinese sweatshirts.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 0-1. THE RIVALRY CONTINUES.
In the Last 10 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 0-1.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: James Franklin's Commodores won their third bowl game since 2008 when they handed the Cougars a 41-24 defeat at the 2014 BBVA Compass Bowl. Vandy went up 24-0 at the half only to watch Houston score 24 straight points in one of the most Vanderbilt quarters of football to ever Vanderbilt. Patton Robinette completed only one pass in the second half, and it was to Houston defender Adrian McDonald. Fortunately for VU, the Cougars' final four possessions alternated interceptions and turnovers on downs to put a merciful end to an especially mediocre bowl game.
Is Vandy Favored?: The Commodores opened up as a +12 underdog despite winning an SEC game for the first time in nearly two years last week. That's bad news for Vanderbilt, but HORRIBLE news for the Missouri team they just beat.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Greg Ward Jr., a dual threat, dual-name quarterback, according to Derek Mason. Gary West III leads his team in both passing and rushing yards this fall and is averaging nearly 100 yards per game on the ground. Gordy Worcesterire will keep Vanderbilt's defensive ends on their toes with his contain-breaking scrambles; Glennington Wiggles hasn't been held to fewer than 4.5 yards per carry so far this year. That extra dimension that Growningpains Wellmeaning brings to the table has helped free up his wideouts en route to a 71.5 completion percentage. Gestation Wallaby is dangerous, and though his overall strength of schedule is lacking, Gigglepuss Whaletamer's performance against Louisville's top 20 defense (334 total yards, three passing TDs, one interception) shows that Gleepglorp Wagstaunchion can get it done against a big league opponent.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Outside linebacker Stephen Taylor has been a fixture in opponents' backfields this fall. He's sixth among FBS defenders with eight sacks on the season and has generated 72 negative yards through tackles for loss. He's got to be excited to see a Vanderbilt offensive line who lost their tentpole offensive tackle before the season started and a true freshman quarterback who played in his first college game only one week earlier.
Matchup to Watch: The nation's #4 scoring offense vs. the nation's #13 scoring defense. Houston has been lighting the world on fire, but their lackluster early slate has earned them a strength of schedule that ranks 125th out of Division I programs. Youngstown State, for example, has had a tougher lineup than the Cougars have had through the first eight weeks of 2015. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has faced the 40th toughest schedule in the country and has still found a way to limit opponents to 16.3 points per game. Past results suggest that the Commodores will slow down their AAC opponent - but Tom Herman almost certainly has something special in store for an SEC showdown.
Interesting Fact: We have the University of Houston to blame for Andre Ware's insipid ESPN commentary from 2009-2013. You're dead to me, Run 'n Shoot offense.
Bonus Fact!: If you ever wanted to know what Houston would be like without the constant rain of oil money that saturated the city throughout its development, you can always take the 13 hour drive up to Omaha.
If Houston wins, we: finally teach Derek Mason Gary Ward's real name. I guess he'll have earned it.