NCAA Preview: Houston vs Texas State

No. 6 Houston (3-0) at Texas State (1-1), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Line: Houston by 34 1/2.

Series record: Texas State leads 4-2

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Houston wants to keep charging up the national rankings to ensure the Cougars stay in the national playoff conversation. In other words, no slipups allowed, especially as a huge favorite, and they don’t even want to let the Bobcats stay close. Texas State and first-year coach Everett Withers will be looking to deliver an upset of knockout proportions.

KEY MATCHUP

Texas State pass protection vs. Houston LB Steven Taylor. Taylor already has 5 1/2 sacks after three games and creates problems when he drops into pass coverage. Taylor had a game-clinching 74-yard interception return for a touchdown last week against Cincinnati. Bobcats QB Tyler Jones will have to account for him the entire game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston: QB Greg Ward. After sitting out a win over Lamar with a sore throwing shoulder, Ward led the Cougars’ tough road win over Cincinnati with 326 yards passing. He took a few hard hits, but coach Tom Herman said he’ll play against the Bobcats. Ward has won 16 consecutive starts.

Texas State: Jones passed for 418 yards and four touchdowns in a season-opening win over Ohio before the Bobcats were overwhelmed in a loss at Arkansas. If Jones can avoid Taylor and Cougars defensive freshman DL Ed Oliver, he could open up the Houston secondary and keep the Bobcats in the game.

FACTS & FIGURES

Houston leads the nation in run defense, allowing just 38.3 yards per game … Texas State is playing just its fifth season at the FBS level and Saturday will be its first home game against a ranked opponent … Ward’s 31 career rushing TDs rank third in school history. He needs eight to tie the school record.

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