Five things to know: Houston shuts down Lamar Jackson, Louisville's playoff dreams
The Cougars took it to the Cardinals all night for a signature win in Houston
Week 12 started the way Week 11 ended -- with a stunning upset on Thursday night -- as two-loss Houston dominated No. 5 Louisville in every phase of the game with the Cougars rolling over the Cardinals 36-10.
Houston, best known for its offensive prowess, was led by an incredible defensive effort. Against the runaway favorite for the Heisman Trophy -- Lamar Jackson was a 1-50 favorite going into Week 12 --Houston recorded 11 sacks, held Louisville to 313 total yards of offense and forced three turnovers. On the season, Louisville entered the game averaging 583 yards of offense and allowing 2.5 sacks per game.
Freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver led the way for the Cougars with six tackles (three for loss), two sacks, two pass breakups and one forced fumble as he showed why -- even as a first-year player -- he is one of the nation's best interior defensive linemen.
Houston's offense pulled out all of the stops in the first half with a fake punt conversion, a wide receiver pass for a touchdown, and a crazy tipped pass for a touchdown all helping the Cougars pull ahead 31-0 at the half. Houston only scored five points in the second half -- a field goal and a late safety caused by the defense -- but it was more than enough to maintain a comfortable lead and come away with a massive victory.
Here are five things to know about Houston's win over Louisville:
1. Louisville's hope to advance to the College Football Playoff is dead: This loss ends the Cardinals' hopes for a CFP berth. Barring a stunning loss by Clemson to Wake Forest this week, Louisville won't play for the ACC title; with two losses, the Cardinals would still need a lot of help from teams in front of them just to be considered for the playoff. All the complaining from Louisville players and fans about being ranked No. 5 on Tuesday feels like ages ago. The Cardinals will likely drop significantly in the rankings next week and won't have a chance to impress again with their final game coming against Kentucky.
2. Houston has one of the nation's strangest resumés: The win makes Houston the first team in the country to defeat two top-five teams on the season. Tom Herman also picked up his second big game pelt of the season, though his Cougars do have two disappointing losses in conference play to SMU (!) and Navy. The Cougars have a ton of talent and, when healthy and focused, they can beat anyone.
3. The Heisman Trophy race may not be over: Not only does this create more chaos at the top of the rankings, it also opens the door for discussion about the Heisman race that seemed all but wrapped up a week ago. Jackson was 20-of-43 passing for 211 yards and one touchdown, and his rushing numbers, skewed by the sack total, were a paltry 33 yards on 25 "carries."
I don't believe this should put the Heisman in doubt for Jackson, but knowing how voting goes late in the season, the performance will impact his votes. He failed to live up to the hype in a big primetime spot. Should J.T. Barrett or Jabrill Peppers have put together a monster night in the Ohio State-Michigan game, don't be surprised to see the voting get tight.
4. Louisville's offensive line was awful: I can't remember seeing an offensive line on a top team struggle the way Louisville's did on Thursday night. Houston's defensive line, which absolutely has some grown men on it, demolished them up front. Jackson had no time to look downfield, and that's a big problem when you're trying to orchestrate a 31-point comeback.
There were a lot of times where I thought it was a screen pass on regular pass plays because there were three Houston defenders converging on Jackson two seconds after the snap. The 11 sacks allowed were bad. The 2.5 yards per carry Louisville had were bad. And the inability to make adjustments at all during the game to negate the Houston pressure and front was bad. All-around, it was a bad night for the boys up front for the Cardinals.
5. Oliver is a monster: Louisville's offensive line was real bad, but part of the reason they looked real bad is because they had to deal with No. 10. Oliver went out in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and still had the biggest impact on the game of anyone.
His combination of strength and speed is terrifying, especially for a true freshman. So long as he can stay healthy, he's going to be an All-American for three years before moving on to give NFL offensive linemen nightmares. Enjoy him, Houston. He's a special one.
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