Culture / Sporting Life

College Football’s Top 25 Erases Any Doubt About Which School Rules Texas

Herman’s H-Town Takeover Gets National Love

BY // 08.04.16

Tom Herman’s masterfully orchestrated H-Town Takeover is going national — in a major way.

The College Football Coaches Poll Top 25 came out on Thursday, and Herman’s University of Houston team is the highest-rated Texas school. For a long-discounted program that’s lived in the shadows of the University of Texas and Texas A&M forever, this is no small milestone. It’s a significant indictor of just how high Herman has already vaulted the program.

It also shows just how down both UT and A&M are at the moment — with both the state’s traditional powers failing to even crack the Top 25. Texas and Texas A&M aren’t supposed to be relegated to the Also Receiving Votes category.

Of course, many traditionalists will tell you that Houston’s not supposed to be the 13th-rated college football team in all of America, either. Things change. Even in college football world where Alabama and Clemson are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively (again) in the first poll of the season. Houston’s dynamic coach is shaking up a long-entrenched world and doing it in a city that’s long regarded the local college team as a distant afterthought to the pro sports scene.

No more. In Herman’s World, power programs like Georgia (No. 16), USC (No. 17), Oregon (No. 22), UCLA (No. 24) and Florida (No. 25) all look up at the Houston Cougars. And you thought that “Bizarro Jerry” Seinfeld episode turned the world on its axis?

This is the University of Houston’s highest preseason ranking since the 1991 team earned the No. 12 spot. None of even Case Keenum’s UH teams went into a season this highly ranked. That may have as much to do with voter bias as anything. Keenum’s 13-1 2011 squad — the one that absolutely demolished Penn State in a bowl game — is likely more talented than this year’s Houston team.

This sudden national respect is just another sign of how Herman has knocked down the old, tired perceptions that stuck to the University of Houston’s football program for years despite some significant success. In one season of coaching in the Third Ward, Herman’s completely changed the storyline. That may be even more impressive than going 13-1 and beating national power Florida State in the Peach Bowl with a team that still had many flaws.

That’s coaching — and instilling a near unshakeable belief. It is clear the belief is reaching out far beyond the confines of the University of Houston campus now. Even Texas’ more recent on-the-rise powers, TCU and Baylor, are ranked below UH — the Horned Frogs are 14th, while Baylor’s scandal-rocked football program sits at 21.

In fact, only one school from the Big 12 — the conference that has deemed Houston unworthy so far — ranks ahead of Herman’s Cougars. UH just happens to be playing that team (No. 3 Oklahoma) in the first game of the season at NRG Stadium. UH may have trouble living up to Herman’s H-Town Takeover mantra at the Texans’ massive NFL stadium — Oklahoma travels well and Houston sometimes had trouble completely selling out its more modest 40,000-seat on-campus stadium — but it won’t be from a lack of marketing on Tom Herman’s part.

He’s selling Houston everywhere — and the rest of the college football is clearly listening.

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