Twelve wins later, the University of Houston and Tom Herman are still being treated as pretenders.
The consensus seems to be that the 12-1 Cougars — a team that’s beaten three straight Top 25 opponents — will be exposed as the emperor without any clothes by traditional college football establishment power Florida State on New Year’s Eve Day. ESPN Magazine’s bowl projections give UH only a 27.2 percent chance to beat the Seminoles in the Peach Bowl.
That’s by far the lowest win chance ascribed to any of the teams in the so-called New Year’s Six bowls. Even Michigan State, which goes up against prohibitive title favorite Alabama in the national semifinals, is given a 32.3 percent chance to win its game against the Crimson Tide.
The Las Vegas oddsmakers are also dismissive of the Cougars, installing Florida State as seven-point favorites.
It’s almost as if UH’s powerful season, Herman’s magic and Greg Ward Jr.’s dual-threat excellence never happened. Houston is the “little” team from the American Athletic Conference, and Florida State’s, well … Florida State. The disrespect almost drips off any projections and analysis of this game. And that goes for both human and computer projections of the matchup.
Houston’s coveted coach could not have dreamed up a better scenario from a motivational standpoint. It will be no stretch for Herman — a man whose default option is equivalent to the normal human on 10 cups of coffee — to convince his guys that no one believes in them. No one does believe in them. It’s right there in numerous projections, predictions and computer models.
Herman has already shown he’s especially adept at finding unique ways to motivate college kids. From coming up with a gameplan that kept one of his best players on the sideline against Navy’s triple-option attack to getting a diamond grill for his teeth from Houston rapper Paul Wall in order to pay off a bet with his players, Herman always finds something.
Now in Houston’s biggest game since Case Keenum absolutely destroyed traditional power Penn State in a bowl four years ago, Herman does not need to go searching. It’s right there … only a 27.2 percent chance to win.