Houston Football: 2017 Cougars season preview, predictions

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /
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Houston football was a College Football Playoff contender in 2016 before losing three league games. Can the Cougars contend for a New Year’s Six bid in 2017?

Last season, Houston was the darling of September. The Cougars rolled off five straight wins, including a deconstruction of Big 12 winner Oklahoma. For a brief period, it looked like the Cougars were more than just a contender for the Group of Five’s bid to a New Year’s Six game. Instead, they looked like College Football Playoff threats.

Then they fell to Navy to begin October, lost games against SMU and Memphis, and toppled out of the national picture. Head coach Tom Herman was lost to Texas before they went bowling. As a result, Houston enters 2017 with a lot of questions.

But the Cougars can still be a contender for the American Athletic Conference and a bid in a major bowl game. They lost Herman, but kept offensive coordinator Major Applewhite as their new head coach.

There are questions on offense, but a veteran defense returns hoping to shore up any chance of downswings in 2017. The Cougars are in position to contend for their conference and the Group of Five bowl bid. What does Houston need to do to return to double digits in the win column?