The Houston Cougars have been blessed with a sixth season of Case Keenum.
Keenum has had perhaps the best collegiate career of any UH quarterback. This seems shocking with names like Kevin Kolb, David Klingler, and Andre Ware proceeding him, but his stats are undeniable. With a good year this season, he can securely claim that title.
When people think of the glory days of UH football, they go back to Ware and Klingler. Ware was the first, and only, Heisman Trophy winner at UH and will almost certainly hold that distinction for a while.
However, Ware's stats pale in comparison to Keenum's on a year-to-year basis, and most certainly when you look at their careers at UH. Ware only had one big year at UH, when he passed for 4,699 yards and had a 46/15 touchdown/interception ratio. While those are impressive numbers, especially in the era that Ware played in, Keenum already has two years that are better than that and very well could be on his way to a third year surpassing those numbers.
The second half of the Cougar's glory days gone by was the somewhat shocking explosion of David Klingler on to the scene in college football. In his first year as a starter, after the Detroit Lions made Ware the No. 7 pick in the NFL draft, Klingler passed for 5,140 yards and a 54/20 touchdown/interception ratio.
That put him at number three in the 1990 Heisman voting, losing to Ty Detmer. However, Klingler's senior season was a bit of a disappointment, as he passed for a comparatively pedestrian 3,424 yards and 29 touchdowns with 17 interceptions.
Kevin Kolb signaled the rejuvenation of the UH program. Along with head coach Art Briles, Kolb made UH football relevant again and gave the city a star player to follow and hold on to.
Kolb won the first conference championship in a decade in 2006, his senior season. He did this while drawing attention for the Heisman and putting up some very impressive stats. His yardage total wasn't overwhelming at 3,809, but he had an amazing 30/4 touchdown/interception ratio, as well as four more rushing touchdowns.
Keenum has a lot to live up to if he is to be considered the greatest Cougar quarterback, but he has the ability to claim hold to that title if he has another very good season—and he is well on his way to doing just that.
Keenum already holds the UH single-season passing yards record: he threw for 5,671 yards in 2009. However, he has three other possible goals that he needs to accomplish to cement his place in UH history.
First and foremost, he needs to win the CUSA Conference championship, like Kevin Kolb. Until he does that, his stats will be merely personal achievements rather than an example of him lifting the team onto his shoulders.
Next, he is firmly entrenched at No. 3 on the all-time UH touchdown list with two seasons of 44 touchdowns. If he can pass Ware at 46 and Klingler at 54, he will almost certainly stamp his name into UH lore.
Finally, he needs to at least be in the conversation for a Heisman. In order to enter into that conversation, he will have to achieve the first two items on his check list. Keenum is well on his way to both of those. In his first three games, he has thrown for a 10/2 touchdown to interception ratio and over 1,100 yards.
Most importantly, he has led Houston to a 3-0 record. Every other team in CUSA has at least one loss, so for the rest of the season it will be about the Cougars playing keep away from UCF, Southern Miss, SMU and Tulsa.
This is important not just for Keenum but also for the university. In this time of conference realignment, UH may look like just another school if Keenum isn't able to raise this team to greater heights and show that they can be contenders not just in the conference but for elite players as well.
If Keenum succeeds, UH succeeds. That makes this the biggest season of Keenum's career, and possibly the biggest of UH's tenure in CUSA.