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Houston and Tulsa tangle in C-USA showdown

With the Conference USA West crown on the line, ranked Houston Cougars tangle with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the league's game of the year.

Houston continued to roll through its schedule, and last week, despite somewhat quiet numbers from quarterback Case Keenum, the Cougars took out SMU 37-7 last week and now have an opportunity to make their third appearance in the Conference USA title game in six years. This is UH's highest ranking in nearly two decades.

"We talked about setting history. Getting the 10 wins and setting school history was special to the guys,"said Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin at his weekly press conference. As a team these guys have been able to handle everything that has happened this year. They can handle success. We do talk about the milestones whether they are individual or a team. Our team is proud of it."

Tulsa enters the contest riding a seven-game win streak, having not lost a game since September 24 at Boise State. All seven of those wins have come in league play, and with the exception of a 24-17 win over UCF a few weeks ago, all those wins have been by 17 points or more.

Houston leads the all-time series with Tulsa, 19-17.

Last week against SMU, Keenum completed 30-of-45 passes for 318 yards, and set the FBS career record for completions. He shattered the former mark of 1,403 completions with his performance. Keenum is second in the country in total offense with 393 yards, and third in passing efficiency (186.9). Houston ranks first in passing offense (447.4), total offense (618.2), scoring defense (53.09). On the year, Keenum has thrown for 4,269 yards with 38 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Houston's defense held SMU to just 263 total yards. Linebacker Sammy Brown was named the National Defensive Player of the Week after his performance, registering 10 tackles, with 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Brown leads the country with 2.3 TLF per game, and is tied for second in sacks (1.1) per game. Marcus McGraw is tied for fourth in C-USA with 9.5 tackles per game. As a collective unit, Houston ranks fourth in the country with 8.3 TFL per game.

G.J. Kinne completed 21-of-27 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns against UTEP, and Tulsa finished with 500 yards of total offense. Kinne was named the league's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. Ja'Terian Douglas rushed for 92 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries to spearhead the rushing attack. Tulsa scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a dominant lead. On the year Kinne, who is 14th in the country is passing efficiency, has thrown for 2,700 yards with 24 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

"People are a lot more familiar with what Case has done. G.J. Kinne has been a great player at Tulsa for a while now," said Sumlin. "His performance last year was unbelievable. They lead our league in rushing. They've got weapons at running back. He is a heck of a player and a great leader. He is a reason they are winning this year."

Douglas leads the rushing game, averaging 76.0 yards per outing, which ranks second in the C-USA. Willie Carter leads the receiving corps, averaging 5.7 catches for 82.6 yards per game.

The Tulsa defense is anchored by Curnelius Arnick, who is fourth in the country in tackles per game with 12.18. Tulsa ranks seventh in the league total defense (408.1) and scoring defense (25.7), and averages 1.9 sacks and 5.3 tackles for loss per game. UTEP got its yards last week against Tulsa, racking up 266 passing and 163 rushing, but the Golden Hurricane had two takeaways and held the Miners scoreless in the third quarter, when the Golden Hurricane went on its run.