FACTS & STATS: Site: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000) — Dallas, Texas.
Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Houston 4-3, SMU 0-5. Away Record: Houston
2-1, SMU 0-5. Neutral Record: Houston 0-0, SMU 0-0. Conference Record: Houston
4-2, SMU 0-6. Series Record: Houston leads, 18-10-1.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars will start a two-game road trip to finish the
regular season when they face the SMU Mustangs in American Athletic Conference
action at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
Since its 1-2 start, which included a 27-7 loss at home to Texas-San Antonio,
the Cougars have done themselves proud, producing a 6-4 record overall and a
4-2 mark in conference play. They recorded a 38-28 victory over Tulsa last
weekend in their home finale, their fourth win in the last five games. They
will wrap up the campaign next weekend when they visit Cincinnati.
SMU has had a disastrous beginning, middle and end of the season. The Mustangs
were thrashed by UCF last weekend (53-7) to fall to 0-10 overall, including an
0-6 mark against the rest of the conference. Should they lose in this contest,
their last at home this season, they will get one last chance to get a win
against Connecticut next week.
The Mustangs’ chances of getting that first win this weekend are even bleaker
considering their recent history with Houston. The Cougars have won seven of
the last eight meetings between these Lone Star State squads, including a 34-0
rout last season. Houston leads the all-time series, 18-10-1.
Houston’s offense has been under new direction recently, with Greg Ward Jr.
stepping in at QB after an uneven start from John O’Korn. Ward has tallied
1,232 yards and seven touchdowns, as well as five interceptions, on 71.1
percent passing this season, while picking up 304 yards and two scores on the
ground. Ward tallied 227 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-21 passing against
Tulsa, a week after throwing four interceptions against Tulane.
Ward lends a nice wrinkle to the offense with his ability to run, but Kenneth
Farrow and Ryan Jackson still handle most of those duties. Farrow (686 yards,
nine TDs) was exceptional against Tulsa, totaling 116 yards and four
touchdowns to add to his team-lead in rushing yards and touchdowns. Jackson
had a fine game as well, finishing with 103 yards on 13 yards. He has 522
yards and five touchdowns now.
Deontay Greenberry (54 receptions, 617 yards, four TDs) is an explosive
playmaker, but he has had some uneven performances. He had only 21 yards on
four receptions against Tulsa, a week after recording 130 yards and a
touchdown on 11 receptions. Steven Dunbar more than doubled his yardage total
in the win, however, with 150 yards and seven receptions.
Although there have been more than a few changes along the way, Houston has
still managed to a be respectable offensive team as a whole, at least in
comparison to the rest of the conference. The Cougars rank fifth in both total
yards (387 ypg) and scoring offense (28.6 ppg).
As far as defense goes, the Cougars have been much more impressive. They have
allowed the second-fewest yards in the conference (329.2 ypg), while
continuing to be an opportunistic bunch, gathering a league-best 29 turnovers.
It is likely Houston will add a few turnovers to its collection this weekend,
as the Mustangs are anything but an offensive juggernaut. Not only do they
rank last in the conference in total yards (258.3 ypg), but they have turned
the ball over more than any team in the conference as well (26).
Matt Davis did not start the season at quarterback for SMU, but he has taken
the reins from Garrett Krstich in the last few weeks. Obviously that hasn’t
changed much for the offense or the team as a whole. Davis was particularly
weak against UCF, completing only 6-of-15 pass attempts for 44 yards and an
interception. Krstich and Davis have combined for 1,420 yards, four touchdowns
and 11 interceptions on 56.1 percent passing.
Davis’ ability to run the ball makes him a much more attractive option that
Krstich. In fact, Davis leads the team in rushing yards (352 yards, three
TDs). He had 40 yards and a score on seven carries against UCF, marking the
fourth straight game he has been at the top of the team in rushing. Prescott
Line (166 yards, two TDs) is the second-best rusher.
Der’rikk Thompson (31 receptions, 512 yards, TD) has produced the most yards
through the air, but he did not have a single catch against UCF. Darius Joseph
(41 receptions, 247 yards, two TDs) came through with only six yards on two
receptions in the losing effort. Stephen Nelson (28 receptions, 200 yards) is
the only other player on the team with 200 or more receiving yards.
SMU isn’t just the worst offensive team in the AAC, it also is the league’s
worst defensive squad. The Mustangs are allowing 524.4 yards per game, which
not only ranks last in the conference, but in the nation as well.
As with every game SMU has been involved with this season, there is very
little reason to believe the Mustangs can win here. Houston may have its
weaknesses, but none as big or troublesome as its opponent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 36, SMU 20