Stay the course on offense - The Mustangs should be able to consistently move the chains against a depleted Houston front. Defensive ends Matangi Tonga and Radermon Scypion are both sidelined due to injury. Meanwhile, SMU has the leading C-USA rusher (Zach Line), the second-leading passer (Kyle Padron), and the second-leading receiver (Aldrick Robinson). That combination should bode well against the Cougars, who are giving up close to 40 points per game.
Pressure Piland - Houston certainly didn't expect to have issues at quarterback this year, but such is the violent nature of football. With both Case Keenum and his backup injured, the Cougars have turned to a pair of true freshmen, although Dallas native David Piland seems to have established himself as the starter.
On the other hand, it's possible that Terrance Broadway - who posted nice numbers in his only start - could take snaps if Piland struggles. Regardless, the inexperienced QB duo should give SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason plenty of options in terms of blitz packages and coverage schemes.
Contain Carrier - The Cougars have one of the fastest players in the nation in WR/KR Tyron Carrier, but they've struggled to get him the ball in space. Carrier, who has legitimate 4.3 speed, has hauled in 27 passes, but he's only averaging a meager 8.3 yards per catch. In 2009, Carrier returned four kickoff returns for TDs, but he hasn't reached the end zone (via reception or return) this season.
Bottle up Beall - Houston has the second-leading rushing in the conference in Bryce Beall, who has 544 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Beall is averaging just under six yards per carry and he's most likely to find room to the right side, which features a pair of returning starters on the offensive line.
Bottom Line - SMU is a solid favorite over a Houston team that has incurred several injuries. However, the Cougars' rookie QBs are bound to garner more confidence with each week of experience.
With that in mind, this could be a terrific opportunity for SMU to turn Ja'Gared Davis loose. The heavy-hitting linebacker can do wonders in terms of making a quarterback - especially a true freshman - feel nervous in the pocket.
A strength for the Mustangs - the play of Sterling Moore - has been taken away after an unfortunate injury. Houston will attempt to capitalize by stretching the field with its cadre of receivers.
The Cougars, hampered by an inexperienced defensive line, have been porous on defense. SMU's balanced offensive attack should present ample difficulties for Houston.