The Mustangs (4-4, 3-1) need to come out firing on all cylinders Saturday at Tulane. The Green Wave (3-4, 1-2) doesn't enjoy much, if any, home field advantage, playing in the cavernous Superdome and what better way to "make the confines friendly" - than to jump all over the home team in the early going?
Tulane has struggled in the first quarter (outscored by a 52-28 margin) this year.
2. Fewer Turnovers/Prevent the Big Return -- The Mustangs turned the ball over three times last week and yielded a backbreaking 91-yard kickoff return. Fortunately, Tulane doesn't have a return man with the elite speed of Houston's Tyron Carrier.
Nevertheless, SMU can't afford to let its guard down, especially on punt returns, where WR Casey Robottom (7.2 yard avg.) awaits. Robottom doesn't have breakaway speed, but he possesses great instincts and has been on a tear lately (151 yards receiving, 2 TDs last week).
3. Improved Red Zone/3rd Down Defense -- Houston's offense was extremely efficient last week, converting on 11-of-17 third down opportunities (and 1-for-1 on 4th downs). Moreover, the Cougars were a perfect 6-for-6 when they reached the red zone, including 5 touchdowns.
SMU didn't surrender any TD passes to Houston true freshman QB David Piland, but the Mustangs didn't get any interceptions either. Tulane is ranked No. 100 in the nation when it comes to running the football, so SMU's secondary should get plenty of chances to make plays.
4. Slow Down WRs Robottom & Banks -- Casey Robottom and D.J. Banks have combined for almost half of Tulane's receptions. Slow them down and you slow down the Green Wave's offense. Robottom, as mentioned earlier, has been especially dangerous, earning C-USA Player of the Week accolades after torching UTEP last Saturday.
5. Get Some Sacks/Avoid "The Mack" -- Tulane QB Ryan Griffin has been a stationary target this year. The 6-foot-5 Griffin has been sacked nearly 20 times and has rushed for negative yardage (minus 106 yards). Sounds like a perfect opportunity for Ja'Gared Davis (7.5 sacks) to pad his totals.
The Green Wave defense is centered around linebacker Trent Mackey, who has 82 tackles. If the SMU offensive line can push Mackey out of the way, RB Zach Line should have another outstanding outing. Tulane's opponents are averaging nearly five yards per carry.