Who's afraid of big bad Houston?
For the Mustangs, the key to this game is much like the gameplan against Navy, in terms of the defense will contain as best it can, but when J.J. McDermott takes the field, SMU needs to take advantage of field position and other opportunities.
That was their demise Saturday against Navy. The Mustangs missed too many chances and didn't capitalize on big plays.
In the first half, Kenneth Acker intercepted Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor, who went 0 for 2 with an interception. SMU's 6-foot 8 defensive end Margus Hunt chased Proctor to the left sideline and the quarterback let one rip. Acker stepped in front of Midshipmen receiver to get his hands on the ball.
In the third quarter, Matt Aiken muffed a punt and Chris Banjo recovered the ball at the Navy 25. SMU turned it over on downs, not being able to couldn't convert on 4th-and-5 in the red zone. The Mustangs were 3 of 5 inside the 20.
"We can't turn the ball over and win," McDermott said. "We gotta get points in the red zone and we didn't. That turned out to be a big factor at the end of the game."
Added Banjo, who had 11 tackles, one for loss, "It's frustrating for the whole team, having the chance to score and not being able to capitalize on the other team's mistakes."
Now SMU has to face an undefeated Houston team. Quarterback Case Keenum recently became the FBS' all-time leader in passing yards with almost 4,000 this season (he averages 395 per game). He leads the nation's No. 1 offense, one that averages an insane 628.8 yards per game, in a hurry-up system.
As if facing the country's best offense wasn't enough for SMU, ESPN College GameDay has confirmed that's where they're setting up shop this week.
"We'll prepare the same way we always do," McDermott said. "You can't put too much into it. They're a good team, but we certainly feel like we can beat them. I mean, it's not like we're playing the Green Bay Packers, so we'll have a shot."
Houston is 10-0, but they haven't played any ranked teams and their toughest matchups have been against the lowly teams of UCLA (won 38-34), Louisiana Tech (35-34) and UTEP (49-42), only one of which – the Bulldogs – are currently bowl eligible. They've annihilated every other team by a combined score of 425-118 – and those are teams like Georgia Southern, UAB and Rice, among others.
Regardless, the Cougars could likely be a Top 10 rated team after the BCS standings come out Sunday night.
But the worst part of all that for SMU is that they didn't want to head into this exciting matchup off a loss. In addition to forgetting about the Navy game, they're going to have to fight extra distractions this week, like national media attention, in order to focus. Otherwise UH will embarrass the Mustangs who have been trying all season to rise up and prove why they should be in a BCS conference.
"Life is difficult sometimes," coach June Jones said. "We gotta go there and face a different approach. Hopefully we can compete with them."
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