Can SMU's defense contain Case Keenum?

Houston quarterback Case Keenum is the all-time FBS leader in total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns, but the Cougars have faced some of the worst defenses in the country this season. SMU will be the Cougar's biggest test of the year, coming in with the second-ranked defense in C-USA. Will the Mustangs' D be able to quiet the Houston hype?

How good is Houston really?

Quarterback Case Keenum leads the nation's No. 1 total offense, which averages 628.8 yards per game, and he has been throwing an average of 395.1 yards per game. These big-time numbers have Keenum in Heisman talk circles.

But it's important to look at the defenses the Cougars have exploited: UCLA, North Texas, Louisiana Tech, Georgia State, UTEP, East Carolina, Marshall, Rice, UAB and Tulane. All of those defenses rank in the bottom-half of the FBS standings and of those schools, only Louisiana Tech has a winning record.

SMU will be the best defense the Cougars have faced all year. The Mustangs have the second-ranked defense in Conference USA, holding opponents to 345.2 yards per game. They had better numbers in the early goings of the season, but have since dropped three of their last four games.

The Cougars have outscored their opponents 547-228 this season, but again, take a look at who they've played.

Yet still, Keenum's stats cannot be denied.

"He can shoot the lights out," SMU coach June Jones said.

Keenum recently became the all-time leader in total yards (18,101) passing yards (17,212) and touchdown passes (141) in FBS history, passing Timmy Chang, a Hawaii quarterback from the June Jones era, and former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell in those categories.

He's also tied with Baylor's Robert Griffin III in completing 74.2 percent of his passes, the best completion rate in the country.

A notable stat offered from FOX Sports stated that Keenum could play, but not get one passing yard in any of his next three games and still lead the conference in passing ypg. SMU's J.J. McDermott is second in C-USA averaging 276.4 ypg.

Keenum is a gun-slinger, but he's also got speedy receivers out wide in Patrick Edwards, who leads the conference and is third in the country, with 127.7 yards receiving a game (SMU's Cole Beasley is second) and Tyron Carrier (77.1 ypg). And they can threaten on the ground with running back Charles Sims.

"They've got great speed and really talented wide receivers and are a dual threat with their running back," SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason said. "You can't overload on one aspect and that's what makes it so challenging. You load up on the passing game and they run it, you load up on the running game and they pass it.

"And that's a sixth-year quarterback who knows the system inside and out. I'm not sure he's not the best quarterback in the country."

SMU's defense will have their hands full on Saturday, but then again, maybe they can tame some of the Houston hype.

For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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