SMU - Garrett Gilbert had a week to cool off after torching the Rutgers secondary. Gilbert ignited the SMU offense throwing for 484 yards and accounting for seven touchdowns. It was the first game of the season that the offense looked as explosive as advertised, but the question is whether or not the offense will come back better after the break or if they will take a step back. The Memphis defense hasn't given up many points this year, but they have yet to face an offense like SMU's. If Gilbert can pick up where he left off, he should have a big day.
Memphis – Paxton Lynch has had his share of freshman mistakes. The first-year starter from Deltona, Florida has twice as many interceptions as touchdowns this year and a zero to two touchdown-to-interception ratio vs. conference opponents. This week, he'll face an SMU defense that came up with a number of big plays against Rutgers along with a number of horrendous ones as well. (i.e. giving up a touchdown in OT on third and 24.) The SMU defense does look like it is starting to get back to making plays however and the bye week will most likely help them more than hurt them as they look to correct mistakes and get healthy. It doesn't look like Lynch has enough to torch SMU but the Mustangs haven't exactly had a dominant performance yet either.
SMU – Lead running back Traylon Shead should feel the best he has felt since Texas Tech coming off an extra week of rest. Shead failed to be a factor in his first game back from injury against Rutgers, and it does him no good that the offensive line has not blocked well in the run game. As much as SMU fans would like to see the Mustangs commit more to the run, that just doesn't look promising, especially if Gilbert gets hot.
Memphis – Memphis has done a decent job of running the football this year, operating out of a two-back system. Brandon Hayes is the workhorse with Marquis Warford coming in to spell him. The two of them have 654 yards rushing and three touchdowns, good for more combined touchdowns than Lynch himself. The SMU defense has given up multiple 100-yard games to opponents so definitely look for Memphis to pound the rock against a Mustang defensive line struggling to fill gaps and get penetration.
SMU – Jeremy Johnson put on one of the most inspiring performances SMU fans have ever seen and earned national acclaim for his 18 receptions, 217 yards and three touchdowns vs. Rutgers. Before the bye week, Johnson was tied for first in the nation with 52 receptions. Just behind him is Darius Joseph with 49 catches on the year. The SMU wide receivers aren't the biggest and they might not be the fastest but when they hang on to the ball, they get the job done. And with Gilbert throwing the ball close to 50 times per game, they must always be considered X factors.
Memphis – The Memphis wide receivers on the other hand have not been near as effective partially due to an inexperienced guy throwing them the football. The Tigers' top three leaders in catches don't add up to the amount of catches Darius Joseph has this season. The group consisting of mostly sophomores and juniors will face an SMU secondary that is starting to come on a little more each game. They have still given up a myriad of huge plays and have failed to answer the call when the defense needs them most but with Kenneth Acker beginning to take mid-season form, this could be the game they step up and show that veteran ability.
SMU – The SMU offensive line was by no means adequate against the Scarlet Knights, but they did enough to let Gilbert improvise and find open receivers. Even still, they must do a better job of pass and run blocking. With Memphis possessing a couple of quality players on the defensive line including Martin Ifedi – second team all-conference last year – the Mustangs will need to toughen up their protection of Garrett Gilbert and open up holes for Shead to show he can be the threat he was in junior college.
Memphis – The Memphis offensive line has allowed its quarterback to be sacked 12 times this season, possesses no real standouts and is relatively young. The Memphis offense as a whole has been subpar, but this week the offensive line will face a Mustang defensive line that is pretty young itself. Zach Wood is emerging to be a playmaker on the outside and at times he and Beau Barnes have put great pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With Lynch being a freshman, SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason will likely attempt to dial up the pressure, which could give the Memphis offensive line problems.
SMU – The defensive line for SMU is still trying to get the hang of things but is starting to have its presence felt more and more. Zach Wood seems to be getting better coming off the edge and could put together a very nice season with continued progression. The biggest problem of the defensive line has been run stoppage. Opposing ball carriers almost never have a problem getting to the second level of the SMU defense. In one of the more controversial calls of the Rutgers game, quarterback Gary Nova converted on a fourth down, gaining two yards on a quarterback sneak. With an average offensive line, Rutgers got enough push up front to convert on what should have been a game changing play for SMU. This week the defensive front will go up against a Memphis offensive line, which certainly can be infiltrated but does a decent job of blocking for their running backs. If SMU can shut down the run game, this could be a decisive victory for them, and it all starts up front.
Memphis – Memphis has a very experienced defensive line and adequate depth behind its starters. Martin Ifedi has emerged as the leader and a very effective playmaker leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss. With SMU still trying to figure it out along the offensive line, Ifedi and company could cause disruption in the SMU backfield if Gilbert can't get the ball out in a timely fashion.
SMU – The linebackers have been the best position group on the defense, but that's not saying much about a team giving up over 40 points per game. Kevin Pope is having a solid year all around and has developed into a great player in the middle of the defense. Randall Joyner was a stud against Rutgers finishing the day with 18 tackles – 11 of them unassisted. With Memphis' running attack, look for Pope and Joyner to have their hands full.
Memphis – Led by Tank Jakes and Anthony Brown -each having 30 tackles on the season so far- the Memphis linebacking unit will look to take advantage of the often one-dimensional offensive attack of the Mustangs. With the Tigers' 3-4 defense, they will try to generate pressure from the outside linebackers to get Gilbert uncomfortable and with a weak offensive line, SMU could be in trouble. But make no mistake, Memphis will also have to account for the two men working in the slot for the Mustangs, the most productive duo in college football right now.
SMU – The defensive backs were once again the cause of mass frustration for the Mustangs in their game against Rutgers. Gary Nova had little to no problems with getting the ball out to his receivers and making the defensive backs look like rookies. The worst play of the game for the defensive backs was the third and 24 touchdown they gave up mentioned above. It's hard to understand how J.R. Richardson managed to get burnt that bad or how there was no safety help over the top. On a brighter note, Kenneth Acker had his first interception against Rutgers and is picking up steam. Going up against a freshman quarterback and a group of younger receivers should help the SMU secondary on Saturday and maybe they will come up with a few turnovers.
Memphis – The Memphis defense comes in ranked 11th in the nation allowing only 305 yards per game and is holding their opponents well under their average yards per game coming into the matchup. The Tigers have two juniors on the corners in Bobby McCain, who has made 25 consecutive starts for the Tigers, and Houston native Andrew Gaines. They both possess good size and can make big plays when given the chance. McCain already has a 75-yard interception return and Gaines had a huge pass breakup in the end zone on fourth down last week against Houston. With SMU expected to put the ball in the air early and often on Saturday, it will be interesting to see if these corners will be up for the task.
Overall Edge: PUSH 3-3
SMU vs. Memphis Position Breakdown
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