WHEN: Saturday, October 25, 2014. Kickoff is at 11:00 AM CT
WHERE: Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas
TV/RADIO: ESPNews, KTCK 1310 AM/96.7 FM, The Ticket
SERIES: Tied 3-3 (1-1 in Dallas)
LAST MEETING: SMU won 34-29 on Oct. 19, 2013 at Liberty Bowl Stadium.
SMU entered last week’s game against Cincinnati with momentum and even some hope for a victory. But the Mustangs were blown out yet again, suffering a deflating 41-3 loss to the Bearcats.
SMU was in the game until Cincinnati scored two touchdowns in the final 1:38 of the first half to take a 28-3 lead into halftime. The second of those touchdowns was a 27-yard return of a Garret Krstich fumble, although they failed to convert the ensuing two-point attempt.
Krstich had his worst game as SMU’s starting quarterback, throwing for 172 yards and committing three turnovers against a poor Cincinnati defense. Backup Matt Davis played at the end of the game, and SMU Interim Head Coach Tom Mason said he will keep evaluating the quarterback position.
The Mustangs also gave up 508 yards of offense and seven yards per play. Cincinnati, who entered the game with one of the nation’s worst rushing attacks, piled up 240 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
The Tigers do not have much star power, but they win games by forcing turnovers and running the ball. They average 195.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th nationally. Four Memphis players have at least 170 rushing yards. Fifteen of the Tigers’ 26 total touchdowns have come on the ground.
Memphis has forced multiple takeaways in all but one game this season, including four against Ole Miss. The Tigers’ defense, which allows a stellar 20.8 points per game, has scored two touchdowns and forced a safety. Linebacker Tank Jakes leads the AAC with six sacks, one of them securing the aforementioned safety.
The Tigers’ best all-around player lurks in their secondary. Bobby McCain intercepted six passes last year and has three interceptions this year. The junior has scored four defensive touchdowns in his career, including a fumble return this season.
Sophomore quarterback Paxton Lynch has played well this year after a rough freshman season. He has thrown nine touchdown passes after throwing nine all of last year. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Lynch’s size makes him tough to wrap up, as evidenced by his six rushing scores. He has also taken only seven sacks.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: QB Garrett Krstich vs. DB Bobby McCain. McCain is a ball hawk and has a nose for the football. “The ball finds him,” said Memphis head coach Justin Fuente. Krstich has done a decent job protecting the football, but he was sloppy with it against Cincinnati. He cannot afford to make bad decisions or poor throws. His accuracy and placement must be better when he decides to stretch the field, or McCain will make him pay.
KEYS TO THE GAME: SMU needs to regroup on offense after struggling against one of the nation’s worst defenses. Dropped passes have been an issue all season, and they killed any momentum SMU had against Cincinnati. Drops need to go away if the Mustangs want to put up points like they did against East Carolina. Krstich must also protect the ball. He only took one sack against Cincinnati, and he must display the same pocket awareness and presence.
BILLY'S PICK: Memphis 35-10
SCOTT'S PICK: Memphis 42-13
PATRICK'S PICK: Memphis 31-27
HATT'S PICK:Memphis 45-10
DEMO'S PICK: SMU 24-21