Game Preview: SMU vs. USF

Patrick previews SMU's primetime homecoming matchup against USF!

SMU (0-8, 0-4 AAC) came close to winning its first game of 2014, but has another decent opportunity for a win when struggling South Florida (3-6, 2-3) comes to Dallas on homecoming weekend.

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas
TV/RADIO: CBS Sports Network, KTCK 1310 AM/96.7 FM The Ticket
SERIES: SMU leads 1-0 (First meeting in Dallas)
LAST MEETING: SMU won 16-6 on Nov. 23, 2012 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

PONY TRENDS: Quarterback Matt Davis made his first career start Nov. 8 against Tulsa, and he injected life into SMU’s offense. He totaled 392 yards (181 rush, 211 pass) and three touchdowns, and even gave SMU its first lead of the season with a 64-yard touchdown pass on SMU’s first offensive play. Despite just the one start, Davis leads SMU with 259 rushing yards. He will start again on Saturday.

Junior running back K.C. Nlemchi returned from suspension for the Tulsa game and had the most productive game of any SMU running back this season. He rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and added five catches for 50 yards. He should see most of the snaps at running back again.

The Mustangs’ run defense continued its horrific play in its last game. Tulsa running back Zack Langer came into the SMU game averaging 3.8 yards per carry, but he rushed 33 times for 167 yards (5.1 YPC) and a touchdown.

Pass defense was no bright spot either. Tulsa’s top two receivers, Keevan Lucas and Keyarris Garrett caught a combined eight passes for 184 yards and four touchdowns. Golden Hurricane quarterback Dane Evans threw for five touchdowns and averaged 11.9 yards per pass attempt. SMU cornerback Ajee Montes missed the game with an injury and will miss Saturday’s game too.

OPPONENT TRENDS: South Florida has had its share of offensive woes. The Bulls have scored the 12th-fewest points per game (19.1), and they rush for only 114.2 yards per game, despite freshman running back Marlon Mack’s 858 yards and eight TDs. He rushed for 275 yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate game in August.

The Bulls will make a change under center four the fourth time this year. Talented true freshman Quinton Flowers will make his first career start against SMU. He will be USF’s fifth starting quarterback since Willie Taggart was named head coach in 2013, the same number as SMU in that span.

Flowers came to Tampa with an impressive high school resume. He threw for over 6,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards at Miami (Fla.) Jackson High School. He was Scout’s No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2014.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Marlon Mack and Quentin Flowers vs. SMU defense. The Bulls offense might be the worst offense SMU has faced all season, but Flowers can take it to a new level if he plays well. He has an advantage because SMU has little film of him. He and Mack could feast upon an SMU run defense that gives up 5.4 yards per carry. However, Flowers is a true freshman and has seen very little first-team reps until this week. SMU will have to take advantage of any mistakes he makes.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Weather. Saturday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-40s and a chance for rain. Not exactly the best situation for a freshman quarterback from Florida to make his first start. SMU has practiced in the cold all week and are ready for the potential freeze. Interim Head Coach Tom Mason thinks that give his team an advantage. The Bulls practiced in sunshine and warmth all week, so they will get a rude awakening on Saturday. Last season Central Florida’s high-scoring offense struggled in the cold, so USF could do the same.

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