Game Preview: SMU vs. UCF

Hatts previews SMU's upcoming matchup against UCF in Orlando tomorrow at 11 a.m. CT.

SMU(0-9, 0-5 AAC) had their best opportunity to date last weekend to notch their first win of the season when they led 13-0 with just over 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter. SMU will get a break from the cold this weekend when they head to the sunshine state to face UCF.

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. Kickoff is at 11 a.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPN News, KTCK 1310 AM/96.7 FM The Ticket
SERIES: UCF has a 5-1 edge in the overall series with SMU’s lone victory coming in 2011.
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 17-13 in a frigid December game at Ford Stadium.

PONY TRENDS: Quarterback Matt Davis has injected some life into an SMU offense that was stagnant for much of the year. Davis leads the team in rushing with 312 yards. A key stat, however, for the Mustangs despite losing was they finally had a turnover free game while forcing multiple turnovers on the other side.

Junior running back K.C. Nlemchi was not able to put together a second straight big performance against USF in a game that seemed made for him to break out. Nlemchi was only able to run for 7 yards on just 4 carries while he could also only muster 15 yards receiving on 5 catches. This will be a tough week to get everything going as UCF ranks 15th in the nation in points per game allowed at 19.8.

After playing great for most of the game last week, the SMU was able to do something it hadn’t done all season, force turnovers. The Mustangs were able to recover to lost fumbles while shutting down Quinton Flowers. But that was a quarterback making his first start in the cold, when Mike White came in, he was able to march the ball down the field twice against an SMU defense that ranks 127th in points against in the nation at 43.1.

OPPONENT TRENDS: UCF has not been great on offense themselves over the course of the season but have really started to pick it up as of late averaging 29 podints per game over their last 5 games. Sophomore QB Justin Holman has done a solid job taking over for Blake Bortles with 16 touchdowns but he has also thrown 10 interceptions, including 4 in a loss to UConn on November 1st. Holman is also a dual threat quarterback, something that has given SMU problems all year long. While Holman is certainly not the type of runner Davis is, if you are not careful he can certainly take off for those 15-20 yard gains.

At running back UCF has a nice combo with sophomores William Stanback and Dontravious Wilson. Stanback certainly profiles as the bigger back at 6’1 225 pounds while Dontravious Wilson is a smaller, speedier back. On the season Stanback 558 yards and 8 touchdowns. Stanback is coming off a subpar game against Tulsa after rushing for a season high 141 yards in the loss to UConn. The SMU run defense has been horrible all year but will look to slow down Stanback in much the same way they were able to with Mack last week.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: William Stanback and Dontravious Wilson against the SMU run defense. While Stanback and Wilson have not been great on the season, this will definitely be a matchup that UCF will look to exploit early and often Saturday afternoon when they take on SMU. SMU showed last week that once they were able to force a team to be one dimensional, they saw more and more opportunities to get pressure on the quarterback and make some plays in the secondary. If SMU can shut down UCF’s running game I think they have to like the odds of Holman maybe throwing a couple balls up for grabs that could swing momentum in SMU’s favor.

KEYS TO THE GAMES: 4 quarters please! This team just has not been able to put four great quarters together and it just has to be on of the most infuriating parts for this team. SMU has shown a propensity all year to hang around, but in just about every game this year, there has been a stretch, whether it be 5 or 10 minutes, where this team has just fallen off the tracks. Coach Mason said it best last week, there is no way SMU should have lost a 13-0 lead, but a defense that had played great all game just started pressing way too hard and continued to shoot themselves in the foot with costly mistakes. For SMU to beat a UCF team that has aspirations of winning another conference title, it is absolutely essential that they put 4 quarters together.

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