WHEN: Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Kickoff is at 11 a.m.
WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas
TV/RADIO: CBS Sports Network, KTCK 1310 AM/96.7 FM The Ticket
SERIES: Houston leads 18-10-1 (9-4 in Dallas)
LAST MEETING: Houston won 34-0 on Nov. 29, 2013 at Reliant Stadium in Houston
PONY TRENDS: After two games that the SMU nearly won, Central Florida flattened the Mustangs 53-7 last weekend. They mustered just 116 yards of offense and four first downs while surrendering 490 yards and 27 first quarter points. Matt Davis had his worst start at quarterback, completing only six of 15 passes for 44 yards and an interception, which was one of five SMU turnovers on the day.
The one positive from the UCF game was that SMU intercepted two passes, which was as many as it had in its first nine games. The Mustangs forced two fumbles the week before against USF. But they gave up an outrageous 15 yards per completion to the Knights, making the interceptions all for naught. To have a chance against Houston, SMU will need to continue creating turnovers and limit big plays, which it hasn’t done all season.
OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Houston is 4-1 since Greg Ward Jr. took over as the starting quarterback. The sophomore from Tyler, Texas has thrown for 1,232 yards with a 71 percent completion rate and seven touchdowns. He brings a dual-threat option to the Cougars offense that John O’Korn didn’t.
Ward hasn’t had to do anything flashy, because the Cougars have a strong defense. They own a plus-9 turnover margin and have intercepted a conference-best 19 passes. Junior defensive back Adrian McDonald leads the team with five picks. Houston also gives up 18.7 points per game, which ranks 13th nationally.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Matt Davis vs. the Houston secondary. Davis is coming off a terrible performance against UCF (first in AAC in pass yards allowed, second with 16 INTs), and his task is no easier against Houston’s second-ranked pass defense (186 ypg, 56 opponent completion percentage) and ball-hawking secondary. He needs to protect the football and continue to make smart plays with his legs if SMU is going to move the ball.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Four quarters! Just like Andrew said last week, SMU has not put together a complete performance and competed for 60 minutes. The Mustangs will honor 14 seniors before Friday’s game, and a complete, four-quarter effort would be a nice parting gift, even if it ends in a loss. Houston lost to Tulane and USTA this season, so anything’s possible, right?