WHEN: Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium- Dallas, Texas
SERIES: 28-5-1 SMU leads
LAST MEETING: UNT won 43-6 on September 6, 2014 at Apogee Stadium
Considering where this team was last year, the Mustangs are absolutely trending upwards. Despite losing to Baylor, the Mustangs have generated some momentum heading into their second game of the season against North Texas.
Quarterback Matt Davis showed flashes of his potential, both with his arm and his legs, last Friday before getting knocked around and slowing down. Cortland Sutton proved he can be the deep threat the Mustangs will need this season to compliment Davis and running backs Xavier Jones and Prescott Line. SMU lost starting guard Daniel McCarty for the season due to injury, but the offensive line took a step in the right direction after struggling all season long in 2014.
The SMU defense did not have the season opener they were hoping for. After slowing the Bears some in the first half, the Mustangs ended up surrendering 723 yards to an impressive Baylor offense. SMU’s defensive front struggled to get any kind of pressure on Seth Russell, and relied on Blitzes to pressure the Baylor quarterback.
The Mean Green return a deep backfield, and considering how many yards the Mustangs gave up to Baylor on the ground, you’d have to think that’s where UNT is going to attack SMU. North Texas doesn’t have the offensive line that Baylor does, but Antoinne Jimmerson and Jeffery Wilson (above) are two very capable backs. North Texas also returns their top two sack leaders in Chad Polk and Tillman Johnson, and has solid depth along their defensive front thanks to Jarrian Roberts, Malik Dilonga and Andy Flusche.
Courtland Sutton vs. Kenny Buyers: Sutton showed us against Baylor that he is the real deal, and the redshirt freshman should create a match-up nightmare for the Mean Green. At 6-foot-4, Sutton will go up against 5-foot-10 North Texas senior Kenny Buyers, and will try and take advantage of the height difference. Buyers, a team captain in 2014, was the Mean Green’s fourth leading tackler last season and won’t back down from the challenge. He will, however, have his hands full. The Mustangs went deep on their first play to Sutton for the touchdown, which proved just how dangerous the Brenham, Texas native is.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
For SMU, it’s about consistency. The Mustangs’ first half against Baylor, although not perfect, turned a lot of heads. SMU will need to put together four quarters of consistent, solid play against UNT. While Matt Davis’ running game is an important part of this offense, the junior can’t run 24 times a game and expect to stay healthy (especially when he’s not sliding). On the defensive side of the ball, SMU needs to get off the field on third downs and stop the run. Baylor was 6-13 on 3rd and 4th down conversions, which in part led to the Bears’ 723 yards of offense. North Texas will try and get their offense going by establishing the run, so limiting the Mean Green’s gains on first and second down is important.
KEYS TO THE GAME
When UNT is on Offense:Andrew McNulty has been tagged as the starter at quarterback for the Mean Green, but it wasn’t UNT’s passing game that put up the big numbers against SMU last season. The Mustangs gave up over 250 yards on the ground at Apogee Stadium in 2014, so will the Mean Green try and replicate that winning formula even against this new SMU defense?
WATCH TO WATCH FOR
When UNT is on Defense: With a new defensive coordinator at the helm, it will be interesting to see how ready this unit is to take on SMU’s fast-paced offense. After Courtland Sutton’s big game against Baylor, how will the Mean Green attack defending him? We saw nice improvement from the SMU offensive line against Baylor, but now with Braylon Hyder being thrown into the fire due to Daniel McCarty’s injury, will lack of depth hurt them? I’d expect UNT to target Hyder with any blitzes they bring, so it’s time to see if he can handle the pressure in the heat of the moment.
When SMU is on Offense: Matt Davis did a nice job in the first half of controlling the offense, but can he put together four quarters of consistent play? SMU’s quarterback also needs to work on not taking as many hits, while also not pressing when he comes under pressure. With first game jitters out of the way, look for Davis to find his groove, and find a nice middle ground with his running and passing games.
When SMU is on Defense: The SMU defense held their own in the first half against Baylor, but the next step for this unit is working to bring their best for four quarters. Captain Zach Wood said the defense got tired in the second half, which is understandable considering the offense they were going up against. But against UNT, it will be important for this unit to get stops on third down and get off the field so that they can recharge.
PONY STAMPEDE STAFF PREDICTIONS
Billy: SMU wins 35-17
Scott: SMU wins 38-28
Patrick: SMU wins 31-17
Hatts: SMU wins 28-17
Demo: SMU wins 35-14
Matt: SMU wins 31-21