WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium- Dallas, Texas
SERIES: 3-2 ECU leads
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 45-24 last season
PONY TRENDSAfter what many considered to be an impressive showing against rival TCU, despite the outcome, SMU fans were feeling confident going into the Mustangs’ homecoming matchup versus James Madison. JMU, however, exposed SMU’s weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball and dealt SMU’s homecoming crowd a heartbreaking loss in Gerald J. Ford Stadium. The Mustangs’ offense struggled at times, but ultimately played well enough to stay in contention for the win. SMU’s defense, on the other hand, continues to show they have their work cut out for them heading into conference play.
The offensive line saw somewhat of a shake up with Chad Pursley getting the start over Chauncey Briggs. Quarterback Matt Davis was sacked five times, but there were times when he held on to the ball too long. Receiver Courtland Sutton once again did his part with another touch down and 137 yards. Freshmen running backs Xavier Jones and Braeden West both saw solid playing time and both continued to impress. On the defensive side of the ball, SMU continued to get beat deep, and former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee had his way with the Mustangs’ secondary.
OPPONENT STRENGTHSThe Pirates are another team that can put up points in a hurry. Despite the losses of Kurt Benkert at quarterback, Blake Kemp, James Summers and Isaiah Jones (above) have all stepped up, leading ECU over Virginia Tech for the second straight year, and playing the Florida Gators close in Gainesville. Kemp and Jones have formed a nice camaraderie, and Summer is an electric playmaker who can help the Pirates out with his arm or legs.
MATCHUP TO WATCHJames Summer vs. the SMU defense: James Summer might not even be the starter on Saturday, but expect the JUCO transfer to get significant playing time. Summer lit up Virginia Tech for over 150 yards on the ground, so there’s no reason not to expect ECU to try and run Summer all over SMU. While Summer might be limited some with his arm, so was James Madison’s Vad Lee, who still torched the Mustangs defense.
KEYS TO THE GAMEWe’re in for a very high scoring game on Saturday. Now, SMU has proven they can score and keep up with some of the best teams in the nation, but their defense needs to stop giving up big chunks of yards. Against James Madison, we saw Lee walk his team down the field as the clock ran down like it was nothing. If the Mustangs continue to give up touchdowns on easy drives, they aren’t going to win games. Offensively, SMU needs to take care of the ball so that the Pirates aren’t given good field position, which likely lead to short and easy drives.
WATCH TO WATCH FOR
When ECU is on Offense— Keep an eye out to see just how much playing time Summer gets. If Kemp struggles, you could see the dual-threat quarterback come in early, especially considering how successful Vad Lee was last week.
When ECU is on Defense— The Pirates have done a solid job of bending and not breaking defensively, but they, like SMU, give up a ton of yards. The key for the Pirates on this side of the ball will be forcing SMU to kick field goals with their backs against the wall.
When SMU is on Offense— The offense, despite turnovers and sacks, played well against James Madison. But it was by no means perfect. Sutton has made a name for himself, so now it’s time to see if the other receivers on this SMU team can keep the pressure on this Pirates secondary just like they did against JMU. If Davis gets the time he needs, we could be in for a 50-point performance.
When SMU is on Defense— Once again, it comes down to can SMU get off the field? This unit has done a solid job of forcing turnovers, but they continue to give up the big plays down field that just destroy them. If the Mustangs want any chance at preventing this Pirates team from putting up 50-plus points, they’re going to have to get physical with ECU’s receivers.
PONY STAMPEDE STAFF PREDICTIONS
Billy: 56-51, ECU wins
Scott: 45-35, SMU wins
Patrick: 38-28, ECU wins
Hatts: 42-35, ECU wins
Demo: 35-21, SMU wins
Matt: 49-42, ECU wins