WHEN: Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium- Tampa Bay, Florida
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 14-13 on November 15, 2014
Coming off of a bye-week, the SMU Mustangs look to kick the second half of their season off on the right foot. With key contributors such as Zach Wood, Evan Brown (above) and Kris Weeks fully healthy after the week off, and after what Coach Morris called the team’s best week of practice yet, the Mustangs will be in a good position to get their second win of the Chad Morris era. But standing in the way is a South Florida team coming off of two wins and led by another quarterback who can do it with both his legs and arm.
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The Bulls have a solid running attack led by Marlon Mack (above), Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson. All play an integral part in South Florida’s offense. Sophomore quarterback Quinton Flowers also plays an important part with both his legs and his arms. Flowers, Mack and Tice have a combines 10 touchdowns on the ground for the Bulls, who are also averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 233 yards a game. There’s no question South Florida’s strength is their running game. Defensively, South Florida does a nice job of stopping the running, letting up just 3.4 yards per carry. Sophomore linebacker Auggie Sanchez has burst onto the scene and provides a physical, downhill tackler for the Bulls. In the secondary, senior Jamie Byrd leads the way with two interceptions of his own, among a total of 7 for the Bulls altogether.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Courtland Sutton vs. Jamie Byrd: Sutton showed that he’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with some of the best defensive backs in the nation. He put up a solid showing of 6 catches for 48 yards against Houston’s William Jackson III, who is considered by some the top NFL prospect in the American. Byrd, however, won’t back down, which should make for a physical showdown on Saturday. Sutton didn’t find the end zone against the Cougars, so don’t be surprised to Davis and SMU take a shot at Sutton downfield early on to test the waters.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Offensively, SMU should have no problem putting up points like they have all year, despite a good USF defense. The Mustangs’ offensive line—now fully healthy—needs to give quarterback Matt Davis the time he needs to find open targets down field. That SMU unit just needs to keep doing what they have been doing while limiting turnovers. Defensively is where the Mustangs needed to make adjustments during the bye-week. SMU needs to contain USF’s Flowers who is averaging around 60 rushing yards a game. Not only do they need to contain him, but they also need to force him into tough throws. The sophomore gunslinger isn’t afraid to take a chance, which hasn’t paid off for him that often, so it’s important SMU come away with a takeaway or two. Most important, the Mustangs need to play a full four quarters of #PonyUpTempo football. Too many times this season as the team started off strong, before falling by the wayside in the second half. If SMU can make the necessary adjustments on defense, while playing four quarters of solid football, the Mustangs will have a good shot at walking away with the win.
WATCH TO WATCH FOR
When USF is on Offense: SMU’s defensive coordinator Van Malone said because quarterback Quinton Flowers is young, they’re going to try and disguise coverages and mix some things up on the defensive side of the ball. If SMU decides to bring added pressure as well, Flowers could be in for a rough outing. Time to see if the sophomore gunslinger crumbles when new wrinkles are thrown his way, or if he’ll rise to the occasion. Flowers has thrown at least one interception in five of his six games this season.
When USF is on Defense: Ranked 47th in the nation in points allowed (23.3), this Bulls unit is led by defensive back Jamie Bryd and linebacker Auggie Sanchez. Byrd, a senior, will likely face off against SMU’s Courtland Sutton, who proved last week against Houston’s William Jackson III that he can go up against some of the best talent in the nation. How will USF go about guarding Sutton? And if they do commit two guys to him, can SMU’s other receivers take advantage of that?
When SMU is on Offense: With Weeks and Brown back healthy, it will be important to see if the offensive line can get back to the way they played early on this season. While they haven’t been terrible, at times, Davis has seen increased pressure, so with two key pieces healthy again, it will be important for the unit to play physical and tough early on.
When SMU is on Defense: It’s no secret this unit has struggled in every loss for the Mustangs this year. Morris and Malone said the defense made a few adjustments over the bye-week, so now it’s time to see if we see an improved product out on the field. SMU will once again face a dual-threat quarterback, so containing Flowers will be key for the Mustangs this weekend.
PONY STAMPEDE STAFF PREDICTIONS
Billy: SMU wins 31-20
Scott: SMU wins 45-31
Demo: SMU wins 31-28
Patrick: SMU wins 31-28
Hatts: USF wins 31-21
Matt: SMU wins 34-31