Matt Visinsky

Game Preview: SMU vs. Tulsa

Scott previews SMU's home matchup on Saturday against Tulsa.

WHEN: Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium- Dallas, Texas
TV: ESPNNews/WatchESPN
SERIES: SMU leads 13-8
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 38-28

PONY TRENDS

The SMU Mustangs return to Ford for a Halloween showdown against the 3-4 Tulsa Golden Hurricane.  Last week, despite coming off of a bye-week, SMU looked overpowered against a physical USF defense and the Bulls’ dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers.  Despite the extra week of preparation, the Mustangs’ offensive line once again took a step in the wrong direction.  Quarterback Matt Davis and the offense looked out of sync for all but one drive in the first quarter.  On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs played well in the first half, allowing just 17 points and coming up with a number of key stops on third downs.  But in the end, the Bulls’ rushing attack proved to be too much.  If it weren’t for a few dropped balls on USF’s part, the game could have been much worse.  The Mustangs will now face a Tulsa team that has struggled defensively, but can put points on the board in a hurry.  

OPPONENT STRENGTHS

The Mustangs face another gifted offense-minded team led by quarterback Dane Evans, receivers Joshua Atkins and Keyarris Garrett, and running back Zach Langer.  Evans has found a nice dynamic duo with Atkinson and Garrett.  The two have combined for over 1600 yards and eight touchdowns through seven games.  While the Golden Hurricane will try and stretch your defense thin by taking your secondary deep, they can also run the ball well with Langer as their workhorse.  Langer receives the bulk of the carries, but D’Angelo Brewer has turned into a nice change-of-pace back for Tulsa.  Defensively, the Golden Hurricane give up a lot of yards—550 per game to be exact—but linebackers Matt Linscott and Trent Martin are two physical, downhill gap-fillers.  

MATCHUP TO WATCH

The SMU secondary vs. Atkinson and Garrett: If SMU wants to slow the well-oiled machine that is Tulsa’s passing game, it’s starts with matching up with these two.  Garrett, who reminds me of Courtland Sutton, has the size, speed and athleticism, to do damage to almost any secondary.  Atkinson doesn’t get the targets that Garrett gets, but he still brings nice production as the second wideout.  SMU will have to play their best game yet if they want to slow this duo. 

KEYS TO THE GAME

Surprisingly, SMU’s offense was non-existence against South Florida.  If the Mustangs want to double their win total from last season, they will have to put more points up, which starts with the offensive line.  I feel like a broken record, but that unit needs to give Davis a decent amount of time so that he has time in the pocket to step into his throws and find his receivers.  In order to be more efficient on offense altogether, this is key.  Defensively, while this team isn’t facing a dual-threat quarterback, they still need to limit big rushes.  If Langer can give the Golden Hurricane easy first downs, that will provide Evans with more opportunities to find Garrett and Atkinson down field.   I also think the Mustangs need to force at least one turnover if they want to win this ballgame.  A shorten field bodes well for a struggling offense and could provide a nice spark.

WATCH TO WATCH FOR

When Tulsa is on Offense: While the Mustangs have had their moments on the defensive side of the ball, overall, they’ve been pretty bad.  While Evans be able to take advantage of SMU’s weak secondary? And will Langer be the consistent back he has for the Golden Hurricane all season long?

When Tulsa is on Defense: Tulsa gives up a ton of yards, but if they can get after Matt Davis enough, they can get the stops they need to get the W.  Linscott and Martin do the rushing, but if SMU can slow them down, the Mustangs might be able to get back to their high-scoring ways.

When SMU is on Offense: The Mustangs’ offense took a giant step in the wrong direction against South Florida.  If the Mustangs want to avoid a 1-7 start, they’ll have to make major adjustments on this side of the ball, and it starts with the guys up front.  The offensive line needs to give Matt Davis more time in the pocket, so that he can find Courtland Sutton.  

When SMU is on Defense: The Mustangs did a nice job of getting off the field on third down in the first half of last week’s game.  Now that they won’t be facing a dual-threat quarterback, their attention should turn to the secondary.  Evans will absolutely take shots down field; something the Mustangs struggled with defending earlier this season. 

PONY STAMPEDE STAFF PREDICTIONS

Billy: Tulsa wins 55-21
Scott: Tulsa wins 42-28
Demo: SMU wins 28-24
Hatts: Tulsa wins 42-24
Patrick: Tulsa 52-41
Matt: Tulsa wins 48-31


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