WHEN: Friday, November 6, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium- Dallas, Texas
SERIES: SMU leads 1-0-2
LAST MEETING: SMU won 59-49 in 2013
The SMU Mustangs dropped yet another AAC showdown against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, and now will play just six days later against a talented 7-1 Temple Owls team that almost took down the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After completely struggling against South Florida, the Mustangs did a few things better in the loss, but timely turnovers and failing to get stops at pivotal moments ultimately led to the Mustangs’ demise. The defense played better at certain times, but still failed to get stops when it mattered the most. And while the offense put up decent numbers, including 165 yards and 2 touchdowns for Courtland Sutton, a costly pick-six thrown by Matt Davis, and inconsistent play led to the Mustangs failing to score at times.
The Owls have a ton of weapons. It all starts with junior quarterback P.J. Walker, who can do it with his legs and his arm. Walker has done a nice job of cutting down on his throwing mistakes, and finding his most dangerous weapon: 6-foot-3, 175-pound senior wideout Robby Anderson. Temple also averages almost 150 yards on the ground, thanks to Walker and running back Jahad Thomas. Thomas, who has 13 touchdowns on the year, blossomed into the everyday back the Owls needed thanks to his downhill running and elusiveness. Defensively, the Owls make very few mistakes. A very seasoned unit, Temple is physical in the secondary thanks to Sean Chandler and Tavon Young. They also have three linebackers in Tyler Matakevich, Jared Alwan and Matt Loannidis that do not miss tackles and do a great job of tracking down the ball carrier.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Courtland Sutton vs. Tavon Young and Sean Chandler: Young and Chandler, the Owls’ third and fourth leading tacklers, will both get the chance to shutdown the Mustangs’ leading receiver. Both are under 6-foot, but both are physical and are known to bring their A-games when it matters most. Sutton, who stands at 6-foot-4, will need to take advantage of the height disparity. But with SMU’s inconsistencies of late at the quarterback position, that’s easier said than done.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Everything is going to have to go right for SMU if they want to walk away with the upset victory here. SMU’s offensive line needs to regain their physicality, and they need to protect the quarterback. Davis needs to be more consistent with his throws, and he needs to take advantage of his ability to run more. We said at the beginning of the season that Davis might be running too much; well he’s running to little now. On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs need to do something they haven’t done all year, which is stop a running quarterback. Stopping Walker, and minimizing Thomas’ long runs, will help the Mustangs get off the field on third down. If SMU can capitalize on two or three Temple turnovers, the Mustangs will have a chance to pull off the upset.
WATCH TO WATCH FOR
When Temple is on Offense— After injuring his shoulder against Penn. State, P.J. Walker was deterred from running and being the dual-threat quarterback that he is. But now healthy, and after getting his feet back against Notre Dame, expect Walker to take full advantage of the read-option plays. Given how SMU has fared against running quarterbacks, the Owls should look to take advantage of the Mustangs’ defense on the ground with Walker and Thomas.
When Temple is on Defense— Will Young and Chandler be able to shut down Sutton? If those two can take SMU’s biggest target out of the game, the Mustangs will have trouble scoring. Also, will the Owls’ smaller, yet quicker, pass rushers be able to get after Matt Davis?
When SMU is on Offense— SMU is going to have a hard time running the ball against this defense, so it’ll be up to the offensive line to give Davis the time he needs to find his targets. The Mustangs would benefit from short, quick passes, but they’ll also need to take shots down field to keep up with the Owls’ offense. Davis and the rest of the Mustangs will also need to do a better job of holding onto the ball.
When SMU is on Defense— Unfortunately, the Mustangs will be without two key defensive players in Horace Richardson and Kyran Mitchell. Mitchell was fourth on the team in tackles and Richardson had two interceptions. On an already very thin SMU defense, it’s time to see who can step up in their absence. We already saw David Johnson make some nice plays last week in the secondary, but can Anthony Rhone, Caleb Tuiasosopo and Jackson Mitchell be the playmakers the Mustangs need?
PONY STAMPEDE STAFF PREDICTIONS
Billy: Temple wins 35-10
Scott: Temple wins 49-35
Patrick: Temple wins 31-10
Hatts: Temple wins 38-10
Demo: Temple wins 38-24
Matt: Temple wins 34-17