When: Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. CT
Where: McLane Stadium (Waco, Texas)
SERIES: Baylor leads 38-36-7
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 56-21 on September 4, 2015
Line: SMU +28.5
Last week, the Mustangs defeated North Texas 34-21 to win their season opener for the first time since 2009. It was also SMU’s first road win to open up a season since 1986, or post death penalty. Despite putting together a 13-point win, it did not come with out a couple of sacrifices.
Matt Davis, while listed as the starting quarterback, left Saturday’s game with an injury and is undoubtedly nicked up some, which means Ben Hicks should see significant time in his first game returning to Waco since high school. Xavier Jones, the team’s leading rusher also suffered an injuring, and while Ben Hicks and Ke’Mon Freeman are capable replacements, this team will have their hands full while facing Baylor.
The Bears are an all-around impressive team, despite losing several key defensive and offensive players to graduation. For this team, it all starts with their offense. Senior Seth Russell has returned to full strength since his neck injury last year, and he didn’t miss a beat against Northwestern State.
His two top weapons, Shock Linwood and KD Cannon, are explosive athletes that can make almost any defense miss. Not to mention their impressive second options of Lynx Hawthorne and Terrence Williams. While this team lost Art Briles, the rest of their staff has stayed intact and that showed week 1.
Defensively, the Bears were more than stellar, racking up 15 tackles for loss against a clearly overmatched Northwestern State team. Linebacker/defensive end Taylor Young might be their most important defensive player, but the guys up front like Ira Lewis (below), Jamie Jacobs and K.J. Smith showed they can’t be taken lightly as well.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
SMU Offensive line vs. Baylor Defensive Line: If Ben Hicks does end up making the first start of his career, the redshirt freshman is going to need all the time he can get to find guys like Courtland Sutton, James Proche, etc. If Hicks feels the pressure early, we could see 2-3 turnovers early, but if the line gives Hicks adequate time, he has the arm to make things tough on the Baylor secondary.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Mustangs cannot get down big early. If that happens, this game could get ugly. And because it’s so tough to slow Baylor’s offense, SMU must score like many think they are capable of. On the defensive side of the ball, getting off the field on third downs is extremely important. On offense, prolonging drives to keep Baylor’s offense off the field is key.
WATCH TO WATCH FOR
When Baylor is on Offense: Seth Russell had his way with the Demons’ defense in week 1, so he will try to replicate that performance. If he gets going, watch out, but if he starts missing throws, SMU will need to capitalize.
When Baylor is on Defense: The defensive front for Baylor had an impressive first game, but it’s time to see how they do against a better opponent and a team they gave up 21 first half points to last season. The Bears’ secondary is also something to keep an eye on after going virtually untested in their first game this season.
When SMU is on Offense: If Ben Hicks is the guy, this side of the ball is all on him. He’ll need to quickly get the ball into the hands of his playmakers like Sutton, Proche, Xavier Castille, Jones (if he plays) and Freeman. Up front, the offensive line will have their hands full in the trenches, but if they can hold their own, that will help Hicks tremendously.
When SMU is on Defense: The Mustangs’ secondary, especially Horace Richardon and Darrion Millines, played well against North Texas, picking off Alabama transfer Alec Morris three times altogether. They will need to make several plays on the ball this weekend, and can’t get beat deep by guys like Cannon and Hawthorne. This will absolutely be a huge test for the SMU linebackers as well. Preventing Linwood and Williams from gaining those extra yards will be tough, while also helping out the secondary in coverage.
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: 52-38 Baylor
Patrick: 42-28 Baylor
Scott: 49-45 SMU
Hatts: 48-24 Baylor
Demo: 52-21 Baylor