When: Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. CT
Where: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (Dallas, Texas)
SERIES: This is the first ever meeting between SMU and Liberty
Line: SMU -16
The Mustangs are finally going to play in front of their home crowd after starting 2016 with back-to-back road games. However SMU is limping into its home opener with quarterback Matt Davis shut down for the season with a torn ACL and star running back Xavier Jones battling a hamstring injury. That being said, SMU (1-1) is coming off an encouraging showing against Baylor in which it kept the Bear out of the end zone for the entire first half. The Mustangs have won five of their last eight home openers since 2008, and will be looking to make it 6-of-9 come Saturday.
The Flames, like every team, likes to take the ball away. Unlike most teams, they seem to generate those turnovers on a consistent basis. Over the first two games, the Flames have recovered six fumbles and made two interceptions. Liberty has scored 33 points off of turnovers. In their loss to Virginia Tech all 13 of the Flames’ points came off of turnovers.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Courtland Sutton vs Chris Turner: The Flames’ top corner Chris Turner is a little banged up after falling on his left shoulder last week. Turner returned to the game but was in a sling when it ended. He has been listed as a starter prior to Saturday’s game and if he does line up opposite Sutton on Saturday, expect Hicks to test him early.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Liberty is good at taking the ball away and last week Hicks wasn’t exactly safe with it against Baylor. He threw three interceptions, two of which came in the end zone. SMU was simply unable to finish drives in the end zone against the Bears and once the Mustangs fell behind, Hicks got a little loose with the ball—trying to do too much and forcing bad throws. SMU needs to come out hot, put some points on the board and trust the defense to hold the Flames at bay. While Liberty is an up-tempo offensive team, it likes to run the football. They have run the ball 86 times versus 56 passing plays. If SMU can ahead early and for the Flames to abandon their game and pass, things should go the Mustangs’ way.
WATCH TO WATCH FOR
When Liberty is on Offense: Liberty wants to run the ball and thus far their offensive line has been able to open up enough holes for the Flames to rush for 409 yards. However, their starting right guard Aharown Campbell went down last week with a knee injury but is expected to play and start on Saturday. Even just one weak link and offensive line can spell disaster for an offense.
When Liberty is on Defense: The Liberty defense that has forced eight turnovers over two weeks is getting some extra reinforcement this week. Safety Corbin and linebacker Lucas Irons are back after being suspended one-game for violation of team rules. Their return to the starting lineup brings some much needed depth to the Flames defense.
When SMU is on Offense: Again it’s going to be all about Hicks taking care of the ball. It will be a big help if SMU has Xavier Jones in the backfield to relieve some of the pressure from Hicks and get the offense going. If Jones is suited up and healthy enough to handle it, SMU will undoubtedly call his number a lot.
When SMU is on Defense: Justin Lawler is tied for second in the country with 3.5 sacks. Liberty wants to run the football, but if SMU can get an early lead it would force the Flames to pass and allow Lawler to tee off on Liberty quarterback Stephon Masha. The Liberty quarterback has thrown three touchdowns, but has also thrown three picks. If he gets enough pressure in his face and making a high volume of throws, he will give SMU opportunities for picks.
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: 45-17 SMU
Patrick: 33-10 SMU
Demo: 42-14 SMU
Scott: 38-17 SMU
Hatts: 35-14 SMU