WHEN: Friday, September 23, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Ford Stadium (Dallas, Tex.)
SERIES: TCU leads 48-40-7
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 56-37 on September 19, 2015
LINE: SMU +21
Heading in to week 3, it’s clear the Mustangs have improved on both sides of the ball from last season. Despite seeing a small slip in point, SMU is averaging more than 100 total yards more now (490.7) then they did through three games last season (382.8). Despite that positive, SMU is coming off somewhat of a lackluster performance on the offensive side of the ball after scoring on just 3 of 6 trips to the red zone.
The team’s defense has also improved immensely from last year. Through three games, both Jordan Wyatt (3) and Horace Richardson (3) are tied for the most interceptions in college football. And as a team, the Mustangs are allowing two touchdowns less than they did last season, so it’s easy to see just how much this team has improved from last season, and their impressive upward trend.
The Mustangs will now face a talented TCU offense, and the toughest defense they’ve seen all season with playmakers all over the field. Despite KaVonte Turpin being out with an undisclosed injury, the Horned Frogs’ offense still has plenty of weapons. Kenny Hill has yet to play up to his full potential, but he still has the ability to beat any defense with his legs or his arm. His main targets, Taj Williams, Kyle Hicks and John Diarse can all be matchup nightmares. Williams has the size and speed to beat the corner he faces, while Hicks can hurt you in the air or on the ground.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs will face quite possibly the best front seven they have faced all year long. The Frogs have a lot of experience in the trenches starting with Aaron Curry and Josh Carraway. In the middle of the defense, Sammy Douglas leads the way with his playmaking ability at linebacker. And Denzel Johnson is another player, along with Nick Orr, who have the capability to make plays on the secondary for this team. Overall, this will be a huge test for SMU offensive line.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
TCU receivers vs. SMU secondary: these two position groups both have players playing at high levels. For SMU, Jordan Wyatt and and Horace Richardson are playing extremely well, with both tied for the most interceptions (3) in the nation. But they have not faced a trio like Diarse, Hicks and Williams. Youngsters like Mikial Onu and Christian Davis will also be tested like they haven’t been before. If Kenny Hill turns the ball over, SMU’s secondary will play a major role in keeping the Mustangs in this game. But if Hill can find his targets and find a rhythm, that could make for a long day for SMU.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Despite walking away with the win last week, the Mustangs’ offense clearly struggled some because of Ben Hicks’ inability to score touchdown in the red zone. That will be the biggest key to this coming battle for the iron skillet. Just two weeks ago, SMU was able to keep it close with a ranked Baylor team until two end zone interceptions. Now facing a TCU team with a chip on their shoulder after an early loss two weeks ago, those mistakes can’t happen. Just like against Liberty, Braeden West, Ke’Mon Freeman and the running attack will have to keep the pressure off of Hicks, which means the offensive line will have to continue their improving play as well.
On the defensive side of the ball, SMU must continue to get takeaways. TCU will be able to move the ball, but SMU has shown this season they have the ability to cut opponents’ drives short, and that will help SMU keep this one close.
WATCH TO WATCH FOR
When TCU is on Offense: With no KaVonte Turpin, it’s time to see if guys like Williams and Hicks can step up in his absence. Kenny Hill, who has struggled with consistency all season long, will also need to adjust to not having his number one target.
When TCU is on Defense: Joe Craddock said that the SMU offensive line struggled mightily against Liberty, so this will be an important test for them against this TCU front seven. If they can successfully rush the passer, they might be able to force their team’s first turnover.
When SMU is on Offense: The big question for SMU’s offense this game is can they get into the end zone? If they are going to win, they cannot settle for field goals, and that comes down to Ben Hicks and his ability to stay cool under pressure.
When SMU is on Defense: To give the Mustangs their best chance to win, this defense (specifically the secondary) will have to continue to force turnovers like they have all season. That will keep TCU’s offense off the field, and give the SMU offense the chances they need to score.
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: 42-38 SMU
Patrick: 31-20 TCU
Scott: 49-37 TCU
Demo: 42-35 SMU
Hatts: 31-24 TCU
Phil: 34-17 TCU