WHEN: Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. CT
WHERE: Lincoln Financial – Philadelphia, PA
SERIES: Tied 1-1-2
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 60-40 on November 6, 2015
LINE: SMU +13.5
The Mustangs are coming off of a disappointing loss to rival TCU. The team once again held tough through two-plus quarters, but continued to struggle moving the ball consistently and scoring touchdowns. Despite giving up 33 points and over 500 yards of offense, SMU’s defense continued to make plays including their tenth interception of the season, which leads the nation.
On the offensive side of the ball, Ben Hicks struggled again while throwing multiple interceptions for the third straight game, and failing to find the end zone. The offensive line also struggled while allowing four sacks and failing to open up lanes and establish the run game with just 76 yards on 34 carries. Despite all of the negatives, the Mustangs are still 2-2 headed into league play, and have said they feel confident to make the necessary adjustments to succeed through the final eight games.
Temple is a physical team that returns a good amount of experience from last year’s 10-4 team. The Owls aren’t the offensive team they were last year, but quarterback Phillip Walker is someone who thrashed the Mustangs’ defense last year for five total TDs, and has the tools to put together a solid performance. Temple’s starting running back Jahad Thomas is also healthy now after missing the first two games, and Ryquell Armstead is another formidable back the Mustangs will have to account for. The Owls also have three receivers at least 6-foot-3 in Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Romond Deloatch that can be matchup problems for the Mustangs secondary if Walker has the accuracy to find them.
Despite their struggles on offense, Temple’s defense can keep them in most games. That unit is led by redshirt senior defensive end Haason Reddick who leads the team in TFLs (5) and was voted the team’s toughest player by his teammates. Linebacker Avery Williams, another senior, is another physical tackler and player that will be in on most plays come Saturday. This Owls secondary is also a physical unit and does a good job of keeping opponents in front of them. They are surrendering just over 140 yards a game in the air, and have given up just two touchdowns by pass through four games.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Temple’s defense vs. Ben Hicks: Hicks, once again, will be one of the keys to this game for the Mustangs. While SMU’s defense has unexpectedly kept them in their two losses through the first half, that unit needs help from the offensive side of the ball. Hicks will be facing a tough Owls defense that will cause problems for the Mustangs’ offensive line, which will make things tough of Hicks. The redshirt freshman will also be going up against a stifling secondary that can make plays across the board. Since touchdowns will be hard to come by, Hicks has to take advantage when he’s able to get into the red zone. If he struggles early on, Temple’s defense could help put this game away early.
KEYS TO THE GAME
On defense, SMU’s secondary has to keep doing what they are doing to keep the Mustangs in this one. If they can come away with a few takeaways, that will give Hicks ample opportunity to at least find the end zone once, which may be all they need considering how low scoring of a game this could be.
On offense, Hicks needs to find his rhythm early, and his offensive line needs to hold their own against a physical Temple defensive front seven. Like Coach Morris said this week, the offense needs to convert on third downs as well so that the defense can rest longer and the offense and continue to move the chains.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When Temple is on Offense: As we saw last year, Walker has the capability to hurt this SMU team. But with a weaker offensive line, and continued struggles with accuracy, it’s time to see if Walker rises to the occasion or allows SMU to stay in this one.
When Temple is on Defense: If the Owls’ defense can come away with a number of takeaways, that would give their offense the short field they need to score some points. Coach Craddock mentioned a number of trick plays they ran last year against this team, so it will be interesting to see if Temple’s defense is ready for those this year.
When SMU is on Offense: Hicks is once again the key to this unit, but a lot of his success will ride on the play of the offensive line. If the Waco native can get going early, that could boost his confidence for the rest of the game.
When SMU is on Defense: Walker has already thrown five interceptions this year, so SMU’s secondary needs to continue to make plays for their team to stay in this one.
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: 17-14 SMU
Patrick: 17-6 Temple
Scott: 27-17 Temple
Demo: 31-24 SMU
Hatts: 24-21 SMU
Phil: 31-24 Temple