WHEN: Friday, October 7, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium – Tulsa, OK
SERIES: SMU leads 13-9
LAST MEETING: SMU lost 40-31 on October 31, 2015
LINE: SMU +11
The Mustangs jumped out of the gates on Saturday against Temple, starting things off with a pick-6. That, however, was not enough to slow the Owls’ running game and overall dominance on both sides of the ball. The Mustangs’ struggled protecting Ben Hicks, running the ball consistently, and making plays in the open field. The defensive side of the ball wasn’t perfect, as they gave up 45 points, but they continued to make plays up front (2 sacks, 7 TFLs) and in the secondary (2 INTs). Now, it is gut check time for this SMU team.
Tulsa is an experienced and talented team on both sides of the ball. Their offense is led by senior Dane Evans who, besides a four-interception game against Ohio State, has shown that he can put up points for this offense. The Golden Hurricane also have D’Angelo Brewer, a hard-running back who has run well all season long. At wideout, Keevan Lucas, someone who SMU did not face last year because he was hurt, is now the team’s leading receiver. The dynamic playmaker can hurt you from all over the field.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tulsa returns eight starters, which is a big part of why the unit is better than what they were last year. They have a few playmakers in the secondary with Jeremy Brady and Keanu Hill, and they also have plenty of size up front thanks to Kolton Shindelar, Jeremy Smith, Hayden Carman and Uwaezuoke.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Tulsa defensive line vs. SMU offensive line: The Golden Hurricane have struggled to rush the passer this year some, but they still have a number of playmakers that could make things tough for this depleted and struggling SMU offensive line. This matchup is key because if SMU can play well, that will give Hicks the necessary time he needs to find his weapons like Cortland Sutton, Xavier Castille and James Proche. If this Tulsa defensive front seven comes to life, SMU could be in for their second conference loss of the season.
KEYS TO THE GAME
On the offensive side of the ball, it’s simple: it all starts with the offensive line. If the big guys up front can toughen up and prevent Hicks from getting knocked down as much, the Mustangs offense will not get the opportunity to put points up. On the defensive side of the ball, this Tulsa team likes to push the tempo, which means getting off the field on third downs is extremely important for SMU. If the Golden Hurricane can covert and continue to move the chains, that will put unnecessary strain on the SMU defense. The Mustangs also need to continue to come away with turnovers. With how much the offense has been struggling, turnovers will help cut short Tulsa’s opportunities to put up points.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When Tulsa is on Offense: Is Tulsa able to keep the tempo up and momentum in their corner? If this game turns into a shootout like it was last year, SMU is going to have a hard time keeping up with the Golden Hurricane.
When Tulsa is on Defense: Putting pressure and limiting Hicks’ completions to Courtland Sutton will be big factors on Friday. Tulsa’s defense is physical, but the question now is can they generate a pass rush to disrupt Hicks?
When SMU is on Offense: The Mustangs’ offensive line has to take steps forward in their protection of Hicks. If Hicks gets drilled like he did last week, SMU will be looking at Ke’Mon Freeman as their quarterback again. If the offensive line is able to give Hicks the time he needs in the pocket, then it is on the redshirt freshman to make the throws the coaching staff thinks he is capable of making.
When SMU is on Defense: In order to come away with a win, SMU needs to again force at least one turnover. The question is, how long can this secondary sustain their impressive play this season?
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: 31-28 SMU
Patrick: 33-23 Tulsa
Scott: 38-28 Tulsa
Hatts: 38-21 Tulsa
Demo: 42-17 Tulsa
Phil: 35-20 Tulsa