WHEN: Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Yulman Stadium – New Orleans, LA
SERIES: Tulane leads 13-9
LAST MEETING: SMU won 49-21 on November 21, 2015
LINE: SMU +3
SMU is coming off of their most impressive win in the Chad Morris era, so the team should be as confident as ever going into their matchup against a 3-4 (0-3) Tulane team. The Mustangs were firing on all cylinders against Houston. Ben Hicks played the best game of his career and made great decisions throughout the contest when feeling the pressure from the Cougars. Hicks also had the help of an offensive line that did not allow a sack all night.
Despite all of the positives on the offensive side of the ball, SMU’s defense won the game for them this go around. The Mustangs got consistent pressure on Greg Ward Jr., all while keeping him in the pocket most of the night (17 rushes, 3 yards). The Mustangs once again won the third down conversion and turnover battles as well, which was huge for the Mustangs.
Just because Tulane lost by several touchdowns to Tulsa doesn’t mean SMU will be able to walk all over this Green Wave team. Their offense, which features the triple option, is something that could burn SMU if they don’t stick to their assignments and tackle well in the open field. The Green Wave’s offense is lead by Dontrell Hilliard and Josh Rounds who have rushed for a combined 1006 yards through seven games.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tulane has lots of experience (nine returning starters from 2015) and athleticism. Their front seven is led by 5-foot-8, 200-pound linebacker Nico Marley (below). His 6.5 TFL’s are second on the team behind Tanzel Smart’s 8.5. Smart and Marley are the leaders for Tulane’s front seven, and back it up with their play. At 6-foot-1, 305 pounds, Smart is someone SMU will have to be aware of all game long.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
SMU Defense vs. Tulane RB’s: Tulane’s offense has been inconsistently to say the least, but you can actually say the same thing about SMU’s. After putting up more than 350 yards on the ground thanks to Hilliard (below), Rounds and Lazedrick Thompson against Tulsa, SMU will have its hands full with Tulane’s stable of backs. The Mustangs, however, did a great job of limiting Ward Jr. and Duke Catalon to a combined 57 yards last week, so they have proven they can stop formidable runners. With the amount of inconsistencies Tulane has had on offense, their running game will either help carry or help sink that group this weekend.
KEYS TO THE GAME
One key for SMU will be stopping the run. If Tulane can’t consistently run the ball, their offense will likely struggle. On the offensive side of the ball for SMU, Hicks needs to continue to develop as he gains more experience. Because Tulane runs so much, they do not turn the ball over as much, so Hicks has to keep that in mind when he is making throws. A balanced attack, like we saw from the Mustangs against Houston, will make things tougher for an athletic Tulane defense.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The big question heading into this weekend is how will SMU respond coming off such an impressive win last week? Coach Morris talked about putting the win behind them and moving on to Tulane on Sunday, but that is easier said than done. We will learn a lot about this team this weekend, and whether or not they are truly taking steps in the right direction, or if they still have their work cut out for them.
When Tulane is on Offense: The Green Wave will only be as successful as their running game is. If Tulane doesn’t run well, there’s no way they can keep up with SMU on the scoreboard.
When Tulane is on Defense: Last week, SMU did a good job of converting on third downs and scoring in the red zone. If Tulane can get to Ben Hicks, force a couple of turnovers, and consistently get SMU to fourth down, they will have a chance to win.
When SMU is on Offense: For this unit, it’s about building off of last week’s win. Can the offensive line continue to protect Ben Hicks, and can the redshirt freshman continue to protect the ball while going through his reads? If those two things happen, SMU’s running game and wide receivers will follow.
When SMU is on Defense: SMU has to tackle well this game. Tackling and sticking to their assignments will be key this weekend. Defending the triple option is not easy, and if you leave an option open, SMU can get burned.
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: 35-10 SMU
Patrick: 28-21 SMU
Scott: 38-24 SMU
Demo: 34-14 SMU
Hatts: 28-17 SMU
Phil: 31-24 SMU