WHEN: Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium – Dallas, TX
TV: CBS Sports Network
SERIES: 1-2 USF
LAST MEETING: USF won 38-14 on October24, 2015
LINE: SMU +13
After such a discouraging loss to Memphis, the Mustangs bounced back emphatically with a 55-31 road win over East Carolina. Courtland Sutton, who had not put up numbers like we all know he can in several games, dominated his freshman opponent. The keys for SMU though were the turnovers and defensive touchdowns they were able to produce. Those provided a nice lead for the Mustangs, the Ben Hicks, Ke’Mon Freeman and Sutton did the rest.
Like Billy mentioned in the podcast, USF is an extremely athletic team across the board. They have playmakers such as Quinton Flowers, Rodney Adams and Marlon Mack on offense, while also having a few dynamic players on defense. In the end though, this is Flowers’ team. The impressive junior has over 2200 yards passing and more than 1100 yards rushing. Essentially, he is what everyone thought Greg Ward Jr. was going to be this year. The Bulls’ offense is run through Flowers; both in the air and on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Auggie Sanchez does everything for his unit. Despite being part of a defense that gives up more than 30 points a game, Sanchez has still impressed with his six sacks, eight TFL’s and 85 tackles. Another linebacker, Nigel Harris, is someone to keep an eye on as well. Those impressive stats aren’t everything though. The Bulls still give up almost 500 yards of offense a game and they don’t force turnovers regularly, which means SMU will have their shots on both sides of the ball they’ll have to take advantage of.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Quinton Flowers vs. SMU’s defense: SMU’s entire defense will have to show up if they want to beat Flowers and the Bulls. The Mustangs’ front seven did a great job slowing Ward Jr. down earlier this year, so we will have to see if they can replicate that performance. SMU’s secondary, which has the second-most interceptions in DI football, will also have their hands full in the air. Flowers as just five interceptions on the year, but he also has not faced a secondary like SMU’s.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Both of these teams can put up points in a hurry, but if SMU wants to come away with the win, they can’t let Flowers run and throw all over the defense. Like we saw last week, winning the turnover battle for the Mustangs is huge, and the extra possessions will be needed to build a lead against this Bulls team. On the other side of things, Hicks can’t give the Bulls more offensive possessions by turning the ball over either.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When USF is on Offense: This offense is run through Quinton Flowers, so it all comes back to him when everything is said and done. If he has a pour game, SMU will have a legitimate shot to pull off the upset.
When USF is on Defense: The Bulls linebackers do most of the work for USF. If SMU can get past them and into the secondary, they could turn this game into a shootout; it could be any team’s game at that point.
When SMU is on Offense: Hicks completed 18-30 passes for three touchdowns against ECU. He was efficient, and his offensive line protected him. Those both need to happen again, as this offense will need to keep up with a strong Bulls offense.
When SMU is on Defense: Earlier this season we saw SMU keep Heisman hopeful Greg Ward Jr. in check. Facing a similar quarterback in Flowers this weekend, they will have to attack the junior with a similar game plan. Like we saw against East Carolina, forcing turnovers helped build a lead, which allowed the offense to play looser. That is the recipe for success the Mustangs should look to follow this week as well.
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: 42-34 SMU
Patrick: 38-34 USF
Scott: 52-41 USF
Demo: 35-14 USF
Hatts: 38-21 USF
Phil: 48-28 USF