The matchup:SMU and Rice have met 85 times with SMU holding a 45-39-1 series edge. Rice does have a 15-12-1 advantage in games played at Rice Stadium since 1950. SMU has not won at Rice Stadium since 1986. The season opener for both teams as well as the Conference USA opener for both squads, it also marks June Jones debut as SMU's new head coach.
At stake for both teams:Well there is the Mayor's Cup to consider. Created in 1998 by Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and Houston Mayor Lee Brown, the traveling trophy is awarded to the winner each year. More importantly it gives both teams an opportunity to be undefeated in conference play. It's also a chance to see how June Jones newest team performs in his system.
Keys to the game for SMU:The Mustangs must play better defense and contain Rice quarterback Chase Clement and wide receiver Jarrett Dillard. The defense will have to cause some turnovers and also put pressure on Clement, if Tom Mason's squad can do that SMU has a great chance for the win. Offensively Bo Levi Mitchell has to play a good game, but shouldn't try to do everything himself. The true freshman has a lot of weapons to use at his disposal. SMU can't afford a lot of offensive turnovers.
SMU's offense vs. Rice's defense:Last year both teams didn't show up defensively. Who has the better defense will probably win the game in this contest. Even with a true freshman quarterback, Jones' system will be too much for Rice defense to handle.
SMU's defense vs. Rice's offense:This will be a very interesting match up and test for SMU's defensive unit. If they can play well and control the line of scrimmage the Mustangs will win hands down, whether they can do that or not against a good offensive unit is the real question.
Edge: RiceSMU's special teams vs. Rice's special teams: SMU returns pre-season All-American kicker and punter Thomas Morstead. Look for SMU's special teams unit to be a much better coached and prepared group. The Mustangs have one of the best NFL special team coaches in the country in Frank Gansz Sr.
Coaching:One advantage that Rice head coach David Bailiff has is that his system has been in placed for two years, will that be enough to overcome a very talented coaching staff that June Jones has assembled. Bailiff, was the head coach of 1AA Texas State where he only had one winning season out of three. Last year Rice was expected to do great things after going to their first bowl game in 20 years, but fell to 3-9 in Bailiff's first season.
Jones on the other hand has been a head coach for over 20 years in the NFL and on the college level. His first Hawaii team went 9-4 their first season under the talented coach after being 0-12 the season before.