Why to watch: Don't look now, but June Jones has SMU peaking around the corner, courtesy of the program's first 2-0 start since 1996. Just getting by Stephen F. Austin in the opener actually raised more questions than anything else about the Mustangs' direction. Beating UAB, however, had special meaning since it snapped a 17-game conference losing streak and a 15-game road losing streak. Now brimming with confidence, a 3-0 mark would put them halfway to that long-awaited bowl eligibility. Confidence and Washington State have no business appearing in the same paragraph. The Cougars continue to stake a claim to being the worst program among the BCS schools, dishing out lopsided home losses to Stanford and Hawaii. Short on experience and execution, they're already running out of winnable games left on the schedule.
Why SMU might win: Jones' former employer, Hawaii, cranked out 626 yards on the Wazzu defense in Seattle. Jones' current employer will approach that output. The Mustangs have scored at least 30 points in both games, getting unexpected balance. Miami transfer Shawnbrey McNeal has rushed for 225 yards and two scores, aiding the always potent passing game. Receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson have too much burst and speed for a Cougar secondary that was burned by Greg Alexander for 489 yards a week ago.
Why Washington State might win: Hey, when SMU is visiting, there's always a chance to move the ball and put up some points. While more opportunistic than in the past, the Mustangs are way too flexible, allowing big chunks of yards through the air and on the ground. The Cougars will try to take advantage with athletic QB Marshall Lobbestael and possibly true freshman Jeff Tuel, who'll be ditching his redshirt. Wazzu has a talented transfer of its own at running back, former Cal Bear James Montgomery, who had 118 yards and a score on 17 carries last week.
Who to watch: The big difference in Dallas this year actually centers on the defense. Yeah, they'll bend plenty, but they've begun to get the ball back to the prolific offense. SMU has a nation's-best 11 takeaways, including three interceptions and a forced fumble from SS Rock Dennis. If the Mustangs continue to be ball-hawks, they're going to be a far more dangerous opponent than in recent seasons.
What will happen: SMU and Washington State are headed in opposite directions, with no end in sight for the host. It's not as if the Mustangs are poised to relive the days of the Pony Express, but the Cougars have already begun to circle the drain. SMU will attack on offense, airing it out its usual 45 times and mixing in some draw plays from McNeal. If the Mustangs can take advantage of Lobbestael's youth, this could be over before the final quarter.
CFN Prediction: SMU 35 … Washington State 23 ... Line: SMU -6.5