Why to watch: You in? SMU is bowl-eligible and likely headed to Hawaii for a June Jones reunion, but the school doesn't want to get complacent or take anything for granted down the stretch. The Mustangs already blew their chance to put the West Division in a headlock, losing a 34-31 heartbreaker to Marshall last Saturday. Taking the division will now require a win and a Houston loss to Rice a few hours later. Since evening its record with a win over Army on Oct. 3, Tulane has skidded to six losses in the last seven games, ensuring a seventh consecutive losing season in New Orleans. With no end to the futility in sight, should head coach Bob Toledo be getting uneasy about his future with the school?
Why Tulane might win: The SMU defense is not only having problems with opposing defenses, but also keeping players healthy. The Mustangs, already 97th nationally in total defense, are depleted in the secondary, which will be an invitation for QB Ryan Griffin to test it liberally. Flanked out, he has a bona fide star receiver in Jeremy Williams, who's caught 79 passes and will get more breathing room than he did against UCF last weekend. For a dose of balance, the Green Wave will turn to RB Andre Anderson, who's better than his numbers indicate and dangerous when his blockers do their job.
Why SMU might win: Tulane packed it in weeks ago on defense, which is a troubling omen heading into this capper. The Green Wave yields more than 37 points a game and has been inept when the ball is in the air. The Mustangs will pepper it with a spate of passes and the occasional run from Shawnbrey McNeal, the Miami transfer who's closing in on 1,000 yards. Freshman QB Kyle Padron continues to play well since supplanting Bo Levi Mitchell, throwing twice as many touchdowns as picks and employing the myriad skills of top receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson.
Who to watch: As teammates drop around him, LB Chase Kennemer remains the rock of the SMU defense. Neither the biggest nor the fastest, he's one of those defenders who just has a knack for making plays and always being around the ball. He leads the team with 117 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss, lending hope and leadership to a side of the ball that currently needs both.
What will happen: Different mindsets are sure to produce different results. While Tulane has one foot in the offseason, SMU is about to dip its toe into the bowl season for the first time in a quarter-century. The Mustangs will overcome occasional breakdowns in coverage, rolling up 500 yards on a Green Wave defense that'll be step slow all afternoon.
CFN Prediction: SMU 35 … Tulane 19 ... Line: SMU -17
Must See Rating: Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 5 … The Twilight Saga: New Moon 1 … 1.5