Liberty Flames at SMU Mustangs: Game Preview

QB Ben Hicks is now in charge of leading the Mustangs on offense. Photo Courtesy: Sandy McAnally
QB Ben Hicks is now in charge of the Mustangs on offense. Photo Courtesy: Sandy McAnally
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By Zach Walker

Game Info
Liberty Flames vs SMU Mustangs
Saturday – September 17 – 6:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN 3
Ford Field – Dallas – Texas

Records Before the Game
SMU Mustangs: 1-1 (0-0 in AAC)
Liberty Flames: 1-1 (0-0 in Big South)

Who’s got the advantage?
When SMU has the ball: It’s Ben Hicks’ show. Matt Davis has a torn ACL. Task number one: Improving the passing game efficiency. Ben Hicks against Baylor (and I understand it was Baylor) was 39 percent completing passes. That’s creating more 2nd or 3rd and long situations than the young Mustangs can overcome. The Mustangs actually played well against the Bears in Waco. They ran the ball with great efficiency, team rushing was 38 total rushes for 176 yards. Braeden West had a great bounce back after slamming his head against the wall in Denton. Ke’Mon Freeman is a bigger, short yardage type of back, and when he was in, the offensive line were getting positive yards. The Mustangs clearly found a secondary option to Courtland Sutton, who still got his against Baylor, but James Proche is clearly a receiver to target. He made a catch against Baylor that’s beyond ‘Google-must-watch’. It was like he was a ghost/spider/bird, contorting in mid-air to rob the Baylor defender of an interception. The Liberty safety Solomon McGinty is coming off a great game. Eight tackles (two for loss), two forced fumbles, and an interception. Cornerback Chris Turner started the season as a preseason all-conference cornerback.

When Liberty has the ball: The Flames aren’t doing too much better in the passing department, completing 51.8 percent of their passes as a team. Stephon Masha isn’t a runner, and has three touchdowns and interceptions, and is throwing as many passes that hit the ground as passes that hit the mark. The threats come from the ground game. The Flames have three backs with at least one hundred yards rushing, and in only two games played this season, that’s pretty excellent. More impressive is the fact that of the three backs, they have a collective one yard negative rushing, that’s the offensive line getting work done. The Mustangs’ defense has looked good. Comparatively, this might be the best defense I’ve seen the Mustangs roll out. The best part is, they’re tackling. Seriously, the most underrated, under-coached, and often over-looked part of a defense’s effect on another team. The defensive line is getting their end done, the linebackers didn’t allow the Bears to run the ball well, and the defensive backs had been a real strong point, when Horace Richardson and Darrion Millines are on the field together.

What will it take for the Mustangs to win?
Do what pretty much all FBS teams do in this situation, beat them. Completely dictate the game to Liberty, show them that certain things just aren’t going to fly. Completing close to sixty percent passing would be a great showing of evolution from Ben Hicks, who’s going to do a lot of growing during the rest of this season.

Prediction: SMU 33 – Liberty 20