By Zach Walker
Saturday – November 23 – 6:00 PM
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa
SMU got back on the winning track against the Connecticut Huskies, winning 38 to 21. Garrett Gilbert was highly effective in his redzone passing, throwing all four of his touchdowns thrown inside the redzone. But past that, the Mustangs had a very vanilla game. They moved the ball well, if they weren’t going three and out. They had effective running from Collin Lagasse and K.C. Nlemchi, and as always, had a well-rounded game from all of the receivers. The Mustangs defense has been giving up yards on the ground, almost five yards a carry, and could develop into a serious problem over the last three games of the season. But the Mustangs have been winning the turnover battle as of late, five takeaways and zero giveaways in the last two games.
The Bulls have struggled lot this season, and have started three different quarterbacks over nine games, and none of them have really pulled away with the job. But if any one of the quarterbacks has shinned, it has been freshman Mike White. White has a completion percentage of a fraction under 60, and has thrown 500 yards in the last two games. Last week he threw four of his five interceptions against Memphis, and if it weren’t for those picks, the Bulls might have had a good chance to win that game, and maybe White could have run away with the starting job. The player White has the best chemistry with is receiver Andre Davis, who has 16 catches and 244 yards since White has been the starter, and should be the Mustangs’ focus on the outside. Inside, the Bulls have a bull, senior running back Marcus Shaw, who had his best game of the season, against Miami, who have a pretty solid defense. Shaw has a destructive average per carry at home, 7 yards per carry and has 515 while playing at home, and if Shaw can get his wheels going on Saturday, and carries the offense, the game might go the way that the Cincinnati game went for SMU, a struggle to stop the run and a drain of the clock.
The Mustangs need to contain Marcus Shaw the best they can, hopefully keeping him under four yards per carry. But I’m not dumb, a switch isn’t going to be flipped and the Mustangs are going to become a ‘bolt it down’ leak proof defense, but the Mustangs can do better at the play in their front seven on defense. Randall Joyner and Kevin Pope are the main run stopping linebackers, whereas Stephon Sanders is the quick coverage/pass rushing linebacker, but they can play a very solid team game, getting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run. Beau Barnes and Zach Wood need to get good pinch pressure on the quarterback from their defensive end spots. Jay Scott is going to be a big factor in the game coming up and making tackles in the run game. And if they play mistake-free football, the Mustangs should have good time in Raymond James Stadium.
Matchup of the Game
SMU CB Kenneth Acker vs USF WR Andre Davis: The Bulls don’t really threaten much through the air, but whichever quarterback is under center, Davis will have as many receiving yards as they will have passing yards. There is an air of excellence about a player who no matter who is throwing to him just makes it happen. Acker has been playing very good football for three straight games now, and teams aren’t throwing towards him as much, but if these two get lined up against each other, it could lead to a very interesting play.
Prediction: SMU 30 – USF 21; despite their poor record, USF has a very solid defense and could be a hiccup for the Mustangs’ offense.