By Craig Fields
SMU Mustangs vs. UNT Mean Green
Saturday – September 6 – 11am
Apogee Stadium – Denton
The Mean Green of North Texas will take on the Mustangs of Southern Methodist University on Saturday as both teams look to get off the schnide and capture their first win of the season.
In the season opener for both teams, they were thoroughly dominated by more talented teams. UNT was throttled by Texas, 38-7, while SMU was handled easily by 10th ranked Baylor, 45-0.
If these teams needed any more motivation for this game, then the fact that it is a rivalry game should add all the fuel that is needed to this fire. This game will mark the 34th time that these two teams will play each other. The last meeting was in 2007 where the Mustangs came out on top 45-31. They are, however, scheduled to meet 12 straight years in a row with Saturday marking the first of those meetings.
Well what can we look forward too? I think that we can look forward to a dynamic air attack from the Mustangs, followed by some good old fashioned ground and pound by the Mean Green. The Mustangs are a team that really likes to pass the ball and get it into the hands of their playmaker wide receivers.
They had two 1000-yard receivers last season in Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman. However with them and quarterback Garrett Gilbert graduating, some new talent will have to step up, and old talent will have to accept bigger roles.
Against the Baylor Bears, the Mustangs played three quarterbacks. Now at one point they were really just trying to get something going against a dominant Bears team, but expect them to play at least two of them against the Mean Green.
Mustangs’ Neil Burcham is a pocket passer who really likes to dissect a defense with his reads. The reason the Bears were so successful against him and this team is because they did not allow him to have much time to make his reads. He went 15-26 from the field for 59 yards. He really had to get the ball out of his hands quickly in order to keep from getting sacked. Look for the Mean Green to try to get that same pressure on the Mustangs starter, or his numbers could be inflated by the end of the game.
Mustangs scrambling quarterback, Matt Davis, is less accurate than Burcham but is very shifty in the pocket and feels very comfortable on the run. The Mean Green defensive lineman and linebackers will all have to be wary and aware when and if he enters the game.
A dynamic running game is a quarterback’s best friend, especially an inexperienced quarterback like the Mean Green’s Josh Greer. They will need to get running backs Reggie Pegram and Antoinne Jimmerson really on track if they want to pull out this win. After the anemic performance by them in the first game, I am sure that they will be anxious to prove that they can continue what was a dominant running game last season.
Against the Longhorns, Greer faced plenty of pressure. The experience on that offensive seemed to mean very little as the Longhorns were in the backfield all night long. The Mean Green offense saw just about every kind of blitz imaginable. With a less aggressive defense in the Mustangs, defensive coordinator Tom Mason might pull a page or two out of the Longhorn playbook and attempt to do the same thing. Even though he has less talented players and runs a 3-4 defense, some of the pressure schemes could be the same. The Mean Green will need to make sure to keep nose tackle Darrian Wright, and linebackers Jonathan Yenga and Robert Seals in check. No free runs to the quarterback.
The running backs will need to help their offensive line and quarterback by picking up the free runners and unchecked defensive players. If they can do that, Greer and the running game should be able to find a rhythm that could help them win the game.
SMU is not a good road team, and it is for that reason that I give the slight edge to the Mean Green to pull this one out. If may not be pretty, but with their ability to manage the clock with an effective ground game, I think that that proves to be too much for the live or die by the pass type game of the Mustangs.
Prediction: 28-17 Mean Green