SMU Mustangs vs. Houston Cougars Preview

Two American Athletic Conference teams and interstate adversaries
battle head to head Thursday night.

By Zach Walker

Game Info
SMU Mustangs vs Houston Cougars
Thursday – October 8 – 7:00 pm CT
TDECU Stadium – Houston, Texas

Records before the game
SMU Mustangs: 1-4 (0-1 in AAC)
Houston Cougars: 4-0 (1-0 in AAC)

Who’s got the advantage?
When SMU has the ball: What the Mustangs need to do is get back to rolling the clock away with the run game. The Mustangs season average for rushing yards per game took a tumble after Saturday night’s 40 total yards rushing against East Carolina, and at this point, it’s back to the line for questioning. Can this line get some push and get this running game back going in the right direction? Maybe, some has to do with Matt Davis hanging around in the pocket and not turning and tearing off a nice big yardage run. I don’t know how many of his early runs in this season were scripted, nor how many were Davis just taking off out of wanting to extend a drive or needing to escape the rush. Strangely, Davis needs to be a bit more aggressive with his decision-making. The duo of freshmen backs: Xavier Jones and Braeden West. Every game I question how they can be as successful, given their statures, respectively, but every game, they show their dynamic abilities, and they need to continue to trend up. It would be nice to see Courtland Sutton start another streak of games with a touchdown on Thursday. Outside linebacker Steven Taylor is coming off of a killer game, where he had three sacks and was extremely lively, and against what has become a danger down for the Mustangs, Taylor is going to have his ears pinned back on third downs and hunting for number four. Whenever any team plays the Cougars, the quarterback must know where Adrian McDonald is at all times. I’m not saying that McDonald is going to be drafted high or anything, but there’s room in the NFL for a safety that likes to be around the ball, and knows how to get it back for his offense, and he’s been doing it across his career.

When Houston has the ball: The Mustangs are in for a long game of hurricane force rushing attacks from Houston’s backfield. Running back Kenneth Farrow (one my sleeper running backs in the 2016 NFL Draft) is a hell of a task to bring down one-on-one. The Mustangs really need Jonathan Yenga to not get ejected from the game. Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Junior is coming off of the Tulsa game that earned him American Athletic offensive player of the week. The combo of Farrow and Ward just tore the Tulsa defense apart to the total of 341 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns. Not saying that Ward can’t throw the ball, because Pittsburgh will vouch for his throwing ability, but it wasn’t much of the deciding factor in the Tulsa game. Justin Lawler and Andrew McCleneghen need to really be careful about their rush. Too much, Ward might see a gap and take off. Too much time in the pocket, and Ward will skewer the Mustangs.

What will it take for the Mustangs to win?
A good managing by Matt Davis. Running when he can, passing where he dares push it. Tackling. Seriously, wrap up the ball carrier when the Mustangs are defending. Put two halves of a football together and steal a win on the road.

Prediction: Houston 38 – SMU 24