USF Bulls at SMU Mustangs: Game Preview

Mustangs QB Ben Hicks had an impressive game going 18-30 with 235 yards and three TDs. Photo Courtesy: Mike Carnes
Mustangs QB Ben Hicks needs to have a huge game for the Mustangs to make the postseason.
Photo Courtesy: Mike Carnes
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By Zach Walker

Who’s got the advantage?
When SMU has the ball: The Mustangs got past their hiccup against Memphis, and rerouted for 55 points at East Carolina. Now, not all of that was offensively earned, but the offense earned their keep. The running game was really firing on all cylinders. Both Braeden West and Ke’Mon Freeman racked up 100 yard games, and the entire offense was just smoother with their ability to run the ball at their will. Hicks looked strong, and his strength derived from throwing to his main weapon, Courtland Sutton. Sutton freaking crushed it at East Carolina. 12 catches for 166 yards and a pair of scores. A career game from Sutton. The Bulls have a great middle linebacker in Auggie Sanchez, will be all over the field, he’s fully coast-to-coast defender. Lining up next to Sanchez will be Nigel Harris, another full-field linebacker. This tandem of linebackers are going to make it difficult for West and Freeman to get loose. ADVANTAGE: SMU. The way that USF wins is outscoring teams, not shutting the door on them.

When USF has the ball: If we’re talking about under the radar Heisman-type of players, Quinton Flowers deserves a heap of praise. After the ECU victory, I was looking up the USF record, and I wondered “Do they still have Marlon Mack and Quinton Flowers, or did they go subtly undrafted or something last year?” Then I saw what they’ve been doing this season, and wished they had, because it’s not looking favorable for SMU. The gameplan must be an updated version of the one used against Greg Ward and the Houston Cougars. If the player rushing the football for USF has double-digit carries on the season, he’s averaging at least half of a first down per carry. Quinton Flowers is clipping 8 yards per carry, has 13 touchdowns, and has 1200 yards. Flowers isn’t turning the ball over when he’s throwing the football. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions, and is completing passes 62 percent of the time. Marlon Mack is a six foot, two hundred-ten pound Mack truck, who’s averaging a hair under 7 yards per carry, though he has 853 yards, he’ll get to 1000 on the season against the Mustangs, and add some touchdowns to his 12 on the season. ADVANTAGE: USF. If they play like they did against Houston this game can be close, if not, USF is going to run around Gerald Ford Stadium for 35 minutes of possession time.

What will it take for the Mustangs to win?
Dang, dropping that game at home two weeks ago to Memphis, or failing to score a touchdown in overtime against Tulsa is the shadowy figure following SMU now. USF is good, really good. And Navy. I’ve been watching Navy for years now, and as much as I’d love to say that it’ll be a pick ‘em game, I just don’t feel that SMU has the linebackers to weather the storm of running that Navy will bring. These final two weeks of the season for the Mustangs are going to be tough, to speak facts lightly. So, what will it take for them to win? Going out and winning the game, playing their brand of aggressive defense.

Prediction: USF 51 – SMU 35