Date: Saturday, October 21
Kickoff: 4p.m. EST
Location: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Line: -8 SMU
Series Record: Cincinnati leads 2-0
Last Meeting: Cincinnati won 41-3 on October 18, 2014
SMU got a bye week after losing a tough conference matchup to Houston. There wasn’t exactly any goal, like getting players healthy, during the bye week. The Mustangs just made sure that they’re well-rested and prepared for the upcoming game away from home. They’re now are facing a must-win situation if they want to contend for a division title.
Offensively, expect SMU to put up some points. Cincinnati will try to tweak their defense even more from the previous loss, but I doubt they will be able to change very much. The Bearcats are most likely exhausted, on defense, from facing the two previous offenses in UCF and USF. Thus, this might be the perfect time for SMU to come in and continue the brutal beatings. The offense has been outstanding this year, as Ben Hicks has showed continual improvement each game. In addition the other offensive skill positions have been impressive. They face a Cincinnati defense that gave up 51 in 3 quarters to UCF and 33 to USF. Both of those offenses are some of the tops in the nation, with SMU not far behind in offensive firepower.
Defensively, is where I am a little worried. When UC gets in an offensive rhythm, they can be very good. Their quarterback, Hayden Moore, has a cannon of an arm and has some decent depth at receiver. SMU has one of the worst pass defenses in the nation, while UC relies heavily on passing the football. Although I think the stat book does not show the complete story of the defensive backs play, it is a tad scary to know that it is a strength vs a weakness. It will start up front with Justin Lawler leading the defensive line to get pressure on Moore. Moore has proven that he will make poor decisions if you put enough pressure on him. If there is no pressure on the quarterback, it may be a long afternoon for these defensive backs to try and deal with Cincinnati’s athletes.
- Get back to running the football. In the last game against Houston, SMU did a terrible job at balancing their offensive attack. I understand that Ed Oliver can be disruptive, but there is no need for Hicks to throw so much when the running backs are producing.
- Get the offense going early. Cincinnati has proven that the defense tires out after halftime. They are extremely confident when the game is close. If they separate early, the game will end quick.
- Improve the pass defense. As I said earlier, Moore is a good passer. He is inconsistent and can make poor decisions. I think SMU might allow some points this game, but I expect for the defense to generate some key turnovers as well.
Nothing really went right during last Saturday’s trip to Tampa. They were completely outmatched by a nationally ranked opponent.
Offensively, Cincinnati was only able to muster three points against a much improved USF defense. Hayden Moore had his moments where he made some nfl-type throws, but all his drives ended up stalling out. He only threw for 147 yards, and threw a pick-six to end the half. USF limited their best receiver, Khalil Lewis, to 35 yards. Moore also got no help from his run game, as Michael Warren II ran for 47 yards on six carries. Needless to say, UC lived up to their reputation as the worst rushing team in the AAC.
Defensively, they did better than I expected them to be. After giving up 51 to UCF, it was almost a given that USF would pound them just as much (maybe more) as UCF did. But, the Bearcats adjusted from the UCF game and only allowed USF to score 33 points. Although that is still a ton of points, they kept USF’s running backs in check. They ended the Bulls’ streak of 300 yards in total rushing yards, and only allowed 80 yards from Quinton Flowers. The defense wasn’t horrible, but they were not good either. The worse news for them, is SMU has a very potent offense.
- The run game has to get going. This is one of the most painful teams to watch when running the ball. The backs seem to have some talent, but just aren’t getting the results they want. They have to be able to run the ball to help Moore out in the passing game.
- Hayden Moore needs to make better decisions. When he is on, he looks incredible. But those times he is off is just horrible. If he gets out of rhythm, expect SMU to capitalize on his mistakes.
- The defense has to give the offense a chance. Almost immediately in UC’s previous two games, the defense didn’t really give the offense a chance to get in the game. If the defense can get a few early stops, the game has a chance to be very entertaining.
This will be an interesting game in the way that I think Cincinnati will be better on both sides of the ball than they previously were. Combine that with SMU having a week of potential rust to get off, and UC might have a lead going into the half. I believe in Chad Morris and his prolific offense to end up scoring some points, but it will be closer than many think it will be. Especially after how we have seen SMU drop down to their competition (the UConn game). SMU goes back to being in the discussion for contending in the west.
SMU 31, Cincy 21
Who takes the "W" in a must-win matchup?
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