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SMU vs. Houston: Game Preview

The rivalry continues with two of the best teams in the west division of the AAC

SMU v Houston Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Date: Saturday, October 7

Kickoff: 7p.m. EST

Location: TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas

TV: CBSSN

Line: Houston -6

Series Record: Houston leads 20-11-1

Last Meeting: SMU won 38-16 on October 22nd, 2016


Houston

Last week

It wasn’t pretty, but Houston pulled off the win against Temple. The defense played well against the Owls despite the loss of Ed Oliver. Even without him, other players stepped up even more. Houston forced Temple into multiple turnovers, and a couple drops might have resulted in more. This continues to be the best defense in the conference even when a low hit took out a key piece.

Offensively, it comes down to the offensive line and quarterback. The run game has been underwhelming so far, but the change at quarterback seemed to show some flashes of potential. The offensive line overall didn’t play well, but has the talent to improve. Kyle Postma got the start while Kyle Allen saw the bench, but will we see both this week?

This week

Houston has their hands full with one of the best offenses in the country. SMU can gash defenses in the air and on the ground, and have found plenty of depth at their skill positions. Houston is looking to avenge last year’s embarrassing loss on the road, and they will get SMU’s best shot.

Offensively, Houston can take advantage of a relatively bad defense that SMU fields each week. There are certain players that can be noted, like DE Justin Lawler and S Jordan Wyatt, but depth is lacking overall. If Houston is looking for a breakout game on this side of the ball, this could be the game to do so.

Keys

1. Run the ball. This is going to be the #1 key every week until the Cougars can do so consistently, and having Postma at quarterback might help opening running lanes for the backs.

2. Stop the run. It’s a simple key, but it will do wonders in this game. Houston finished third in the nation in run defense, but they are currently 74th. SMU has a three-headed monster that will be difficult to stop, and the offense won’t be able to keep up in a shootout.

3. Keep them guessing. It seems that the play-calling offensively can become predictable as the game goes on. This has a lot to do with the #1 key to the game, and the offensive line play. If the offense can show consistency both running and passing, this is a defense that will struggle mightily.

Prediction

Last time Houston was favored by six, they played arguably the worst game of the last three years. Everyone is down on the Cougars because of the last two weeks, but this team could easily be 5-0 and have a completely different perception. That’s not the case, but having this game at home helps Houston immensely. Postma should feel more comfortable running the offense, and improved offensively line play will help as well. A shootout is something the Cougars want to avoid, and getting into Hicks’ head will do wonders.

Houston 27 SMU 24


SMU

Last week

Even though it was a tight game until the 4th, SMU did pull away, and put up 49 points offensively. Ben Hicks has continued to improve as a passer, and is one of the great underrated QBs of the AAC. He has great weapons to throw to with Cortland Sutton, but Trey Quinn has emerged as a top receiver as well.

Defensively, I think we can see a trend. They're just average 431.6 yards per game. An average opponent can light up the scoreboard. The defense is starting to get more pressure on the QB, but still improvement is still needed in that area.

This week

The rivalry continues between SMU and Houston. SMU is more prepared on offense than last year. They have improvement at Quarterback. Every week a different running back emerges as the dominant rusher, but all continue to improve. And finally, someone other than Sutton is getting the ball and making plays. The SMU offense is a deadly one.

The defense comes off a mediocre performance against the worst team in the league. So Houston has the chance to have a field day against a average defense despite the Houston offense not being as good this year. I think the defense would perform better against Kyle Postma, as Allen is a better pocket passer (where SMU struggles the most). So whoever starts at QB will be a big determinant in how the game goes.

Keys

  1. SMU’s receivers must show up to play. Ben Hicks is a good quarterback and his receivers need to continue their strong production.
  2. Continue to use all three running backs. As we have seen, SMU uses three different backs and all are effective. I like that Chad Morris uses all of them instead of settling on one main back with one other as a sidekick.
  3. Put pressure on whoever is at quarterback. Whether it be Postma or Allen, the defense needs to get pressure on them. This is especially true with Allen as he feels extremely uncomfortable under pressure. Expect SMU to blitz at a higher rate if Allen is the quarterback.

Final Prediction

Time to put Houston on upset alert. I think the mustangs are just better this year, despite what the odds makers think about them. They have better quarterback play with, in my opinion, better weapons than Houston does. Although Houston may be better defensively, TCU was better defensively and SMU dropped 36 points on them. Rivalries usually result in a tough, close, game. But, I believe that Ben Hicks will lead SMU to the promise land, and puts them in prime position to win the AAC west. SMU will win back-to-back games, against Houston, for the first time since 1985 and 1986.

SMU 33, Houston 28

Poll

Who wins this AAC matchup?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    SMU
    (56 votes)
  • 36%
    Houston
    (32 votes)
88 votes total Vote Now