Kickoff: Saturday, September 23, 7pm CST
TV: streaming ESPN3
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000)
Series: Tied 1-1
Live Stats: AStateStats.com/AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
Vegas Odds: Arkansas State +5.5 O/U 73
Arkansas State (1-1) travels to Dallas Saturday to face SMU, its second AAC foe in the last 4 games having routed favored UCF in the Cure Bowl last year 31-13. SMU is 2-1 and looking to get some momentum as they head into conference play. I turned to Nick Armstrong who covers SMU for UDD to get some answers to your questions about the Ponies.
1) SMU QB Ben Hicks has passed for 729 yards on the season, second most in the AAC, but is only completing 48% of his passes, what has kept his completion rate down?
Hicks loves to throw the deep ball. SMU makes a living off big plays. Against TCU last week, Hicks had a series where he a few deep balls consecutively (one that he missed on a throw to Sutton that would have been a TD). I still believe that SMU fans won't care if he his completion percentage is poor, as long as he is winning games.
2) Is HC Chad Morris looking for a RB to emerge form the pack or is he content to go RB by committee since he has three that all get touches?
Ke'mon Freeman has emerged as the number 1 back. He brings explosiveness and speed to a very talented back field. Morris isn't afraid to run him in the wildcat formation either. It is still early on in the season, so don't expect Braeden West and Xavier Jones to completely disappear. But, Freeman should get the bulk of the carries.
3) SMU has two of the AAC's top receivers in Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton, is there one of the two that ASU should focus on more?
ASU needs to shut down Sutton. Even though Hicks isn't completing a large amount of his passes, he finds these guys often. There is no foolproof way to shut down the SMU offense, as they put up over 30 points against a ranked opponent. But, TCU did shut down Sutton which was a huge victory. As I said last week, the way to shut down Sutton is to cut off the short routes. He is dynamic in space, so make Hicks (who has some issues with accuracy) throw deep. If they are throwing the deep ball well that day, all you can do is tip your cap.
4) The Mustangs are giving up 443 yards a game on defense and 34 points per game, where has been the biggest issues for them on defense?
In my opinion, its the defensive line. If there isn't any pressure on the quarterback, the secondary can only hold so long. Granted, they have only played 3 games, 2 of them with good quarterback play, so the numbers are a tad inflated. But, this is what SMU fans pretty much expected. In fact, it is like that with most of the American conference. The teams generate a lot of points, but can't seem to defend very well.
5) Who is the one player on both sides of the ball that Red Wolves fans should keep an eye on?
Offensively: Ke'mon Freeman. I would say Cortland Sutton, but he needs to be watched every game. Freeman is an extremely quick back that will catch the opponent off-guard. This is especially true when SMU goes up-tempo. They favor going to the run after only a few seconds of getting their new first down.
Defensively: Kyran Mitchell. He currently has 17 tackles and 3 sacks recorded this season. He tackles well and is one of a few bright spots in the front seven.
6) What would be a trend during the game would make SMU fans nervous about the outcome?
A scary trend is the fast 3 and out series. SMU runs an up-tempo offense, and is willing to take chances with big plays. If SMU starts getting in a rut with a few, quick, 3 and outs, they'll find themselves down just as quick. I throw in a bonus trend that would be scary for SMU fans, if Cortland Sutton doesn't have a catch at the half, it will be a long second half for the Mustangs.
7) Final Prediction?
It is going to be a back and forth type of game. ASU is one of the best teams, if not the best, in the Sun Belt. I really like Justice Hansen and Co. to rack up some yards. That being said though, SMU will hit some big plays, and Cortland Sutton will not have back to back weeks of no yards. I think it will be a shoot out though. I would avoid betting on this game entirely.
Final Score: SMU 31-28
The Final Take
The money in Vegas has brought the line down to 5.5 points in SMU’s favor but the oddsmakers expect a shootout in the high 30’s+ for each team. The last time we saw this scenario, ASU used a physical and explosive defense to overwhelm UCF and keep them to 13 points. I think SMU has more weapons on offense but may be just as average on defense. This one should be offensively high flying on both sides, which tells me to expect one to not live up to the pace. Whichever defense can impose at least some of its will takes this game. If Joe Cauthen’s unit can find that late season spark early, this could be a good road trip for the Red Wolves.