This Saturday is the last non-conference game of the season, for SMU. This isn’t another cupcake either. Arkansas state is off to a 1-1 start this year after last years Cure Bowl win over fellow American Conference team UCF.
This is a crucial game for SMU as they could end the non-conference schedule on the right foot, at 3-1. Today, I have our very own Martin Ferguson to help us get to know a non-conference team a little better.
Nick Armstrong: What are the fan expectations after a solid 8-5, 2016, season, and a Cure Bowl win over UCF?
Martin Ferguson: The expectations are what they have been the last several years which is 8+ wins, a serious shot at another conference championship, and a bowl trip. This is a program that has won conference championships 5 out of the last 6 years and expects that success again, not only the fans but the players and administration as well.
NA: So far A State is 1-1. It's always hard with a small sample size to evaluate a team, but what are their strengths and weaknesses?
MF: The strengths of this team will change as the season goes. Starting out, the strengths will be on the offensive side of the ball as an all new offensive line seems to be off to a good start and QB Justice Hansen has found he has plenty of weapons in the passing game. The front 6 for the defense are pretty salty with plenty of speed and strength to run sideline to sideline.
NA: Name 3 key players that could have a large impact on Saturdays game.
MF: QB Justice Hansen has started off on a fast pace and has shown real growth in his second year at the helm. CB Blaise Taylor has had an impact on both games this year whether its in coverage or returning punts as he did for a TD against Nebraska.
NA: In my opinion, Justice Hansen is one of the most underrated QB's in the G5. What makes him such a special player?
MF: There is a swagger and a confidence that seems to come natural to him and players take to that. He had barely become a starter last year when ASU beat Georgia Southern in what turned out to be the game that spun the season around by using his legs to convert a 4th and forever, and then proceeding to toss the game winning touchdown. The confidence, maturity, and his comfort in Anderson's system may all come to fruition this year and he could possibly throw for 4500 yard + this season.
NA: As another G5 conference, what do you think about the American conference as a whole?
MF: ASU has a long history w/ conference member Memphis and railed UCF in the Cure Bowl last year 31-13 after being a 9 point underdog. So there is a feeling that the program has to continue to earn respect by playing and beating schools with more resources or maybe a larger national profile.
NA: What is your final prediction of the game?
MF: Lots of points both ways with SMU finding a way to hold on at the end. 37-31