Date: Saturday September 9, 2017
Kickoff Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX
TV: Locally in the Dallas Area
Line: SMU -13, O/U 64.5
Series Record: SMU leads 30-5
Last Meeting: SMU won 34-21 on Sept. 3, 2016
For the fourth time in four years, the Mean Green match up in the Safeway Bowl, the Battle on the Central Expressway, the Tussle Between the Haves and Have-Nots (we may have made some of those up).
Both are coming off week one victories against FCS teams, and while our SMU writer will give you a recap below, North Texas hammered Lamar on all sides for four quarters, and didn’t let up. This is what we need to see every week, and this is what the Green intend to throw at the Mustangs.
Sophomore QB Mason Fine and Senior RB Jeffrey Wilson combined for 400 yards of offense by themselves, as Fine threw for 224 yards and Wilson rushed for 176. We respect that the Cardinals were breaking in a new coach, but UNT thoroughly dominated them the way Portland State dominated the Green just two years ago. The tide has turned, as we also saw some good things from newcomers Nic Smith and Evan Johnson.
On the UNT side of things, they’ve been getting closer to figuring this one out. The Mean Green took this one in 2014, but then SMU switched coaches and everything went out the window. Under Chad Morris, SMU won by 18 in 2015, and 13 last year. If SMU doesn’t show some improvement in 2017, this could be bad for Morris, but great for UNT.
A year ago Wilson was held to 86 yards, while it was the passing game that gave SMU fits. Alec Morris, playing badly enough that he didn’t return the next week, still threw for 311 yards, compared to the 300 yards combined from SMU’s two quarterbacks, Matt Davis and Ben Hicks. It’s a year later and UNT has a better quarterback, a rested Wilson, backup on the line of scrimmage and a more diverse choice of WR weapons. Is the UNT defense improved enough to contain SMU’s multi-QB attack a little better? We can’t wait to find out.
All is well in Dallas for the SMU Mustangs. In their last game, SMU (1-0) proved to be a formidable team kicking off the year. This team seemed like they were an easy win or a “cupcake team” a couple of years ago. But after serious recruiting, veteran leadership and a Power 5 (or 6) worthy head coach, this team is ready to contend in the AAC. Let’s take a deeper look at the Mustangs' last game.
Both the offense and defense had a great day. On the offensive side: SMU was run oriented with plenty of players getting a chance to showcase their skills. Braeden West and Ke’Mon Freeman carried for a total of 149 yards, both showing explosive runs of 51 and 21 yards respectively. The Mustangs did pass the ball 23 times with three different quarterbacks. They were led by sophomore Ben Hicks going 9/19 for 112 years and two touchdowns, giving him an 86.2 QBR.
Rafe Peavey will also factor in at quarterback. Peavey is an Arkansas transfer and went 3-3 passing with as many yards as Hicks and a passing TD. Morris expects the QB competition to continue after not much separation between the two. On the receiving end, seven players had catches accumulating 222 yards.
The SMU defense accumulated 70 tackles, two sacks, eight TFL’s, a fumble recovery in the end zone and 1 pick-six last week. Jordan Wyatt led the team with a sack, a fumble recovery in the end zone, and a pick-six. Overall, the defense did their job and helped make the offense’s job easier.
It cannot be stressed enough how important the game will be, but not just for the rivalry alone. As Adam stated above, Morris could really use a 2-0 good non-conference record before entering an extremely tough conference play. A 2-0 start would guarantee at worst, SMU is .500 entering into conference play, where the schedule is tough but not impossible.
This is a week where we will see the progress of two rival programs. In my eyes, I see improvement from both programs. The head coaches are gems I would love to keep from the P5. The two keys for SMU this week will be: 1. Finding out who will quarterback the team for the rest of the year. 2. The defense holding up against an improved UNT offense.
The quarterback competition needs to be settled entering the TCU game next week. Also, the defense needs to step up from last years performance, specifically the rush defense for SMU. They did so last week against Stephen F. Austin holding SFU to 75 yards rushing. Can they continue and improve in that area where they struggled last season? Tune in for an exciting game.
North Texas Prediction
First of all, it’s flattering that SMU considers us “rivals,” when the AAC is supposed to be so much better overall than C-USA. Second, the Underdog Slack had this one pegged as “first to 40 wins,” and that about sums it up. The difference will be the defense, how well either stifles the passing game, and whether Wilson will be able to get anything going on the ground or not. Whatever Chad Morris’ resume might be as an OC, and even though they beat Houston last year, I remain unsold on Morris and have not seen substantial improvement from this team, while UNT continues to get better over the last 14 games. The spread is last years margin of victory, and I say UNT covers. SMU 42, UNT 37
I think it will be a high-scoring affair. UNT seems much improved with their second year coach Seth Littrell. Mason Fine will look to improve this season, and might turn out to be a gem. It looks like this could be UNT’s year if they could get this win. I think this could turn out to be a shootout as both teams still struggle on defense, despite their positive openers against FCS schools. I think SMU just has too much on offense for the Mean Green to handle. The QB competition will make it unwise to bet the line. I’ll take SMU to win the game, but North Texas to cover the spread. SMU 45, UNT 35