Location: Yulman Stadium - New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, October 20
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Betting Line: Tulane -7, O/U 60
Records: Tulane 2-4 (1-1 AAC); SMU 2-4 (1-1 AAC)
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 13-11
Last Meeting: SMU 41; Tulane 38 (Nov. 25, 2017)
From Tulane’s Perspective: We’ll just get it out of the way before we start; yes this is the rematch of last year’s contest in which the Green Wave came up an inch short ultimately costing them a bowl bid. No, you shouldn’t be counting on the same thing this go round.
Tulane enters this game looking to bounce back after a disheartening defeat at the hands of the red-hot Bearcats two weeks ago and they do so with big questions looming at the quarterback position. Will Jonathan Banks be “the guy” moving forward or will LSU-transfer Justin McMillan be commanding the offense?
Long term it’s unclear but as far as Saturday is concerned, there’s a good chance we’ll see both taking reps again. The duo has made Willie Fritz’s job of choosing a starter anything but easy. Banks has continued to show his value as a signal caller this season throwing for 921 yards and five scores while also carrying the ball an average of 10 times per game. McMillan, in the small amount of playing time he’s been given, has tossed three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Whoever gets the nod this weekend will look forward to facing an SMU defense that is allowing nearly 40 points and 428.7 yards a game. If that trend continues, Tulane’s offense could be in for a big day meaning we may see a lot of Corey Dauphine and Darius Bradwell. The backs have combined for 10 touchdowns and 878 yards and the Wave would be wise to look to them often. If they can’t, however, there are viable options through the air.
Wide out Darnell Mooney leads the American in yards per game (90.7) and is the team’s leading receiver in yards (544), receptions (30), and touchdowns (five). Terren Encalade has remained relatively quiet so far this season but if the Mustangs defense doesn’t have an answer for him he can make them pay as well.
Defensively Tulane will look to get after either Ben Hicks or William Brown (SMU has yet to name a definite starter) to add to their 15 sacks and Patrick Johnson could be a large contributor in doing so. Tulane’s sophomore defensive end has been a nightmare in the trenches as of late. He has recorded sacks in each of the last three games and has seven tackles for loss.
Safety Roderic Teamer and corner Donnie Lewis will have a tall task on Tulane’s back end as they will attempt to keep the talented James Proche at bay. SMU’s junior receiver leads the club with 526 yards and seven touchdowns and has shown no signs of letting up.
From SMU’s Perspective
Last week, SMU was on a merciful bye. The Mustangs got some much needed time off after facing one of the toughest, front-loaded schedules in the AAC. To reflect back, the Mustangs have performed below expectations. While their record is somewhat indicitave of how this team has played, the Sonny Dykes era has been massively confusing. There is no clear trend as the Mustangs have proven to be bad one week and competitive the next.
Needless to say, SMU still has more questions than answers. The Mustangs continue to be one of the enigmas in the American and this week is no different as they enter with many questions. There are a couple things that SMU fans have on their mind halfway through the season.
- Who is our starting quarterback?
- Do we have an identity on defense?
These are the questions that will have to be solved in order to win against the other mystery of the league.
Dykes has gone on the record saying that he does not know who is going to start at quarterback. If Ben Hicks starts, we should expect a lot of down field passing with check downs to running back Braeden West. If William Brown is the guy, SMU will rely heavily on the run game and put Brown in spots to get the ball out of his hand quickly. Brown could get the start as a mobile quarterback as he may perform better against a Tulane defense that destroyed pocket-passer Brady White earlier this year.
Whichever quarterback starts will get, at the very least, solid wide receivers. The leaders at wide out are James Proche and Reggie Roberson. Tulane could have fits covering the two athletic playmakers as the Wave D is 113th in the nation in passing yards allowed. If the Wave holds true to their 8.06 yards per attempt, the SMU offense might have a frenzy.
The Mustangs may feast on Tulane’s defense, but the same could easily be said on the other side as well. While SMU does have some key players on defense like Jordan Wyatt and Kyran Mitchell, the Mustangs are not exactly great in pass defense. With receivers like Darnell Mooney and Terren Encalade, this game could be a “no defense” type of contest.
This game is an interesting one. Both teams have questions at QB and we have no idea which way they are trending. Both clubs have good players but have some questions at some main skill positions. Seeing second place is on the line here, I will say there will be an offensive explosion from both teams, despite the fact that both sides have given little clue as to who will start. Tulane should get their revenge from last year. I’ll take Tulane in a close one.
Tulane 35 - SMU 30
Grab your popcorn because this one has shootout written all over it. SMU has done little on the defensive side of the ball to instill faith that they can keep this thing under 30 but Tulane isn’t exactly the ‘85 Bears either. Receivers on both teams could be primed for breakout performances and don’t forget about those running backs. Dauphine’s speed makes him a force to be reckoned with when he has a head of steam, just ask Nicholls and Memphis. A game like this could easily be decided by the play of the quarterbacks and the Green Wave seem to have two reliable guys in that department. Give me the home team by a touchdown.
Tulane 42 - SMU 35