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SMU vs. UCF: Game Preview and Prediction

The Mustangs will have their hands full against a ranked conference foe.

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, October 6th

Kickoff Time: 7 p.m. EST

TV: ESPNU

Betting Line: UCF -24, FPI: 92.3%

Series Record: UCF leads the series 7-1.

Last Meeting: UCF won 31-24 on Saturday, November 4th, 2017


SMU’s 2-3 record indicates exactly how they have performed so far. They lost to the tough opponents, but won their two winnable games. After clobbering Houston Baptist 63-27, the Mustangs get no rest. They now have to travel to Orlando to take on the UCF Knights, who have won 17 consecutive games. Let’s see if the Mustangs can end the streak here.

Last Week

If you missed my recap, you can click here for the details. Although it is tough to actually gather information from defeating a weak FCS foe, we did learn a few things about this team.

The biggest thing fans learned is that William Brown is the bonafide starter. In his previous two starts, he has totaled 459 passing yards and four touchdowns. William Brown has added stability and confidence to this SMU team since taking over for Ben Hicks. Hicks has had every chance to lead this team. However, his current skill set is not matching the system that Dykes is running. Even though this is officially the last game Brown could play in to still qualify for a redshirt, he has proven that the future is now. I think Sonny Dykes will not change a thing after Brown’s early success.

Second, Reggie Roberson is a perfect number two to James Proche. We all knew Proche was going to be the top target and most likely lead the team in receiving. However, we always wondered who would be the number two guy. Roberson has answered that the past two games with Brown in at quarterback. During the two-game winning streak, Roberson has 142 receiving yards on eight receptions. He also has been the best return man for SMU as he took a kickoff to the house during the Navy game.

Third, SMU gave up 27 points to Houston Baptist. Basically, they’re just going to have to outscore their opponents if this trend continues. We can’t put it all on the defense, as the special teams gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. However, the defense is really going to have to step up. I do not really care how the 27 points were given up. All I truly care about is the fact that they gave up 27 to a very bad FCS team. This should be a cause for concern heading into this week’s game.

This Week

The Mustangs will end their front-loaded schedule with their best opponent yet, UCF.

As we all have heard, UCF has a dynamic offense. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton has been one of the best quarterbacks in college football. The combination of his accuracy and his mobility has made it extremely difficult for defenses to stop him. Of course, while Milton does get most of the praise, the skill players around him are pretty good too. Receivers like Tre Nixon, Gabriel Davis, and Otis Anderson are all outstanding play-makers, who are dynamite with the ball in their hands. In the backfield, UCF’s running back of choice is Adrian Killins. Killins is an extremely fast, north-south running back who can break off some huge runs if a defense is lulled to sleep by constant passing situations.

While the offense has been great for UCF, the defense is pretty solid too. While the Knights have taken a slight step back they still have solid leaders for each unit. On the defensive line, Trysten Hill is the veteran run stopper. At linebacker, Pat Jasinski is the captain of the defense. In the secondary, UCF has two elite defensive backs in Kyle Gibson and Richie Grant that will give SMU a tough time through the air.

Keys for SMU

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Currently, the offense is working really well. Of course, it makes sense to scheme well and try to avoid an opponent’s strengths. However, SMU has looked like a really good team on offense, after the quarterback change. Brown has taken over the reigns and Dykes needs to roll with it. The offense is firing on all cylinders. Therefore, there is no need to change what has worked so well.
  2. Defense has to be respectable. Look, UCF is going to score their points. Every team needs to go in with the mindset that they are going to find a way to score points. The key, however, is to limit the number of points. Once UCF scores 40, I like their odds of winning the game. But, if a team can keep them in the 30 point range, and has a competent offense, they have a chance to win. I truly think SMU has a chance to win this game. However, the defense needs to get some stops.
  3. Dominate the Time of Possession battle. The only thing UCF loses is time of possession. That is due to the fact that they score so quickly that they give the ball back to the opposing offense. Thus, SMU cannot just win the time of possession battle. They must dominate it. The key is to keep UCF’s offense off the field for as long as possible, while continuing to have sustaining drives. This will also serve the other purpose of getting the Knights offense out of rhythm.

Prediction

As much as I want to believe in SMU, they have the cards stacked against them. They have to perform in a hostile environment with a freshman quarterback. Additionally, they are facing one of the hottest teams in college football. I think SMU gives UCF the toughest game they have played this year.

UCF 45-30