SMU Mustangs (3-4, 1-2 American) vs Tulsa Golden Hurricane (3-4, 1-2 American)
Time and Date: 3:30 PM ET, October 29
Broadcast Network: ESPN+
Location: H.A. Chapman Stadium - Tulsa, OK
ESPN FPI: SMU, 63.9%
Line: SMU -2.5*
Point Total: 64*
All-Time Series: SMU leads the all-time series against Tulsa, 15-13
Last Meeting: Tulsa 34 SMU 21 - November 27, 2021
Current Streak: Tulsa, 2
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Setting the Scene
SMU and Tulsa have identical records this season and are virtually identical in almost every other way on paper. Both teams rely on veteran quarterbacks to throw to a star receiver to try to outscore their opponents. The Mustangs and Golden Hurricane likewise both struggle to run the ball behind mediocre offensive lines and their defenses both give up about 30 points a game. Finally, both teams had heartbreaking, one-score losses to P5 opponents early in the season that could have changed the trajectory of their season.
Instead, both of these teams are struggling to reach bowl eligibility. If either of these teams are going to go to the postseason, it starts with their game against each other. However, something is going to have to change this week for both teams who switched up their formula in last week’s games.
SMU came up just short of upsetting Cincinnati. The Mustangs scored a touchdown with two minutes remaining and went for the tie with a two point conversion. Unfortunately, the run was stuffed at the goal line. After failing to recover an onside kick with no timeouts, the Bearcats moved into victory formation to escape Dallas with a 29-27 win. However, this was a particularly painful loss for the Mustangs who may have lost their starting quarterback for a few weeks.
The main concern for this season is the heath of Tanner Mordecai. Mordecai is questionable for this weekend’s game after suffering a concussion during the homecoming matchup. He has not been back on the practice field yet this week and we may not know until warm-ups on Saturday whether or not he will play.
If there is a silver lining for SMU, their best recruit since the Pony Express era now has a chance to shine. Preston Stone passed for more yards than any prep-player in DFW’s storied football history en route to two state titles at Parish Episcopal School. Touting offers from Alabama, Georgia, and Texas, Stone decided to stay home and go to SMU to become the heir apparent behind Mordecai.
Stone was thrust into action for the first time during a meaningful game this past weekend. Given the context of the occasion against the AAC-favorites, the redshirt freshmen kept his head above water and gave the Mustangs a chance to win. Stone finished with 74 yards, a score, and no interceptions.
In his weekly press conference, offensive coordinator Casey Woods refused to tamper expectations for the prized recruit and raved about how Stone was handling first team reps. Notably, Woods said the playbook would not need to be altered ahead of the Tulsa game. Mordecai is definitely the best option if SMU want to win this season, but the future may be now for the Mustangs.
Phillip Montgomery is hoping his team can make a late season push after everything came together for Tulsa on the road in Philadelphia. The Golden Hurricane overcame a slow start to beat Temple, 27-16. While Keylon Stokes became the all-time leading receiver in Tulsa history, running back Deneric Prince made headlines with a breakout performance.
Tulsa didn’t have a 100-yard rusher in their five prior games against FBS opponents. This is partially due to Tulsa rotating as many as five running backs per game and their poor offensive line play. However, Prince exploded for 231 yards on the ground on 20 attempts including a rushing and receiving touchdown.
Montgomery will probably spend this entire week of practice working with his offensive line and Prince to attempt an encore performance against SMU. The Temple game was the first time all season that Tulsa had a balanced offense that did not have to completely rely on Davis Brin targeting Keylon Stokes on half of his passing attempts. If Tulsa want to make their late season push, it starts with finding more balance on offense and hoping Prince can take some of the load off of Stokes and Brin.
In a matchup of very even teams, I am going to give SMU the advantage despite most likely missing Mordecai. If Mordecai were practicing and set to play, I would expect the spread to be more than -2.5. However, if SMU had to pick a game that their young, star QB recruit had to get his first start in, SMU would have probably picked the Tulsa game for it to happen. Furthermore, both SMU and Tulsa have bad running games and defenses, but the Mustangs are ranked slightly ahead of the Golden Hurricane in both.
Prediction: SMU 28, Tulsa 21