Start Time: 7 p.m. EST
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas
Stream: WATCH ESPN
Betting Line: Houston -21 according to Oddshark
All-time record: Houston is 20-10-1 versus SMU
Houston record: 6-1 overall, 3-1 AAC
SMU record: 2-4 overall, 0-2 AAC
Soooooo, anything interesting in the news this week before we jump into the game preview?
Maybe as it pertains to a certain conference based in Texas that was going to expand, then wasn’t going to expand, then wanted to expand, then decided not to expand?
OK, moving on.
(That whole expansion process was fun, wasn’t it? A jolly little amusement park rollercoaster ride of stupidity.)
But seriously now, the game...
It was going to be a tough year for SMU anyway, but for those who may have missed it, the season got much tougher in week one when senior quarterback Matt Davis tore his ACL.
Davis was the Greg Ward of SMU — a do-everything QB who led the team in rushing and passing last year. He accumulated 246 total yards and 2 touchdowns on just 31 touches versus North Texas in that first game before his injury.
He had good chemistry with top wide receiver Courtland Sutton and the duo could have been a genuinely dangerous pair in Chad Morris’ offense.
In Davis’ absence, the baton was passed to Ben Hicks, a redshirt freshman from Waco Midway high school. No surprise, Hicks is playing like a kid unexpectedly thrust into the starting job.
He’s completing 51.9 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Sutton is still his primary target and the 6’4” wideout has 590 receiving yards for an impressive 19.7 average. But let’s face it, it wasn’t possible for Hicks and Sutton to have the same level of chemistry as Davis and Sutton.
In SMU’s last game, two weeks ago, the Mustangs went to overtime against a Tulsa team that Houston needed crucial defensive plays late in the game to beat.
Now, that’s not to say that SMU will give the Cougars the same fight Tulsa did. The Mustangs allowed two 100-yard rushers to the Golden Hurricane. Houston didn’t allow 100 rushing yards to Tulsa’s entire team.
This needs to be a game where the Coogs assert themselves physically. They need to play fast, they need to play tough and they need to thoroughly dominate this game.
And it starts on the ground — again.
Duke Catalon was cleared to practice on Tuesday and coach Tom Herman said he would play Saturday if he makes it through the week with no setbacks. Catalon missed the last 4 games with a concussion, which demonstrates its severity.
If he can’t go, the Coogs still need to pound the ball without forcing Ward to feel it’s necessary to take over the game the way he did against Tulsa.
SMU allows nearly 200 yards per game on the ground, so this would be an excellent time to pound the rock and then let Ward torch a secondary with easy play-action passes that gives up 263 yards per game.
If Houston can start hot and roll for three quarters, hopefully it can put the game out of reach and coast to the finish line.
This is the supposed “easy” part of the schedule, with SMU, UCF and Tulane before Louisville. I use “supposed” and “easy” in quotation marks because the last thing Houston needs is to overlook someone and then have all of its postseason hopes derailed permanently.
Houston wins 41-13