Date: Friday, October 27
Kickoff: 9p.m. EST
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas
Stream: Watch ESPN
Line: -9.5 SMU
Series Record: SMU leads the series 13-10
Last Meeting: Tulsa won a thriller 43-40 on October 7, 2016 (Tulsa is on a three game winning streak)
Last week, Tulsa struggled to get anything going against one of the worst teams in the conference in UConn. After defeating Houston handily, Tulsa looked terrible. Many fans may think that D’Angelo Brewer was the difference maker, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Tulsa found a great running back last week, and was the lone bright spot, in Shamari Brooks. This freshman ran wild on 31 rushes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Brewer might have helped with more explosive runs, but Brooks looked excellent.
On the contrary, Luke Skipper looked sub par. He had moments where he looked very good, and moments where he looked like a first year starter (example: the interception). He threw for 259 yards on 17 completed passes. Justin Hobbs and Keenen Johnson were his biggest targets on the day combining for 176 of Skipper’s 250. They brought in Chad President to run the ball, near the redzone specifically, but UConn appeared ready to stop the two-quarterback system.
Between not scoring in the first half, and not scoring until the 4th quarter, it was clear that Tulsa was not going to have a great day offensively. All in all though, against the worst pass defense in the conference, Tulsa needed this game to prove that Skipper or President can throw the ball. They failed in that aspect.
Tulsa fans should be happy with their defense for a change. Even though they are 127th in total defense, it seems they have turned the corner. Despite their early season struggles, the past two weeks has been exceptional for the Tulsa defense. They held Houston to 14 and UConn to 20. This is a positive sign of improvement for the Golden Hurricane moving forward.
Although their schedule continues to not be kind to them, the Tulsa defense will learn from their mistakes for the next season after facing three elite offenses. The defense is going to have to continue their surprisingly good play from the past two games, if they want any chance in this game.
SMU survived an overtime thriller against Cincinnati last week. Offensively, the team looks better than ever. Ben Hicks is throwing the ball well and is a great leader for this team. His staple of running backs, led by Xavier Jones, continue to chew up big yards. So far, each has really thrived in their respective roles.
Hicks has also been getting help from pre-season All-American Cortland Sutton and my pick for AAC surprise player of the year, Trey Quinn. Last week, Quinn went off for 17 catches for 187 yards and continues to prove himself as a #1 option. The leadership from these receivers has been incredible, and hopefully the others can learn from them. Hicks completed 23 of his 26 completed passes to Sutton and Quinn. This offense can put points up in a hurry.
Defensively, SMU continues utilize a bend, but don’t break defense. Last week, it was an all hands on deck effort for the Mustangs’ defense to finish off the game. The defensive pressure on the quarterback has continued to improve. In fact, they are still the leader in sacks with 24 on the season. Justin Lawler, the senior leader, continues to be the anchor for the defensive line, and is a top five defensive player in the sack category with 6.5 sacks.
The linebacker play has also improved in getting pressure on the quarterback. Kyran Mitchell came up with a pick to seal the game last week. But coverage has been an issue. Both the secondary and the linebackers are not playing too well in coverage, despite having talented players like Jordan Wyatt and Mikial Onu. SMU ranks 104th in total defense, and it really has been because of the poor pass defense. They’re not going up against a offensive juggernaut this week, but this poor pass defense will not work against the likes of Memphis and UCF. This is a week they need to take steps forward in order to improve long term.
Keys to the Game
- Tulsa needs to get off to a better start. This one is super obvious, but zero points in a half to UConn? That’s unacceptable and should drive fans crazy. Phillip Montgomery needs to get Skipper comfortable and continue to run the ball like they did last week.
- SMU needs to play better in pass coverage. They’re very good at getting to the quarterback. Now, it would be a good time to stop blitzing as much, and start having some more pass coverage. This would make for a more balanced defense.
- SMU needs to replicate what they did last week. They scored fast and efficiently last week against Cincinnati. If they can do so again, the game might be over at the half.
I don’t think the game is going to be very close at all. SMU has a lethal pass offense, while Tulsa (although improved) has a horrendous pass defense. If we see the Tulsa defense from the past two weeks, I think the game might be a little closer. But SMU has way too much firepower for Tulsa to handle. Sadly, one of the better teams last year will lose bowl eligibility this game. Sorry Tulsa.
Final Score: SMU 42, Tulsa 17