Kickoff: Saturday, September 28 4:00PM EST
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL
Betting: SMU -7.5, O/U 62
All Time Series: USF leads 3-1 (Last meeting 2016: USF 35 - 27 SMU)
Having beaten rival TCU this past weekend, the Mustangs travel east to Tampa, FL to open conference play against the USF Bulls. SMU has gained tons of national respect and attention in the last week after beating TCU as they look to carry there momentum into their first American Athletic Conference matchup of the year. After starting the season with modest expectations, this SMU team has surprised the college football world thus far and could possibly be regarded as the favorite to win the AAC West if their run continues. With that being said, there is still a lot we don’t know about the other teams in SMU’s division. We will see in the coming weeks how good Tulane and Memphis are but one thing is for sure - SMU could very well win the American this year. (Yes.....UCF is beatable)
This week it is imperative for the Mustangs to start off conference play on the right foot. SMU is in a perfect position to hit the ground running against a USF team that will be looking for a statement win of their own this weekend.
SMU has done a great job this season sustaining offensive efficiency through the first four weeks. The Mustangs rank 26th in the country in offensive efficiency ahead of some big name teams (Baylor, Notre Dame, Florida, and Texas A&M to name a few) showing they move the ball and score very well.
Though he hasn’t exactly exploded on the stat sheet, Shane Buechele is the lynch-pin of this offense. Buechele is only responsible for 8 TDs total on the season (7 passing, 1 rushing) but his leadership and decision making has been impressive this season. Buechele is currently ranked 27th in the country in QBR (good for 5th among G5 teams). Based on his statistics through 4 games, Shane Buechele is on pace to throw for 3,477 yards 28 TDs and 12 INTs. Good - not great; however, if Buechele can continue to run the offense as well as he has thus far, SMU will be in good shape to compete with UCF for the AAC title. Consistency is key at the QB position for the Mustangs.
Xavier Jones must have a big day running the ball for SMU on Saturday against a USF defense allowing 170 yards a game on the ground. If Jones can maintain his current production of 5.1 yards per carry SMU shouldn’t have a problem scoring on USF.
Look for Jones to catch a few balls out of the backfield and be utilized similar to how Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor was used against USF in Week 1. (Taylor combined for 183 all-purpose yards and 4 total TDs week 1 @USF) Last week against TCU, Jones carried the ball 19 times and caught 4 passes scoring a rushing and a receiving TD against a very good TCU defense.
It will be interesting to see how well SMUs passing attack performs against what is considered to be one of the better secondary units in the conference. However, USF has yet to play a team with any real passing attack this year.
In game 1, USF only gave up 201 yards through the air to Wisconsin who relied heavily on Jonathan Taylor (obviously)
USF lost a close one to Georgia Tech in their 2nd game only giving up 45 yards through the air on 11-17 passing from GT QB Lucas Johnson.
Last week USF blew-out FCS opponent South Carolina State 55-16 which honestly is to be expected. It is also important to note that USF forced 8 turnovers last week against SC State.
My point is SMU presents the biggest challenge USF has faced all season from a passing attack standpoint so the jury is still out on whether USF will be able to stop SMU through the air. With that being said, I expect it to be business as usual for impact players James Proche and Reggie Roberson Jr. to continue their success this season. SMU’s top two receivers have combined for 52 receptions for 744 yards and 5 TDs.
SMU’s defense should have success against a USF offense only averaging 292 total yards per game.
USF QB Blake Barnett started the Bulls first two games this season but has since lost the starting job to freshman QB Jordan McCloud. McCloud started in week 3 against SC State going 16/27 for 217 yards and 3 TDs. McCloud also ran for 2 more scores last week.
The bottom line with USF is we don’t really know what we’re going to get with them based on who they’ve played thus far and their performances in those games. USF has essentially gotten blown out against a very good Wisconsin team, lost a close road game to a team they probably should’ve beaten and they handily beat an FCS team at home. With new dual threat QB Jordan McCloud USF may perform much differently than they did in the first two weeks of the season against better competition.
A very interesting matchup this week will be how well will the SMU linebackers contain USF QB Jordan McCloud. As mentioned earlier, McCloud is a freshman meaning there is minimal game film on him for SMU to study. He carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards and 2 TDs in his only start last week. How will the SMU front seven react to a true dual threat QB?
This weeks game will be a true test for each to team to see how they could potentially stack up with the rest of the AAC. Both teams will be motivated early in this game with USF surely trying to get back on the right track at home and find their identity for this season. SMU will be looking to carry their momentum to their first conference win of the season. USF will play tough early and keep it close until halftime. It’s not news though that SMU is hitting on all cylinders right now and will cruise in the second half.
SMU covers the -7.5 point spread and will win 40-24.
Players To Watch
SMU - LBs #3 Delano Robinson & #50 Richard McBryde:
Both players have combined for 41 total tackles through 4 games and will need to contain the USF ground game which will force USF’s freshman QB to throw a lot.
USF - QB #12 Jordan McCloud:
McCloud could cause lots of problems for SMU’s defense if he can affect the game with his feet. If McCloud effectively extends drives and can score with designed runs or scrambles on broken down plays USF may have a chance to win on Saturday.