NCAA Friday Night Football: SMU/Tulane Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday night on ESPN presents a college football doubleheader that features three teams from the American Athletic Conference. The first game takes place at 6 PM ET with SMU traveling to New Orleans to play Tulane.

The Mustangs are 4-0 this season after they exacted some revenge against a Memphis team that has had their number over the years. SMU defeated the Tigers by a 30-27 score as a 1.5-point underdog on October 3rd, but the results were bittersweet with the team enduring two significant injuries. Starting wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury, and starting running back T.J. McDaniel experienced a season-ending ankle injury. The loss of Roberson hurts the most as he had caught five passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns against Memphis before his setback. The former West Virginia transfer missed half of last season as well with a foot injury.

Head coach Sonny Dykes has assembled plenty of offensive talent on his roster to absorb these losses. Junior college transfer, Danny Gray, slides into the number one receiver role with his 15 yards-per-catch average along with three touchdowns. Sophomore Rashee Rice will see his role increase in the offense after catching 17 balls already. Redshirt freshman steps in as the starting running back. He may be more talented than McDaniel as he is averaging over 8.0 yards-per-carry with seven rushing touchdowns already.

Thirteen starters returned for the Mustangs from the group that finished 10-3 last year. The team is led by senior quarterback Shane Buechele who is completing 69.1% of his passes with ten touchdown passes. SMU is scoring 44.0 points per game while averaging 558.8 yards per game, which both rank in the top-five in the nation. The Mustangs’ defense is allowing their opponents to put up 433.5 yards per game, but that has only translated into 23.3 points per game.

Tulane has lost two of their last three games after they lost at Houston last Thursday by a 49-31 score. The Green Wave took a 24-7 lead early in the second quarter of that game with two touchdowns coming from their defense on a 64-yard interception return and a 1-yard fumble recovery. Tulane was then outscored by a 42-7 margin, which made it the second time this season that they blew a double-digit lead to a conference rival.

The Green Wave has 12 starters back from last year’s team that finished 7-6 after winning their second straight bowl game with their 30-13 win over Southern Mississippi in the Armed Forces Bowl. After losing at home to Navy by three points in their second game, they fell behind on the road at Southern Miss on September 26th in a rematch of that bowl game by a 14-0 score in the first quarter. That prompted fifth-year head coach Willie Fritz to bench senior quarterback Keon Howard for Michael Pratt. The freshman energized the offense by passing for 142 yards in relief while adding 49 yards on the ground to lead his team to a 66-24 victory. Pratt was named the starter last week but struggled by completing only 11 of 25 passes for 141 yards with negative rushing yards. Tulane could get little going on the ground against the Cougars as they ran the ball 45 times for only 70 yards.

The Green Wave will want to run the football to keep Buechele and the SMU offense off the field. Tulane has already dealt with two season-ending injuries in their backfield to running backs Tyjae Spears and Corey Dauphine, but this was a loaded unit entering the season with five viable candidates to be a potential bell-cow back. The Green Wave is averaging 387.5 yards per game along with 37.0 points per game. However, they are allowing 31.0 points per game along with 403.5 yards per game.

SMU won the meeting between these two teams at home, 37-20,  as a 3-point favorite. BookMaker has the Mustangs as a 6-point favorite with the total set at 64.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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