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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Football

The Opposition: Houston looks to upset in-state rival SMU


Houston's Grant Stuard (3) stands out above the Cougars' defense as he prepares for SMU to snap the ball in a game during the 2019 season at TDECU Stadium. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Houston’s Grant Stuard (3) stands out above the Cougars’ defense as he prepares for SMU to snap the ball in a game during the 2019 season at TDECU Stadium. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Houston will travel to Dallas on Saturday following a dominating 56-21 victory against the USF Bulls looking to keep it up against a much tougher opponent in the formerly ranked SMU Mustangs.

The Mustangs (7-2, 4-2 American Athletic Conference) enter the game off a 28-24 loss to Tulsa and will look for a bounce-back win in hopes of reclaiming a spot in the AP Top 25.

UH has currently lost the last two matchups against SMU, which includes a 34-31 loss in last season’s matchup at TDECU Stadium.

SMU’s season so far

SMU enters this game sitting third in the AAC after suffering a close loss to Tulsa on Saturday, and are currently third in the conference offensively averaging just about 39 points per game.

The offensive success comes greatly from SMU’s senior quarterback Shane Buechele, who has thrown for 2,781 yards, 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions, and is currently third in passing yards per game in the AAC.

While the Mustangs’ air attack averages just about 318 yards per game, they also have strength in the running game as well, averaging about 188 yards per game with 21 total touchdowns. Freshman running back Ulysses Bentley IV leads the charge with 877 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on the season.

While the Mustangs show to be an offensive powerhouse, the weakness lies in the defense. The team currently allows roughly 28 points per game and struggles more so to defend the run rather than the pass. SMU allows 183 yards rushing per game, but only 232 yards through the air.

What to watch for

The Cougars’ offensive weaknesses lie in the running game, which is where SMU has struggled to defend, yet they excel in defending the pass, which is where UH has been able to capitalize in its big wins.

While UH is coming off a strong rushing performance against USF where it ran for 319 yards as a team, 120 of which came from junior quarterback Clayton Tune. Houston will need to show that it can continue to pick up yards on the ground at a consistent level.

For the Cougars, developing a rushing attack and keeping Tune involved will be a must offensively. The key will lie on the running backs and quarterback to take advantage of SMU’s weakness in defending the run.

Big plays will be needed for the Cougars defensively. The secondary will need to buckle down and the front seven will need to get to Buechele and create pressure to slow him down.

Though UH doesn’t quite match up favorably against SMU, calling the right plays offensively and keeping the pressure on Buechele will give them a fighting chance in winning this game

Where to watch

The game will take place at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas on Saturday at 11 a.m. and can be heard on KRPC 950 AM radio.

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