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Gridiron Spotlight: SMU takes on TCU

Houston and SMU will face each other on Oct. 24 at TDECU Stadium. | File photo

Houston and SMU will face each other on Oct. 24 at TDECU Stadium. | File photo

Houston’s American Athletic Conference opener against Tulane, head coach Dana Holgorsen’s first AAC game at the reigns of Cougar football, may be on Thursday afternoon, but a game on Saturday can have a lot of impact on the team.

SMU, who UH plays on Oct. 24, will take to the road to face off against No. 25 TCU in a game that, if the Mustangs win, can mean a lot for the Cougars.

The Horned Frogs are coming off 39-7 and 34-13 wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Purdue, respectively, while the Mustangs, also undefeated at 3-0, have beaten Arkansas State, North Texas and Texas State.

SMU is going into the game as the underdog, but if the Mustangs play their cards right, a win over the Horned Frogs can be achieved.

Here are some things to look out for during Saturday afternoon’s matchup:

Xavier Jones Express

Historically, SMU’s backfield has always performed well.

The famous “Pony Express” backfield of the 1980s, made up of Horned Frogs’ greats Eric Dickerson and Craig James, was one of the most prolific at the time.

Now, SMU senior running back Xavier Jones has taken on the mantle, and he has been successful so far in 2019.

In the Mustangs three wins this season, the Spring native has rushed for 291 yards on 54 attempts, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

Along with the almost 300 yards on the ground, Jones has punched in seven rushing touchdowns for SMU, which has him tied for most in the country with Oklahoma State sophomore running back Chubba Hubbard.

Luckily for the Mustangs, their offense is also held up by their top passer — junior quarterback Shane Buechele.

Lucky No. 7

Although rushing is SMU’s strong suit, its passing has not been bad either.

Buechele, who has a 66.3 completion percentage, 871 passing yards and five touchdowns, has carried his weight for the Mustangs in 2019.

His total yardage so far has him ranked No. 14 in the country, only two spots behind of Oklahoma senior quarterback Jalen Hurts, a Heisman front-runner, and one ahead of Oregon senior quarterback Justin Herbert.

In SMU’s 47-17 rout of Texas State, the native of Arlington threw for two touchdowns and 219 yards, including a 58-yarder that has been his longest pass of the season through Week 3.

The Mustangs and Buechele, however, must be wary of the Horned Frogs’ defense.

Horned Frogs’ defense

TCU, who jumped into the final spot in the AP Poll in Week 4 after receiving 66 votes in the week prior, has one of the best performing defenses in the nation so far this season.

The Horned Frogs rank No. 2 in total defense behind  the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers and have given up an average of only 10 points, which is also in the top-10.

Granted, TCU’s opponents have been an FCS team and a Boilermakers squad that went 6-7 in 2018, but the Horned Frogs still have the tools to shut the Mustangs down.

SMU’s defense also has performed well thanks to senior safety Patrick Nelson, who has the third-most sacks in FBS.

The Mustangs, however, must outplay the Horned Frogs’ defense if they wish to beat them.

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