The No. 17 Houston Cougars (7-1, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) travel up the I-45 corridor to take on the SMU Mustangs (3-5, 2-2 AAC) this Saturday at 6 p.m. Here are three keys to victory for the Cougars this weekend.
Key One: Keep the Offense Rolling
Junior Quarterback D’Eriq King and the Cougars come into the contest with the nation’s leading offense, averaging 571.1 yards per game. Houston also ranks second in scoring offense (49.8 ppg) and seventh in passing offense (333.5 ypg.)
King is coming off of a seven-touchdown performance against nationally-ranked South Florida. The Cougars signal caller ranks third in the country with 28 passing touchdowns, and ranks 12th nationally in yards per game passing (300.4 ypg.)
On the ground, the Cougars rank 12th nationally with 237.6 yards per game. Houston features a three-headed rushing attack with junior running back Patrick Carr pacing the team with 475 yards on the season.
King is also second on the team in rushing, averaging 51.4 yards per game on the ground. He has also found pay dirt 11 times rushing the football.
SMU counters defensively with the AAC’s eighth-ranked defense against the pass. The Mustangs allow 238.5 yards per game through the air. Against the run, SMU allows an average of 182.8 yards per game, ranking sixth in the AAC.
SMU is also ranked 11th in the conference in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score an average of 35.9 points per contest.
The Cougars need to continue the offensive momentum they have built; then they will be able to roll over the Mustangs in Dallas this Saturday.
Key Two: Stop the Passing Attack
The lone strength that SMU has is their passing game. The Mustangs have averaged 250.4 yards per game through the air this season. Starting quarterback Ben Hicks is coming off of a 328-yard performance against AAC East foe Cincinnati.
The redshirt junior field general has thrown for 1,325 yards on the season, averaging 165.6 yards per game. SMU has also featured true freshman quarterback William Brown in seven games this season. His biggest performance came against Houston Baptist, in which he totaled 309 yards passing on 12 completions.
The Cougars counter SMU’s passing attack with the league’s worst passing defense. Houston is giving up over 327 yards per game through the air, but has proven opportunistic, as the Third-Ward defense totals nine interceptions on the season.
The Coogs will need to continue to bend but not break and find opportunities for turnovers to stop the passing attack of SMU this Saturday.
Key Three: Stop the Return Game
SMU is pretty strong when returning both punts and kickoffs. The Mustangs currently rank first in the AAC in kickoff returns, averaging 29.3 yards per return, including one touchdown.
Wide receiver James Proche for SMU is the lead return man, having returned a total of 26 kicks/punts. The redshirt sophomore averages 25.3 yards on kickoffs and nearly 10 yards a return on punts.
The Cougars are giving up an average of 20.8 yards per kickoff return; however, they are limiting punt returns to 5.5 yards per return clip. If the Cougars can corral the Mustangs’ return game, it will force their offense to start from uncomfortable positions.
Sources: TheAmerican.org and NCAA.org