SMU (3-4) at Cincinnati (6-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Nippert Stadium (35,097) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: ESPN Regional, ESPN3.com. Home Record: SMU 2-2, Cincinnati 4-0. Away Record: SMU 1-2, Cincinnati 2-2. Neutral Record: SMU 0-0, Cincinnati 0-0. Conference Record: SMU 2-1, Cincinnati 3-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Cincinnati Bearcats will try for their fourth straight victory on Saturday when they host the SMU Mustangs in an American Athletic Conference contest at Nippert Stadium.
The Bearcats are not the only ones trying to keep a winning streak going. By topping Temple, 59-49, in its last outing, SMU has earned back-to-back victories for the first time this season. The two wins pushed the Mustangs to a 3-4 overall mark and a 2-1 record in conference play. In the win over Temple the Mustangs smashed a number of school records, including total offense (728 yards), passing yards (538) and first downs (34).
Even though no school records fell for Cincinnati last time out, the Bearcats were still triumphant. In a Wednesday night matchup with Memphis, the Bearcats posted a 34-21 victory, marking a third straight win for Tommy Tuberville's squad. The Bearcats have scored at least 34 points in all three of those wins, while holding all foes to 21 or fewer points. At 6-2 overall, Cincinnati has earned itself bowl eligibility for the third straight year. The team's 3-1 mark in league play also has it tied for third in the AAC standings with No. 20 Louisville.
This is not only the first matchup for the Bearcats against the Mustangs as league foes but the first between the two teams ever.
The performance the Mustangs put forth against Temple really showed how powerful they can be on offense, as they are currently second in the conference in total offense (489 ypg). Like any June Jones squad the onus has been on the pass, as the Mustangs lead the league in passing.
Against Temple, Garrett Gilbert was virtually unstoppable. The Mustangs' signal caller has been piling up the yards all season but his effort against the Owls was on another level, as he threw for 538 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 97 yards and two more scores. Those six total touchdowns are tied for the second most by a player in SMU history. On the year, Gilbert has thrown for 2,634 yards and 14 scores on 65.1 percent passing.
With Gilbert slinging the ball all over the field there had to be someone to pull in the passes and Keenan Holman was the prime target, as he had 10 receptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns against the Owls. Holman (42 receptions, 655 yards, six TDs) is part of a nice quartet of receivers for the Mustangs. Leading the way is Jeremy Johnson (64 receptions, 752 yards, four TDs), while Darius Joseph (64 receptions, 561 yards, three TDs) and Der'rikk Thompson (19 receptions, 239 yards, TD) are also capable of big games.
Gilbert is the leading rusher for the Mustangs, who don't put as much stock in yards on the ground. Traylon Shead (197 yards, three TDS) and Prescott Line (152 yards, two TDs) each rushed for a score in the win over Temple, but have largely been only occasional contributors.
Where SMU really needs work is on the defensive side of the ball. Though they were able to take down Temple thanks to the incredible offensive performance, the Mustangs still ended up allowing 593 yards to the Owls, who are one of the teams near the bottom of the AAC in total offense. Overall, SMU is second to last in the conference in total defense (448.9 ypg), although it is one of four teams in the conference with at least 20 sacks.
The Bearcats are one of the better offensive squads in the conference. Cincinnati is fourth in the league in total yards (463.3 ypg), while scoring a healthy 34 points per game.
Brendon Kay has looked his best over the last two weeks as he followed up a four-touchdown performance against Connecticut with his first 300-yard passing game of the season against Memphis. Kay has now thrown for 1,709 yards and 14 scores, completing an impressive 72.4 percent of his passes.
Kay has really developed a strong connection with Shaq Washington and Anthony McClung. Washington pulled in 11 passes for 96 yards against Memphis and McClung had nine catches for 98 yards and a score. McClung (37 receptions, 462 yards, five TDs) has had a touchdown reception in each of the last three games, while Washington (49 receptions, 432 yards) has had at least 50 yards in four of the last five.
Much like SMU the Bearcats are not a team that believes in running the ball as much as throwing it. That doesn't mean they don't have the ability in the backfield to pick up yards. Ralph David Abernathy (387 yards, three TDs), Hosey Williams (362 yards, four TDs) and Tion Green (278 yards, six TDs) are all capable backs that are averaging better than four yards per carry.
Even though they may not be the best defensive unit in the league the Bearcats have certainly been a team that has put forth strong showings on that side of the ball. Cincinnati is limiting foes to just 18 points per game, while ranking second in the conference behind Louisville in total yards allowed (280 pg). Linebackers Greg Blair (51 tackles, 5.5 TFL) and Nick Temple (41 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) are the anchors of the defense, while Silverberry Mouhon (5.5 sacks) is a skilled pass rusher.
Against Temple SMU looked lethal offensively. Against Cincinnati the Mustangs will not be so fortunate. The Bearcats will be able to move the ball at will against SMU, while stifling the Mustang offense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 40, SMU 20
11/06 10:48:25 ET