A number of top programs have a bye this week, so it’s a chance for several under-the-radar programs to seize the spotlight. That includes these two ranked American Athletic Conference squads who will get the primetime treatment on Saturday night.
The SMU Mustangs have been one of the pleasant surprises of 2019. The team is undefeated through eight games, and voters have perked up and taken notice. In the latest AP Top 25 poll, the team checked in at 15th.
The Memphis Tigers have just a single blemish on the resume this season. The program is one of the best in the Group of Five of late, and pollsters are also aware of that development. For this week’s rankings, the Tigers came in at 24th.
The AAC is pretty open this year. These two clubs are separated by just a single game in the West Division standings. Over on the other side of the ledger, Cincinnati and UCF are once again at the forefront of a competitive East Division.
The stakes are high for this tilt, as it could very well be the deciding factor in which team takes down the division and makes it to the conference title game at season’s end. Let’s take a closer look at what should be an exciting game.
SMU vs. Memphis, 7:30 PM EST, Sat. Nov.2, ABC
Betting odds provided by Sportsbetting.ag
SMU vs. Memphis Pick:
The Mustangs were last in action last Thursday night in Houston. They were big 12.5-point favorites at kickoff, but the game broke differently. The Cougars were down 21-13 at halftime, and they managed to keep pace after the break. In the end, SMU was able to hang on for a 34-31 victory. While the final score may not reflect it, the defense was solid with a 7-sack performance.
The Tigers spent Saturday on the road in Tulsa as 10-point favorites over the Golden Hurricane. They would also find themselves in a closer than expected affair. Memphis held a 35-31 lead at the end of the third quarter, but Tulsa stormed back to take a 41-35 lead. A late 1-yard touchdown run from Kenneth Gainwell sealed the deal and allowed the Tigers to escape with a 1-point win.
SMU opened up the season with a 37-30 road win over Arkansas State. They’ve won seven straight since that point, a span which includes a 3-point road victory over a ranked TCU team. The club was involved in one of the wildest games of 2019. They took down Tulsa on the homefield by a score of 43-37 in a triple overtime thriller. Four of the team’s victories have been of the double digit variety.
Memphis kicked off the year with a home date versus Ole Miss, walking away with a 15-10 win in a tight affair. The club followed that up by ripping off another four wins in a row, each of which were by double digits. The streak was snapped with a 2-point road loss at Temple. The Tigers have since bounced back to win their last two in a row, but they narrowly avoided defeat last week.
The Mustangs offense is producing at an impressive clip while showing great balance. An average of 43.0 points per contest is good enough for 6th in the nation, and the team has eclipsed that number four times. The defense has done its part as well and features a solid pass rush. Overall, this is a complete team which hasn’t gone undefeated with smoke and mirrors.
Shane Buechele is having a solid season behind center. He has accounted for 22 total scores versus seven picks thus far. Xavier Jones leads the way out of the backfield with a line of 165/884/14. Reggie Roberson Jr. is the leading receiver at 43/803/6, but James Proche is right behind him at 61/692/9. Richard McBryde leads the team with 53 tackles, while Demerick Gary is tops with five sacks.
The Tigers are not too far off the pace of SMU when it comes to offense. The team is averaging 39.5 points per contest, which ranks 10th in the country. Similar to SMU, there’s solid balance to be found on that side of the ball. On a yards allowed basis, Memphis has a statistical edge on defense. However, the Mustangs do a much better job of putting pressure on opposing signal callers.
Brady White leads the way for the Tigers offense with a 69.0 completion percentage, 21 total scores, and four picks. Kenneth Gainwell is having a fantastic season to lead the backfield at 137/979/11. Damonte Coxie paces the pass catchers with a line of 37/529/3. Gainwell is second on the team in receiving at 34/440/3. Austin Hall and Sanchez Blake Jr. are tied for the team lead with 45 tackles each.
Memphis leads the all-time series over SMU by a margin of 8-3. Last season, the Tigers picked up a 28-18 road victory over the Mustangs.
For the season to date, SMU is 6-2 against the spread and 7-1 on totals. Memphis is 5-3 ATS and 6-2 on the Over/Under.
Since the 2016 season, the Mustangs are 4-10 straight-up as road underdogs and 8-6 ATS. The Tigers are 20-2 overall as home favorites over that span and 13-8-1 ATS.
This is a great primetime matchup between two evenly-matched division rivals with lots to play for. Memphis was expected to contend in the AAC this season, while the performance of SMU has been eye opening.
The homefield advantage for the Tigers is strong, but the Mustangs have demonstrated several times this season that they won’t be overwhelmed in a hostile environment. Quite simply, SMU has an ‘it’ factor which can’t be quantified on paper.
It should be a very competitive back-and-forth affair. Mustangs plus the points is the call, and an outright upset wouldn’t be stunning either.