SMU is coming off a come-from-behind victory over Temple two weeks ago, but will face a much tougher test when the team takes on the Cincinnati Bearcats on the road.
The Bearcats are 6-2 on the season although their record is littered with opponents that are a combined 12-53 so SMU will be their first test since losing to lowly South Florida early in October.
The Mustangs are on fire offensively, with Garrett Gilbert somehow trying to build off of the seventh best all-time total yardage performance two weeks ago against Temple. Gilbert and company will face an opponent that is a significant step up though and SMU Head Coach June Jones recognizes that.
“They’re fifth in the nation in defense,” Jones said. “They got some talented players. They got a good scheme and their kids know what they’re doing. They don’t bust coverages and they play hard.”
The key matchup for the offense will be containing the front seven of Cincinnati since they are an athletic bunch that has 11 different players on the roster with a sack.
“They’re defensive line is very active and very good,” Jones said. “They’re very well coached with their hands and do a good job in there. They’re the next best defensive line we have played.”
Linebacker Nick Temple is a player who can run around all over the field and make plays for the Bearcats defense. Temple is second on the team in tackles and sacks.
For the SMU defense, the pass defense has been a struggle all year and will have to defend against quarterback Brendon Kay, who took over after starter Munchie Legaux went down for the year.
Kay has come on strong the last couple of weeks, throwing for over 300 yards against Memphis Oct. 30 and leading the Bearcats to three straight wins.
The Bearcats have two receivers that Kay targets regularly: Anthony McClung and Shaq Washington, who both have more than 400 yards receiving and McClung with five touchdowns.
“Offensively, they’ve got a lot of skill and they can make plays,” Jones said. “We’re going to have to play our best game on the road that we’ve played to beat them and to play for fourth quarters.”
This one could be a shootout this week, but SMU will have to get off to a good start on the road and play a full game, something SMU really hasn’t done this season.
The Bearcats are too good to fall behind or let back into the game so SMU will have to put the pedal to the metal for the entire game.
Prediction: SMU wins, 45-39.