Mustangs seek to spoil Temple’s breakthrough season

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The SMU Mustangs face off against the No. 23 Temple Owls on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at Ford Stadium.

The Owls enter the game undefeated in AAC play with a 7-1 record overall. Their only loss came against No. 8 Notre Dame in last week’s game.

The two teams have only met once since tying twice in the 1940s. SMU won the latest match-up 59-49 in 2013 and holds the edge in the series 1-0-2.

Previews:

Brian O’Donnell, Sports Editor:

The Mustangs enter this week having squandered an opportunity against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane was a beatable team and SMU failed to take advantage.

The game epitomized the season to this point. The Mustangs got off to a quick and promising start and then made mistakes. The difference between the team that plays the first half and the team that comes out of the locker room after the half is as different as night and day. SMU has just been unable to keep pace in the second half of its games.

Coach Morris keeps telling us how well practice is going, and yet the team’s performance remains the same. The games early in the season, especially against TCU, showed what this team is capable o, but it seems unable to maintain that level of focus and effort.

Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the road is only getting more difficult. Temple is coming off of a fantastic primetime performance against the notorious and highly-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Despite losing, the presence of ESPN’s College Gameday and the way the Owls fought, proved to the college football world that they should be taken seriously.

This Temple team is built on defense. It showed toughness against the Irish and displayed its ability to create turnovers. The Mustangs have not fared well with turnovers this season, not forcing very many and giving up quite a few. This can’t happen if they have any chance against the Owls.

The SMU offense has largely relied on Courtland Sutton. It won’t be able to do that against a Temple secondary that will be able to slow him down. Matt Davis is going to have to get others involved or run a lot more than he has the last few weeks.

Unless Morris and the Mustangs have some offensive tricks up their sleeves, they won’t be able to utilize the only weapon they seem to have… points. I expect Sutton to have a quiet game and the turnovers to keep SMU from winning this game. Temple will leave Dallas with the victory.

PREDICTION: TEMPLE 30 – SMU 21

Breck Spencer, Associate Sports Editor:

This week’s game against Temple will reveal a lot about SMU’s resiliency as a program. After blowing the lead last week against Tulsa and falling into last place in the AAC with an 0-4 conference record, SMU needs to make a statement. This week’s game against the nationally-ranked Owls offers the Mustangs the perfect stage to do so.

However, Temple is too hungry for a win, especially coming off of its tough loss last weekend. Temple played an excellent game against No. 9 Notre Dame but fell just short on a late touchdown pass. The Owls are looking to climb back up in the rankings while continuing to build their resume for one of the more highly sought-after bowl games.

The Owls are coming into this week’s game against the Mustangs allowing only 327 yards of offense per game. SMU has averaged just over 414 yards per game on offense thus far. Temple is also tied for third nationally in interceptions, with 14 on the season. Picks have been a clear weakness for the Mustangs in the past few weeks, as quarterback Matt Davis has thrown an interception in each of the last two games.

You can expect Courtland Sutton to continue to act as the centerpiece of the passing game, especially after an extremely impressive performance last week with two touchdowns and 165 yards. As impressive as Sutton has been throughout the season, Temple will be looking for ways to shut him down.

I think that Temple will show up ready to play in Dallas this Friday, putting pressure on Matt Davis from the start of the game and forcing at least one interception. Sutton will have another solid game, with a pair of touchdown catches, but it won’t be enough to get the best of Temple.

PREDICTION: TEMPLE 35 – SMU 17

Patrick Engel, Sports Columnist:

SMU has a short week to prepare for one of the best teams in the AAC. Temple came within a couple minutes of knocking off top-ten foe Notre Dame in primetime last week. The Owls also lead the conference in total defense, scoring defense, and are second in both sacks and interceptions. The Owls have top-tier weapons on both sides of the ball in AAC rushing leader Jahad Thomas and AAC defensive player of the year candidate Tyler Matakevich to boot.

Scoring against this Temple defense is going to be tough for an SMU offense that struggled for much of October. Even though the point totals may not indicate it, SMU has not put together a consistent offensive performance for 60 minutes in conference play.

Defensively, Temple is a better matchup for SMU because it doesn’t rely on big plays in the passing game or a spread-option running game. But stopping Thomas is a tall task. Quarterback P.J. Walker has cut down the turnovers from a year ago, but he’s still completing just 57 percent of his passes.

This might be a trap game for Temple and SMU will play hard. The Mustangs played one of their better defensive games against Tulsa, so this could be a lower-scoring affair than expected. But I don’t see SMU being able to score on Temple’s defense enough to win.

PREDICTION: TEMPLE 31 – SMU 10

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