SMU football looks to finish season strong in Memphis

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The SMU Mustangs will travel to Tennessee to take on the Memphis Tigers Nov. 28 at 11 a.m. in the last game of the 2015 season. The game will be played at Liberty Bowl Memorial in Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis enters the game with an 8-3 record. The Tigers were ranked as high as No. 15 in the AP Poll this year after beating Ole Miss six weeks ago. However, after three straight losses, Memphis has fallen out of the rankings.

The Tigers are coming off of a 31-12 loss to Temple in which they struggled to move the ball on offense. They lost to Houston and Navy the previous two weeks.

Memphis’ offense is led by quarterback Lynch Paxton, who has only thrown three interceptions to his 21 touchdowns this season. The defense relies on a trio of linebackers in Leonard Pegues, Wynton McManis and Genard Avery, who are the team’s three tacklers.

SMU enters the matchup with a 2-9 record. Despite their record, the Mustangs are coming off of their best performance of the season: a 49-21 win over Tulane. Quarterback Matt Davis was at his best in the run game and did not commit any turnovers. Running back Xavier Jones was a key offensive contributor, scoring three touchdowns.

In the last meeting in 2014, Memphis outplayed SMU in a dominant 48-10 win. The Mustangs won the previous three meetings.

PREVIEWS:

Brian O’Donnell, SMU CW Sports Editor:

SMU had its most complete performance against Tulane. It was the type of effort on both sides of the ball that Coach Morris had been looking for all season long. It is also the type of effort that will be required if SMU hopes to upset Memphis this week.

The Tigers looked formidable earlier in the season, but have struggled recently. They have looked like a different team the last three games, especially last week against Temple. If they play like they did early on, SMU will need a near-perfect performance to get a win. If they continue to play like they have of late, SMU has a real chance to get a win.

The key will be Davis’ ability to run and open up the passing game. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton and Xavier Jones need to be at their best because SMU must score a lot of points. On the defensive side, the Mustangs will need to force some turnovers and cannot afford to give up big pass plays that have plagued them this season.

Davis and others have talked a lot about how much they want to send the seniors out with a win. There’s no doubt that the effort will be there, but Memphis will have a similar mentality. The Mustangs will play well and hang around, but the Tigers will be too much for them to handle.

PREDICTION: Memphis 42 – SMU 28

Breck Spencer, SMU CW Associate Sports Editor:

SMU’s last football game of the season will also arguably be their most difficult. Despite a positive win last week against Tulane, boosting the Mustangs’ record to 2-9 on the season, Memphis is a much deeper, more talented team than Tulane.

Already this season, Memphis has beaten Ole Miss, currently ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll. While Memphis has lost three straight games, indicating a slide in momentum and confidence, it seems completely implausible that Memphis will lose a game to SMU, especially in a game with bowl implications.

Memphis ranks No. 11 nationally in total offensive yards and No. 22 in offensive efficiency. Quarterback Paxton Lynch is widely considered to be one of the top quarterback prospects in the NFL draft.

By contrast, SMU ranks No. 120 in the nation in total defense, having given up a total of 5,542 total yards and 44.1 points per game. The Tigers’ high-powered, efficient offense led by Lynch will easily win against the Mustangs at home as Memphis makes its case for a prestigious bowl game.

PREDICTION: Memphis 42 – SMU 17

Patrick Engel, SMU CW Sports Columnist:

SMU is coming off a well-deserved win versus Tulane in which it held the Green Wave’s quarterbacks to 13 completions on 33 passes. It was a feel-good game for the defense, but the contrast couldn’t be starker between Tulane’s and Memphis’ offense.

The Tigers average 40.8 points per game and 512 yards per game and are led by quarterback Paxton Lynch, who’s a favorite among draft experts and has tossed 21 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

Memphis has dropped three straight games after an 8-0 start, the most recent being a 19-point loss at Temple in which the Owls held Lynch and Co. to 300 yards below their average entering the game.

Lynch isn’t a running quarterback, which SMU has struggled to stop, but he’s accurate and doesn’t make mistakes. He will bounce back and pick apart SMU’s defense as Memphis rolls to a win.

PREDICTION: Memphis 45 – SMU 24

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