SMU looks to take care of business at Tulane without looking ahead to its big game next week. Join us as we break down this game for our NCAAF Week 7 Picks!
SMU Mustangs vs. Tulane Green Wave
Friday, October 16, 2020 – 6:00 P.M. ET at Yulman Stadium
Last week, Tulane got blown out by a Houston Cougar squad whose turnovers even spotted it multiple touchdowns. SMU, also, is a good squad. So should we expect the same results with our College Football Picks?
The key for Houston — as well as any team that faces Tulane -- was to stop the run. Offensively, the Green Wave is run-dependent, and the Cougars limited them to 70 rushing yards on 45 attempts.
But Houston is different than SMU, as the Cougars return just about everybody on defense and were able to showcase a significant amount of depth. All of which was fresh, in its front seven.
SMU’s Run Defense
Unlike Houston, the Mustangs returned only two starters from last year’s front seven. Their weakness against the run is evident from the fact that they rank 109th in opposing YPC. This ranking represents a steep regression from last year, where they ranked 39th in the category.
So far, they also rank 112th in allowing 202 rushing yards per game. Teams know what SMU’s defensive weakness is. Running the ball against SMU is an emphasis of any Mustang opponent, which is why SMU ranks 91st in opposing run play percentage.
All of this was apparent in the team’s season opener when even Texas State ran for 189 yards on five YPC. Texas State freshman running back Calvin Hill enjoyed his strongest performance of the season in that game, despite Texas State’s regularly low level of opposing competition.
The list goes on for SMU’s run defense. North Texas ran for 212 yards on four YPC against SMU. Most recently, Memphis ran for 205 yards on 5.4 YPC in its game against the Mustangs.
Evidently, opposing offenses are consistently able to have success on the ground against the Mustangs. At this point, they must know what’s coming but aren’t able to stop it. They lack the same quality of personnel that they possessed in this department last year.
Tulane Run Offense
On offense, Tulane was and continues to be all about the run. Currently, the Green Wave owns the nation's ninth-highest percentage of run plays. Even after facing Houston in its season opener, the Green Wave rank ninth nationally in averaging 5.4 YPC.
Their running back committee is characterized by depth. The team’s different running backs have different areas of strength. Tyjae Spears is small but very fast. He’s averaging 7.4 YPC on 37 attempts. You can see an example of this speed at 26 seconds in the following video:
Spears takes it up the middle where Navy’s defense grows congested in trying to contain Spears. Spears then bounces outside for a big gain.
Cameron Carroll distinguishes himself with his strength and physicality. He leads the team in rushing attempts and accrues 5.3 YPC. Also look for Stephon Huderson, who averages 7.1 YPC on 25 carries. Amare Jones is right behind them after averaging 6.1 YPC last season.
In order to foster a productive rushing attack, Tulane will showcase play-action and misdirection plays. Also, Tulane will line up in such a way that defenses stretch themselves out horizontally, thus having fewer players in the box.
Plus, an experienced offensive line that returned five guys with starts under their belt is also helpful.
SMU’s Injuries + One Dimensionality
SMU is all about its passing game, which is why it has the 30th-highest pass play percentage in the country. The Mustangs must depend all the more on quarterback Shane Buechele after losing 1,000-yard rusher Xavier Jones during the offseason and T.J. McDaniel last week.
McDaniel had been averaging 4.9 YPC while leading the team in rushing attempts. Without him, there’s only one Mustang running back who will consistently try to keep Tulane’s defense honest.
After losing last year’s top receiver James Proche in the offseason, SMU’s other big injury loss last week was the team’s current leading wide receiver, Reggie Robertson Jr. Robertson led the team in receptions and had amassed 202 more receiving yards than the next-leading Mustang receiver.
Especially for such a pass-heavy team, there now resides a relative lack of playmaking ability at wide receiver.
Tulane’s Pass Defense
Defensively, the team’s perpetual sack leader Patrick Johnson brings an NFL-caliber mixture of power and speed. He leads the Green Wave with 4.5 sacks. In the secondary, Jaylon Monroe stands out after being named a preseason AAC third-teamer. He leads the team with two passes deflected.
Expect a healthy dose of Tulane’s ground attack, which will sustain drives, produce points, and keep SMU’s pass attack off the field. In turn, Buechele will have less support to contend with the likes of Johnson and Monroe. Don’t wait too long to place your bets because Tulane may no longer be getting a full touchdown on the NCAAF odds board.