KICKOFF: 4:00 PM
TV: ESPNews, WatchESPN
ANNOUNCERS: Shawn Keeney (play-by-play) and Rene Ingoglia (color analyst)
RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network (WTIC 1080 AM, WILI 1400 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WGCH 1490 AM); TuneIn; Sirus Channel 157, XM Channel 206 and 964 on the internet
ANNOUNCERS: Joe D'Ambrosio (play-by-play), Wayne Norman (color analyst), Ken Sweitzer (sideline)
POINT SPREAD: SMU -17.5
SERIES HISTORY: This is the fourth time the UConn Huskies and SMU Mustangs have met on the gridiron with SMU holding a 3-0 advantage. Two of the three losses have come at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX.
By the Numbers:
64 - SMU (3-1) is ranked 64th in the S&P efficiency rankings, while UConn (1-2) sits at 123rd. The Football Study Hall projections give the Mustangs a 87% chance of victory and 19.6 projected margin of victory.
413 - UConn opponents are averaging an astounding 413 passing yards per game. None of those opponents have had the offensive firepower SMU does. Gulp.
7 - Speaking of firepower, the Mustangs are first in the nation with seven plays of 50 yards or more. They’re also one of six teams in the country that have scored in every quarter of football they’ve played this season.
4 - There are four Huskies with over 100 yards receiving on the year, which is encouraging. Arkeel Newsome is currently the team’s leading receiver, with 13 receptions for 255 yards.
32 - Receiving yards in the last two games for SMU’s star receiver Courtland Sutton, the future NFL Draft pick currently sits a surprising third on the team in receiving yards on the season. Defenses have keyed coverage on Sutton to the benefit of the Mustangs’ leading receivers Trey Quinn and James Proche.
596 - UConn racked up 596 yards of total offense last week against ECU, the most since hitting 600 yards on the dot against Liberty in 2005 and the third highest total in program history.
Keys to the Game
It’s a Shootout!
This will be an interesting game, the likes of which UConn football fans aren’t really used to seeing their team involved in: a good ol’ fashioned Texas shootout.
While the offense has shown solid improvement from last year, it’s going to need to continue to improve given how much the defense is struggling. SMU’s strengths and weaknesses are similarly aligned. If UConn is going to have any chance of winning, it’s going to take a stellar offensive performance. The Huskies got off to a slow start against East Carolina, which led to the loss even though they mounted a solid comeback bid. They’ll need to get going early and often Saturday in Dallas.
The Running Game
SMU’s run defense may be a potential exploitable weakness. So far this season the Huskies have already had two hundred yard rushing performances and both Nate Hopkins and Kevin Mensah are rocking pretty solid yards per carry averages at 5.3 and 7.1 respectively. If UConn can run the ball well, it would help control time of possession and keep SMU’s attack off the field. Rhett Lashlee’s ideal offense is one that moves quickly, but it may benefit them to slow it down a bit in this one. Success in the run game would also open up the passing game, which has been a major area of improvement already on the season.
We’ve seen a rotating cast man the safety positions, but Randy Edsall was also forced to make a change this week at cornerback, where Tahj Herring-Wilson is now listed as the starter over the struggling Tre Bell. UConn is not going to win any more games this season if the secondary keeps playing the way it has, so hopefully it figures out who the right five are.
Pressure on the Quarterback
Billy Crocker’s 3-3-5 defense was supposed to surprise teams with pressure from all sorts of different places and disguised coverages. The only surprise so far has been how poorly the unit is performing. We expected growing pains in the secondary given the inexperience at those positions, but the prevailing belief for the front six was that there was plenty of talent on hand for it to do well.
So far, star disruptors Luke Carrezola and Foley Fatukasi have not had much of an opportunity to make an impact. Edsall says Fatukasi is improving, and the Pro Football Focus numbers back that up, but the UConn defense needs to find a way to get to the quarterback, especially with the secondary struggling the way it is.