The Southern Methodist University football team travels north to face the University of Tulsa on Saturday with both teams fighting for their seasons. SMU has won only one of the last five games, including losses to Cincinnati, UCF, and TCU, but notched a win over Navy in Week 6. Tulsa has seen similar struggles, going 1-for-4 over the last five weeks. Both teams are nearing a point of no return that could see the Mustangs and the Golden Hurricanes on the outside of post-season play if they fail to amass a few wins in the coming weeks.
The big storyline for SMU will be the health of quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who went down in the third quarter last week with a concussion. Mordecai has not practiced this week and is questionable for Saturday’s game. If the QB is unable to start, the duties will fall to Preston Stone, who entered the game for three drives last week against Cincinnati. He scored two touchdowns and nearly tied the game on a failed two-point attempt that ultimately allowed the Bearcats to escape with a win.
“He was super competitive. I thought he had pretty good poise in the pocket. He was tough running the ball,” said SMU offensive coordinator Casey Woods. “I think situational awareness just comes with playing the game more than anything. I think the experience factor is the stuff I desire for him, but he can’t get it without playing. He took care of the ball, that’s the No. 1 thing. If he gets called into that situation again, he’s got to take care of the ball for us, and he’s got to get the ball to our playmakers in space and let those guys have an opportunity to do that.”
SMU coaches admitted that the one receiver Stone has had less practice time with is Rashee Rice, the No. 1 receiver on the team. The native of North Richland Hills, Texas, has 53 receptions and 802 yards receiving this season, along with four touchdown receptions. Rice has been a key part of the deep passing game through the first half of the season.
Tulsa will look to get receiver Keylon Stokes going early. Stokes became the all-time leader in receiving yards last week with over 3,300 in his career. Stokes’s numbers are surprisingly similar to those of Rice on the other sideline, catching 48 passes for 802 yards and four touchdowns this season.
The teams match up well, both with high-scoring aerial attacks and suspect run defenses that have let close games get away this season. SMU’s only significant blowout loss was against TCU for the Iron Skillet, in which the Horned Frogs trampled the Mustangs 42-34. In this game, the final score did not accurately reflect the reality on the field. Tulsa’s biggest loss came against Navy, a 53-21 shellacking that exposed the team’s inadequacies at run-stopping. SMU managed to hold the intense running attack of Navy in their contest, earning a close 40-34 victory over the Midshipmen.
Betting lines have SMU as a slight favorite, with most sites envisioning a high-scoring game. ESPN Analytics gives SMU a 63.9% chance of victory. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CST from Chapman Stadium in Tulsa, Oklahoma.