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SMU vs. Houston Preview

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Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8). | Image by Mike Watters, USA TODAY Sports

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The Southern Methodist University Mustangs host the University of Houston Cougars Saturday as both squads look to stay in competition in the American Athletic Conference. SMU is at 4-4 overall and is 2-2 in the AAC, while Houston is 5-3 overall and sports a 3-1 conference record. Houston holds the historical advantage 22-13 overall and most recently defeated the Mustangs last year.

The Mustangs took only 12 seconds last week to open a lead against Tulsa with backup quarterback Preston Stone connecting with receiver Rashee Rice for a first–play touchdown, and SMU never looked back, trampling the Golden Hurricanes 45-34. Stone finished the day going 11-of-17 for 219 yards before suffering what is described as a season-ending broken collarbone in the win.

SMU anticipates Tanner Mordecai returning to the field with third-stringer and true freshman Kevin Jennings stepping up as the backup. Mordecai missed the game against Tulsa after suffering a concussion the previous week in a loss to Cincinnati, in which Stone nearly earned a comeback victory in relief.

Tyler Lavine had a big day in the Mustangs’ victory, rushing for 72 yards on 17 carries and scoring three touchdowns to help the team secure the win. Rice finished the day with 180 yards and two touchdowns, despite the second and third-string QBs tossing the passes. Lavine and Rice stand a good chance of compiling even bigger numbers this week with the likelihood that Mordecai will be under center.

Houston faced the University of South Florida last week, and quarterback Clayton Tune had a near-perfect day, recording 31 receptions on 37 attempts, hitting four touchdowns, and getting picked zero times as the Cougars ripped apart the Bulls 42-27. Nathaniel Dell was the recipient of two touchdown passes and KeSean Carter and Peyton Sawyer made up the difference. The Cougars amassed an impressive 387 yards through the air on the day.

Though both teams put up gaudy numbers on offense, the defenses struggled at times. SMU managed five sacks but also gave up 216 yards through the air and 182 yards on the ground and a total of five touchdowns, including four scores in the second half against Tulsa.

Houston’s struggles were similar, with USF hitting 154 yards on the ground and 275 through the air, including three rushing touchdowns. The defense got to USF quarterback Katravis Marsh three times but did not manage a turnover in the game.

Houston has a slight edge going into the game, having won four of the last five matches and playing lights-out football in the last several weeks. SMU is a bit of a wildcard with Mordecai having been out of action for a week and returning from a concussion and having his backup a largely untested and unknown commodity despite a not-terrible showing in relief of Stone last week.

One bit of intrigue that the game brings is that this will be the last time that Houston and SMU will face one another as members of the AAC. Houston is set to join the Big 12 next year.

The game kicks off Saturday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium at 6:00 p.m. CST.

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