Week 14 - SMU at Houston

Posted Nov 27, 2013

Week 14 Fearless Prediction & Preview - SMU at Houston

SMU (5-5) at Houston (7-4) Nov. 29, 12:00, ESPN2

Why You Should Give A Hoot: SMU and Houston will rekindle a Lone Star State rivalry, the first chapter in which the two are members of the American Athletic Conference. The Mustangs have won back-to-back games over Connecticut and South Florida to pull within one victory of a fifth straight bowl appearance. If SMU comes up short on Friday, it'll have to defeat first place UCF in order to earn an additional game in December. The Cougars have shown well against the league's top teams, yet they've only been able to secure moral victories along the way. Houston was tough in three recent games with UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati, losing all of them by an average of only six points.

Why SMU Might Win: The Mustang defense is improving, right around the time that Houston is having problems scoring touchdowns. During the three-game losing streak, the Cougars are averaging an uncharacteristic 15 points per game, floundering in all phases. SMU boasts a veteran defense that's capable of making plays for minus yards and keeping Houston and its rookie QB John O'Korn reeling.

Why Houston Might Win: The Cougars just held the Knights, Cardinals and Bearcats well below their season scoring average. And now they'll be facing a Mustang team that doubts linchpin QB Garrett Gilbert will be available to play. The senior injured his knee last week, forcing untested rookie Neal Burcham off the bench. Houston is second nationally in picks, while routinely flooding the pocket with the likes of speedy linebackers Derrick Mathews and Efrem Oliphant. The Cougars are a very tough assignment for a first-time starting quarterback.

Who To Watch Out For: O'Korn has hit a wall in his rookie season, stringing together three inconsistent games. He's completing less than 50% of his passes over that time, and has been unable to fully maximize the talent of WR Deontay Greenberry.

- Burcham has a lot of upside and a cast of quality receivers that includes Jeremy Johnson, Keenan Holman and Darius Joseph. What he lacks is live reps, which can't be simulated during practice.

- The Houston O-line needs to step up its game this week by creating more holes and giving O'Korn more time to operate. The ground game has been awful of late, limiting the effectiveness of the entire offense.

What Will Happen: The unlikely availability of Gilbert reduces SMU's chances for an upset. While Houston's offense needs a wake-up call in a hurry, the D will continue to pick up the slack at home. In a flip of the usual script when these two teams are in the same building, the defense will dictate and points will come at a relative premium.

Prediction: Houston 31 … SMU 20
Line: Houston -10 o/u: 61
Must See Rating: (5 American Hustle – 1 The Sound of Music Live!) … 2
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