Prediction Thursday- SMU
After years of woe (one win in both 2007 and 2008), June Jones now has a real nice program at SMU. They are officially up from rock bottom to second tier League power. If you excise Houston, the Mustangs have lost only one conference game in two years.
That makes this a tough spot for Tulane. First, while I am very accepting of the fact that Tulane is improved, SMU has made a lot of hay beating .500 C-USA teams again and again and again the past two seasons. The Mustangs are a clear step better than even. Secondly, the raw consistentcy of their approach is evident in that 9-1 record ex-Houston. They always pitch the good game; Tulane has consistency issues at running back, return teams, pass coverage. Third, Tulane has had issues dealing with prosperity- falling flat off big wins against Army this year and Marshall last year. Vegas agrees, giving SMU the very tricky hook: Mustangs -7.5 over the Green Wave.
Those consistency issues have specifically chapped me lately- riding a three game losing streak ATS. I deserved the Tulsa miss. But how was I supposed to know which team would essentially hand the game away via turnovers versus Army and UTEP? Ugh.
That being said, there is an undercurrent of something being off with SMU this year. They are 4-4, a little bit of a comedown from last year’s eight win campaign and dismantling of Nevada in the Hawai’i Bowl.
For one thing, the Mustangs don’t score enough. They haven’t cracked 21 in any of their last three (losing the last two): Tulsa, Navy, Houston. QB Kyle Padron is a nice prospect (C-USA all-frosh last year) with very good numbers (21 TDs, 8 Ints.)- but SMU has a little bit of a skill position issue. The top RB Zach Line is pretty good. But the wide out corps is pedestrian- three guys with receiving totals roughly that of Casey Robottom despite a real unwavering commitment to throw (40+ attempts the last three games). WR Darius Johnson has the most catches (50)- but again, fewer receiving yards than Robottom. Like Tulane, they seem to know what they are doing on offense- but don’t have that big receiving weapon.
As a result, SMU hasn’t gotten scoreboard separation a lot- and have split a lot of close games late. Again, they seem to have a tighter, mistake free product than most of their conference brethren, and still have been putting close conference wins in their pile.
I don’t really see why this game ought to be any different. This game screams team that knows how to win close conference games versus team that is figuring it out. Accordingly, it still figures to be close. SMU isn’t going to tag the improving Tulane defense for a big number- and the Green Wave quarterback has taken a step forward. Hard to cover a two score spread, bless you hook, when you are no lock to score 28.
So while it has potential heartbreak written all over it, heartbreak means close. The hook cements the decision: Tulane +7.5 over SMU