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SMU (5-5) vs. Houston (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 29, 12 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reliant Stadium (71,500) -- Houston, Texas. Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: SMU 0-0, Houston 3-2. Away Record: SMU 0-0, Houston 3-2. Neutral Record: SMU 0-0, Houston 1-0. Conference Record: SMU 4-2, Houston 4-3. Series Record: Houston leads, 17-10-1.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars will try to halt a three-game losing streak on Friday afternoon, as they close out the regular season versus the SMU Mustangs in an American Athletic Conference clash at Reliant Stadium.
Since starting the season 1-4, SMU has turned things around by winning four of its last five games, and with a win in either this matchup or its Dec. 7 bout with UCF, it will become bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season. The Mustangs most recently defeated South Florida on the road last weekend in a low-scoring affair, 16-6.
Houston's current losing streak has put the brakes on a promising season, as it had been winners of seven of its first eight games before falling into this funk. The Cougars returned home last week following a two-game road trip only to lose to Cincinnati, 24-17.
The Cougars hold a 17-10-1 advantage over the Mustangs in the all-time series, although SMU claimed a 72-42 shootout victory in last season's matchup.
SMU's offense has been impressive all season, as it scores 30.8 points per game behind the nation's seventh-ranked passing offense (365.0 ypg), but with signal caller Garrett Gilbert listed as doubtful with a knee injury, the unit could be slowed, as it was last week.
Gilbert, who is completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season, had to leave the USF game early, and the offense sputtered without him. Neal Burcham completed just 9- of-18 passes for 91 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his most extensive action of the season.
The downgrade at quarterback would certainly affect one of the nation's best receiving trios. Jeremy Johnson is tied for second in the FBS with 100 catches, which have resulted in 1,007 yards and six touchdowns. Darius Joseph (88 receptions, 738 yards, five TDs) and Keenan Holman (59 receptions, 930 yards, eight TDs) are also in the midst of outstanding campaigns.
The running game is virtually non-existent, as the Mustangs pick up just 96.4 yards per game on the ground. Gilbert is the leading rusher with 267 yards and six scores, while K.C. Nlemchi (238 yards, TD) and Prescott Line (223 yards, three TDs) split time at running back.
The Mustangs have failed to reach the upper echelon of the AAC this season due to their porous defense, which allows 34.9 points per game, although allowing just six points to USF last week was certainly a step in the right direction.
Randall Joyner has a team-high 83 tackles and three forced fumbles. Jonathan Yenga and Beau Barnes have each recorded 5.0 sacks, while Jay Scott and Kenneth Acker have intercepted two passes apiece.
Houston's offense is similar to SMU's in that it scores plenty of points (33.9 ppg) behind an impressive passing attack (287.6 ypg), although the unit has stalled during it losing streak by scoring less than 20 points in three straight games.
John O'Korn has had a very strong season under center, as he is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,644 yards with 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions, however he struggled mightily in last week's loss by completing only 13-of-30 passes.
O'Korn has had a great connection with Deontay Greenberry, who has hauled in 76 passes for an AAC-leading 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Daniel Spencer takes advantage of one-on-one opportunities playing opposite Greenberry with 43 catches, 664 yards and five scores.
Ryan Jackson (593 yards) and Kenneth Farrow (459 yards) make up an effective tailback rotation, and each has scored five touchdowns.
Houston's defense has played very well this season, as it allows just 22.0 points per game, and its 20 interceptions is second-most in the FBS behind only Florida State's 23.
Trevon Stewart is having an All-American-caliber season at safety, as he has picked off four passes, forced two fumbles and recovered six more, all while amassing 90 tackles. Efrem Oliphant has a team-high 111 tackles, Derick Mathews has 99 stops, 11 TFL and 6.0 sacks, and Adrian McDonald has four picks.
If Graham is somehow able to suit up, then this could be an exciting, high- scoring matchup, but with that prospect appearing unlikely, Houston has the advantage playing their season finale at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 27, SMU 23
11/27 11:19:49 ET
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