Michigan Football faces the SMU Mustangs in their final non-conference game of the season this Saturday at the Big House. After taking care of business in a dominant victory over Western Michigan last week, the Wolverines should continue to gain momentum against another inferior opponent this week. SMU is 0-2 on the year, being collectively outscored 88-35 in their games against North Texas and 16 ranked TCU, and barring a massive upset, will fall to 0-3 after Saturday.
On offense, SMU struggled mightily through the first three quarters in their opener against North Texas, gaining only one first down until the midway point of the fourth quarter and running less than 50 plays for the entire game. Gleaning much of anything from their second game against TCU is difficult due to the severe storms that hit for the entire first half. Junior quarterback Ben Hicks has struggled, completing less than 50% of his passes for 5.8 yards per attempt. Last season he threw for nearly 3600 yards and 33 scores, so he has experience and is likely better than what he’s shown so far in 2018. Senior running back Braeden West is a focal point for the Mustangs. He leads the team in rushing, averaging 5.5 yards a carry, and is second on the team in receiving with 5 catches and 100 yards. James Proche, a junior, is the team’s leading wide receiver, with 8 catches and 127 yards. The offensive line has struggled, allowing 8 sacks already on the season. Look for the Wolverine pass rush to be impactful in this game. Most of the SMU damage has come on big plays. 3 of their 4 offensive touchdowns have gone for 71, 59, and 51 yards. Much like the Western game, if Michigan can limit chunk plays, SMU will struggle to put together drives.
Defensively, SMU has struggled in the air and on the ground. North Texas bombed them to the tune 461 yards passing (9 YPA). While the name North Texas might not elicit much of a response to the average fan, they are expected to contend for a championship in C-USA and quarterback Mason Fine returned after winning conference Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2017. The next week in the rain TCU gashed them for nearly 240 yards rushing and 5.8 yards per carry. Rodney Clemons and Patrick Nelson, both juniors in the defensive backfield, have stood out for SMU. They’ve combined for 35 tackles in two weeks as well as 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and two passes defended. As a unit, SMU has two sacks on the season. Both came against North Texas, who threw the ball over 50 times. Michigan’s offensive line should continue to make strides in this game, opening holes in the running game and keeping Shea Patterson upright. On special teams, the Mustangs have struggled in punt coverage despite punter Jamie Sackville averaging nearly 45 yards per punt. Donovan Peoples-Jones will have an opportunity to break one this weekend.
This game feels very similar to last week for the Wolverines. While SMU has been unremarkable thus far offensively, their skill players have been successful in the past and new coach Sonny Dykes is known for his offensive mind. They’ll likely figure it out eventually on offense, if not this week. Defensively, they were terrible against the pass one week and terrible against the run the next. Look for Michigan to establish the running game early again before opening the offense up and allowing Shea Patterson to make big plays through the air.
Matchup to Watch: Michigan WR vs SMU Defensive Backs
The Wolverines were able to end a streak of games without a receiver scoring a touchdown last week when wideouts found the end zone three times. Starting a streak of consecutive games with a touchdown is the next step. Look for Nico Collins to make another big play or two this week.
Score Prediction: Michigan 41 SMU 13