Up until last week, the SMU Mustangs had the look of a team worthy of consideration for a spot in the New Year's Six bowl lineup. Those plans were put on hold in a loss on their home field, so SMU (5-1, 2-1 AAC) needs a rebound. They will remain home this week for a Friday night AAC showdown with the Navy Midshipmen. Navy (3-3, 3-1) is aiming to correct its course and find a way to climb above .500 with a big win in conference play.
Navy at SMU
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: SMU -12.5
When Navy Has the Ball
The 2020 season has been a forgettable one for the Navy offense. The signature triple-option offense has struggled to find a rhythm and the rushing production is far below the standard Navy has established over the years. Against Houston last week, Navy rushed for 166 yards as a team, with Nelson Smith leading the team with 51 yards and quarterback Dalen Morris adding 46 yards and a touchdown. Morris was effective throwing the football for 206 yards and two touchdowns in the 37-21 setback. It is still weird seeing Navy pass for more yards than they rush for. SMU is coming off a game in which it allowed 42 points to Cincinnati, including runs of 32, 91, and 35 yards. If Navy can find those same cracks, the Midshipmen should thrive.
When SMU Has the Ball
In their first loss of the season, SMU rushed for just 75 yards as a team against the Bearcats. Cincinnati’s defense may be the best in the AAC though, and Navy's defense has been overpowered at times this season. But this will be an opportunity for SMU quarterback Shane Buechele to bounce back in a big way. Despite passing for 216 yards last week, Buechele completed just 23 of 44 attempts, and he gained 13 yards on 11 rushing attempts. SMU's entire offense should have a better showing, although Navy's ability to work the clock could still limit the total offensive production SMU compiles. So it will be essential to be productive with their possessions.
SMU has been the far more consistent team this awkward season, but blew a flat tire last week against Cincinnati. The Mustangs should get back on track this week with far more offensive talent at their disposal. Navy continues to be too up and down. So hop in the saddle with Sonny Dykes and his program this week. SMU’s about to find a way to redeem themselves and stay in the AAC title hunt.
Prediction: SMU 34, Navy 20
Podcast: Week 9 Preview and Predictions
(Shane Buechele photo by Vladimir Cherry/SMU)