Temple at SMU: Five things to watch
The Mustangs have a high-powered offense, but their pass defense has struggled.
For the second week in a row, Temple will face an undefeated, nationally ranked team.
The Owls, No. 25 in the USA Today coaches poll, will visit No. 19 (in both the AP and coaches’ polls) Southern Methodist on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game. SMU and Ohio State are the only Football Bowl Subdivision teams that are 6-0 with each win coming over FBS teams.
Last week, the Owls beat then-No. 23 Memphis, 30-28. SMU had a bye last week after a 43-37, triple-overtime victory over Tulsa.
Here are five things to watch Saturday:
The high-powered SMU offense
The Mustangs are averaging 44.2 points, which ranks sixth nationally. Junior Shane Buechele, a graduate transfer from Texas, has completed 67% of his passes for 1,665 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Senior receiver James Proche, a 6-foot, 193-pound senior, leads the AAC with 45 receptions, good for 529 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior Reggie Roberson has 34 receptions for 545 yards and three scores.
Then there is the running game, led by senior Xavier Jones, who has rushed for 646 yards (5.7 avg.) and 12 touchdowns. As much as the passing game is impressive, the Mustangs have rushed for 22 scores.
SMU has outscored teams in each quarter, but the biggest disparity is in the first quarter, in which the Mustangs own a 69-20 advantage. Temple is no slow poke in getting started, having outscored teams by 48-9 in opening periods. Something will have to give.
One other note: Temple is also a good closer, having outscored teams by 43-23 in the fourth quarter.
Kick away from CJ?
CJ Sanders, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, has been a force on kickoff returns for SMU. Sanders (5-9, 183) is the FBS active leader in combined kick-return yards (2,797) and is tied for combined return touchdowns (five) and kickoff returns (110).
At Notre Dame, he returned three kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns. This season, he has 16 kickoff returns for 433 yards (27.1 avg) and one TD and is averaging 7.3 yards on three punt returns (with Proche averaging 7.9 yards on nine returns). Last year was his first season at SMU, but he played only four games because of injury and earned a redshirt.
Temple in the air
While the Owls like to control the ball on the ground, it will be tempting to pass more. SMU is 99th nationally in pass defense, allowing 261 yards per game. SMU has surrendered 18 touchdown passes. (Temple, on the other hand, has allowed just five touchdown passes.)
So the Owls might be looking to pass more than usual. Anthony Russo has thrown 13 touchdown passes, and backup Todd Centeio, who will likely play at least one series per half, has thrown another.
Temple’s strong offensive line
Temple’s offensive line has allowed only 27 quarterback pressures, second to Notre Dame among FBS teams with at least 200 pass attempts. Temple quarterbacks have been sacked just seven times.
The line consists of redshirt junior center Matt Hennessy (6-4, 295), graduate student Jovahn Fair (6-2, 315) and redshirt junior Vincent Picozzi (6-4, 305) at the guard spots, and two sophomore tackles: Isaac Moore (6-7, 305) and Adam Klein (6-5, 295).
In last week’s win over Memphis, Fair came out in the third quarter because of injury and was replaced by redshirt junior Leon Pinto (6-2, 290). Coach Rod Carey says he hopes Fair can go this week and if not, it would be a big loss since he has started 36 games and was a second-team all-AAC selection last year and has played well this season.
Temple at SMU
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas
TV/radio: ESPN2/97.5 The Fanatic.
Records: Temple, 5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference; SMU, 6-0, 2-0.
Coaches: Temple, Rod Carey (5-1, overall, 57-31); SMU, Sonny Dykes (11-8, overall, 52-53).
Series: Temple leads, 2-1-2.