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The SMU Mustangs, fresh off their first loss of the year, host the East Carolina Pirates Saturday in an American Athletic Conference matchup. SMU's prolific offense couldn't compensate for a poor defensive outing that resulted in a 54-48 barn burner loss at Memphis. ECU, meanwhile, nearly pulled off a shocking upset against Cincinnati but ultimately fell 46-43. Defense will come at a premium Saturday if those scores are any indication.
SMU is led by junior quarterback Shane Buechele, who is fifth in the country with 2,781 passing yards. Buechele has topped 450 yards passing twice in the last three games. ECU sophomore quarterback Holton Ahlers is putting together an impressive season in his own right with 2,207 passing yards. This game could come down to which defense can make the most stops. Both teams average over 30 points allowed per game.
East Carolina looks to break losing spellThe East Carolina Pirates nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the American Athletic Conference season last weekend. Instead, ECU dropped a 46-43 heartbreak to Cincinnati after being outscored 18-3 in the fourth quarter. The Pirates get another chance this Saturday to pull off a big upset but in order to do so need a better performance from their defense. Despite tallying 638 total yards of offense, the Pirates couldn't get the Bearcats off the field when it mattered.
ECU's 43 points were nearly double their season scoring average (23.9/g). Quarterback Holton Ahlers threw for four touchdowns against the Bearcats to give him 11 on the season. He's also thrown for eight interceptions. The Pirates have had trouble running the football. They average 148.9 yards per game led by freshman Demetrius Mauney. Mauney was held to 22 yards on 18 carries against Cincinnati.
ECU has just one win over an FBS team this year, when it defeated Old Dominion on the road 24-21 in late September. Since then, the Pirates have lost four in a row including three by double digits. Although the close loss to Cincinnati was a step in the right direction, don't expect the Pirates to come out firing on the road.
Mustangs hope to get back on trackThe SMU Mustangs hung in for four quarters with Memphis last Saturday but ultimately couldn't come up with enough stops defensively. Both offenses tallied over 500 total yards, but it was Memphis that broke loose with a couple of big-play touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The SMU defense, which ranks ninth in the AAC in points allowed, must do a better job containing ECU this week.
Offense shouldn't be much of a problem for the Mustangs, who average 43.6 points per game. Quarterback Shane Buechele is putting up ridiculous numbers. His top receiving target, senior James Proche, has 10 touchdown receptions. SMU's leading rusher, Xavier Jones, was held to 22 yards on 11 carries against Memphis. The next top back, Ke'Mon Freeman, scored two rushing touchdowns, though.
The Mustangs allow 30.7 points per game, and if they give up around that number Saturday they could be in some trouble. One area where the defense has done well is stopping the run. SMU ranks second in the conference by giving up 122.4 rushing yards per game. Senior linebacker Richard McBryde leads the team with 65 tackles.
- Mustangs are 5-1 ATS in their last six games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- Mustangs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games following a straight up loss.
- Mustangs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.
The supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Pirates are 4-1 ATS in their last five games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
East Carolina and SMU are both coming off high scoring losses from last week. The Pirates came close to upsetting Cincinnati in a 46-43 loss. ECU did lose 45-20 to South Florida the prior week. SMU fell to Memphis 54-48 over the weekend to end its perfect season. The Pirates are my pick here because they run a highly efficient offense that should be able to put up plenty of points on SMU's defense, which ranks second to last in the American Athletic Conference in points allowed. The Mustangs have won two of their last three games by six points or fewer.
Prediction: East Carolina +21
Full-Game Total Pick
Despite both teams getting caught up in barn burners last week, I don't expect a particularly high points total Saturday. ECU's totals had gone under 71 points every week leading up to the Cincinnati loss. Seven of SMU's nine games have gone under 71. The bookies got really excited with this one after looking at the scores from last weekend, but don't buy that this has to be a back-and-forth affair.
Prediction: Under 71