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The SMU Mustangs face off against the Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday, December 21 in the Boca Raton Bowl. This will be a "home" game for the Owls, as the game is being played at FAU Stadium. This will be just the fourth bowl game in FAU's history and just the second since 2008. The Owls are 3-0 in previous bowl appearances. SMU has a much more extensive bowl history, going 7-8-1 in their 16 previous bowl appearances. Kickoff is slated for 3:30.
Mustangs look for first bowl victory since 2012The SMU Mustangs are back! It has taken SMU football 32 years to truly recover from the harshest penalty ever handed down to a football team by the NCAA. As the 1985 season began, SMU was riding high. This small, private college in Dallas, Texas had just completed its fourth straight 10-win season and was ranked third in the AP preseason poll. Then came the first sanctions against the team: a three-year bowl ban for recruiting violations. Two years later, SMU football was no more--at least for two seasons. The NCAA imposed the death penalty on SMU, cancelling the entire 1987 season for the Mustangs when it came out that they were paying players. SMU did not field a team in 1988 either, as they tried to find enough players to play.
Fast forward 30 years and SMU is in the midst of just their fifth winning season since the program resumed operation in 1989. This is just their sixth 10-win season in the 102 seasons of SMU football. The Mustangs began the season by winning their first eight games before losing a shootout to Memphis 54-48. Two weeks later, they lost to Navy, 35-28. As a result of these losses, the Mustangs finished third in the AAC Western Division behind Memphis and Navy. After a 48-21 victory over South Florida in week five, SMU entered the AP top 25 for the first time since 1986, and remained there for eight weeks, reaching a high of 15th before losing to Memphis.
Junior quarterback Shane Buechele has had a phenomenal season for the Mustangs. He has thrown for 3,626 yards, which is eighth-most in the country, and 33 touchdowns, sixth-most. He has had three games in which he has thrown for more than 400 yards. He has completed 63.2% of his passes, while throwing just nine interceptions. The running game has been led by senior Xavier Jones, who has rushed for 1,249 yards and 21 touchdowns, which is tied for second-most in the NCAA. The receiving corp has been led by senior James Proche. He is second in college football with 102 receptions and tied for third in touchdown receptions with 14. He has had an increased workload as of late since junior Reggie Roberson, Jr went down with a foot injury on October 24. Roberson had over 800 yards receiving in just eight games. The Mustangs are averaging 43.2 points per game, fifth-most in the country, and are giving up 31.8 points per game.
Owls look to continue momentum in Boca Raton BowlThe FAU Owls are riding a six-game winning streak after defeating UAB, 49-6, in the Conference USA Championship Game. It was FAU's second C-USA Championship in the last three seasons. After losing its first two games to ranked opponents, Ohio State and UCF, the Owls have won 10 of their last 11 games. with nine of their wins by double digits. FAU will be playing their bowl game without their head coach. Lane Kiffin, who was 26-13 in his three seasons at the helm, stepped down on December 7 after accepting the head coaching position at Ole Miss. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will serve as interim coach against SMU. Besides their losses in their first two games, the Owls' only other loss came at the hands of conference foe Marshall, 36-31, on October 18.
“Coach Kiffin deserves our thanks and a great deal of credit for continuing to build our football program to high levels of success," FAU athletic director Brian White said after the game on ESPN.com.
Sophomore quarterback Chris Robison threw for 3,396 yards, which ranks 11th in the country. He threw 26 touchdown passes and threw just six interceptions. Robison has completed 60.8% of his passes. Freshman Malcolm Davidson is ninth in the NCAA with a 7.0 yards per carry average. He has rushed for 711 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Senior Harrison Bryant has caught 65 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior cornerback Meiko Dotson leads the country with nine interceptions for the Owls, who have the best turnover margin in college football. FAU averages 2.5 takeaways per game and has a +1.6 turnover margin per game.
The following supporting trends found on oddsshark.com are:
- The Owls are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games overall
- The Owls are 7-1 ATS in their last eight Saturday games
- The Mustangs are 2-4-1 ATS in their last seven games overall
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The FAU Owls come into the game winners of 10 of their last 11 games, while SMU has lost two of their last four. This is a rare home bowl game for the Owls. SMU's only two losses of the season have been on the road. SMU wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr. has missed the last four games and will also miss the bowl game. Both teams can put up some points, but the difference will be the FAU defense. The Owls have the 35th ranked scoring defense and the most takeaways in the country, which I believe will limit SMU's high-powered offense. FAU should be able to pass the ball effectively against the Mustangs. The Owls pass offense is ranked 35th, while SMU's pass defense is ranked 118th (out of 130). Both run offenses and run defenses are about middle of the pack, so expect a decent run game from both teams.
Prediction: FAU +3.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Both teams have high-scoring offenses, but the defenses will show up in this one. FAU is giving up just 23.6 points per game and SMU is scoring 32.7 points per game on the road this season, well below their season average of 43.2. SMU has given up an average of 31.8 points per game, but that number is inflated by two games (they gave up 54 to Memphis and 51 to East Carolina). They have played much better defensively in their last couple of games. FAU is being coached by their defensive coordinator, so their defensive philosophy will continue in the bowl game. Look for FAU to get some turnovers in this game, which will cut down on SMU's point total.
Prediction: Under 72