Two teams very much in contention for one of the two AAC Championship berths meet when Memphis hosts SMU. No team got a bigger break with the AAC schedule than SMU, and this should be the Mustangs’ most challenging game.
Both teams are bowl-eligible, but each is looking for much more.
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How To Watch The SMU-Memphis Game
SMU at Memphis, Saturday. Noon (ET)
Records: SMU (8-2, 6-0 AAC); Memphis (8-2, 5-1)
SMU-Memphis Betting Odds
SMU: -7.5 (-110)
SMU vs. Memphis Over/Under: 67.5
SMU: Rhett Lashley (15-8)
Memphis: Ryan Silverfield (29-17)
SMU-Memphis Last Meeting
Last meeting: Nov. 26, 2022, SMU won 34-31 at home.
Brandon Crossley preserved the win by intercepting a Seth Henigan pass in the back of the end zone with two seconds left.
Henigan completed 27 of 44 passes for 287 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Rashee Rice, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, was the offensive star for SMU with 13 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown.
With two games to play, there are four AAC teams in contention for the two conference title berths, and Memphis and SMU are two of those teams. Realistically, this is a mini-playoff game to get into the championship. The other teams in contention, Tulane and UTSA, are like SMU, 6-0 in AAC play.
SMU vs. Memphis Preview
The Mustangs have won six in a row, all against AAC competition. SMU’s two losses have been on the road against Big 12 teams, Oklahoma and TCU.
SMU leads the AAC in both scoring offense (40.5 points per game) and scoring defense (16.4 points per game allowed). The Mustangs rank seventh nationally in scoring offense and are tied for ninth in scoring defense.
Preston Stone has completed 58.6% of his passes for 2,589 yards, 23 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Miami transfer Jaylan Knighton has rushed for 640 yards and five touchdowns. SMU has a balanced receiving unit, with 10 players having recorded 16 or more receptions. R.J. Maryland has 25 catches for 355 yards and a team-high six receiving touchdowns. Linebacker Kobe Wilson, a Temple transfer, leads the Mustangs with 53 tackles.
SMU is coming off a 45-21 home win over North Texas as Knighton rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown.
The Tigers are second in the AAC in scoring offense, averaging 39.7 points per game. Where they differ from SMU is on defense. Memphis is eighth in the AAC in scoring defense, allowing 28.9 points per game. Since losing 31-21 at home to Tulane, Memphis has won four in a row. But in those games, the Tigers allowed an average of 37.7 points per contest. None of those four teams have a winning record, so the recent defensive performance of Memphis is a concern.
Henigan has completed 66.3% of his passes for 2,834 yards, 22 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Blake Watson has rushed for 909 yards and 12 touchdowns. Roc Taylor has 50 receptions for 779 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker Chandler Martin is tied for second in the AAC with 78 tackles.
Last week, Memphis needed a fourth-quarter comeback to win 44-38 in overtime against a 3-7 Charlotte team. Trailing by 10 points with less than eight minutes left in regulation, the Tigers got an 8-yard touchdown run by Watson and a 41-yard field goal by Tanner Gillis to tie the score with 35 seconds left. Watson’s 2-yard touchdown run in overtime was the game-winner after Charlotte missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.
SMU vs. Memphis Pick
I’m predicting SMU will win and cover the spread at -7.5.
The Mustangs have been steamrolling by opponents, while Memphis has struggled to beat sub .500 teams. The fact that SMU has a much better defense will be key.
That is not to say that Memphis isn’t capable of covering or winning outright, but the difference could be the ground game. SMU is third in the AAC in rushing, averaging 188.5 yards per game. Memphis is 11th in the conference in rushing defense, allowing 174 yards per game. The Tigers are allowing 4.8 yards per carry, third worst in the AAC.
SMU can use the run to set up the pass, and the Mustangs are capable of scoring big, which they should be able to do against Memphis.