SMU Mustangs vs. East Carolina Pirates
NCAAF Betting Pick: SMU +7 points (November 12th 2016)
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Less than a month ago, Chad Morris’s Mustangs were in a world of hurt. Starting QB Matt Davis was knocked out for the year, and the offense couldn’t get going under his replacement, redshirt frosh Ben Hicks. Meanwhile, their defense got lit up in back-2-back ugly losses against TCU and Temple & could’t stop Tulsa in an OT loss.
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But the Tulsa game marked a turning point for the coach who designed Clemson’s offense and was one of the hottest coaching commodities out there when he took this job prior to the 2015 season. SMU hung 40 in that game, and Hicks was a big reason why. He followed that up with a strong showing in a shockingly easy upset over Houston the following week. Then, on the road at Tulane, Hicks (a Top 50 QB prospect coming out of high school — the guy Morris wanted for this job) enjoyed his first 300 yard passing effort as a collegiate quarterback as he rallied the Mustangs from behind on the road in a real flat spot at Tulane.
Hicks is playing much, much better than he was a month ago. RB Braedon West is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. WR ‘s Courtland Southerland and James Proche will be two of the top playmakers on the field here. And the much maligned SMU defense has improved as well; particularly against the pass, sealing the game at Tulane with a game ending interception just one week after shutting down Houston’s Greg Ward.
But with all of that mid-season momentum, the Mustangs took a big step back last week, blown out at home by Memphis. Head coach Chad Morris: “This was the worst we’ve played this year. It’s disappointing as a coach that we gave that performance. We didn’t play well in all phases.”
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Morris basically read his team the riot act after the game, making it very clear that he would not tolerate ‘quitting’. QB Hicks concurred: “We just didn’t have the same edge that we had the last couple of weeks. We didn’t have a good practice, the focus wasn’t very good, and I think it carried over. I just don’t think we understand how to win. I think we felt like we’d arrived. Winning two games and then coming out and laying a goose egg like that is embarrassing.”
Expect SMU’s ‘A’ game here, and that’s bad news for an East Carolina team that has been a real moneyburner, with only one SU win and cover since Week 2. They lost on this field by 18 as favorites against Tulsa, and I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if Scott Frost’s squad comes up on the short end of the scoreboard again here. Take SMU.