Coming off the disappointing 42-12 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs, the SMU Mustangs must now travel to Ann Arbor, MI for the first time since 1963 to face a Michigan Wolverines team that is looking to continue its feast on the “Little Sisters of the Poor” after a comfortably defeating the Western Michigan Broncos 49-3.
The Mustangs are a 36-point underdog to the No. 19 Wolverines, and it will take a herculean effort to pull off the second greatest upset in the Big House — the first will ALWAYS be the Appalachian State’s win in 2007. But for the Mustangs to have a shot, they must do the following:
Ben Hicks must have a career day
Senior quarterback Ben Hicks is off to a slow start in 2018 — completing less than 50% of his passes for 363 yards — and everything begins and starts offensively with him. Hicks has to be able to recognize how Michigan’s talented defense will be attacking and take advantage of its over-aggressiveness. Hicks isn’t a running quarterback, but he has shown the ability to escape the pocket when needed. In addition to using his feet to avoid the pressure, the senior quarterback must utilize Braeden West by implementing screens and draws into the offense. In 2017 West only averaged 1.5 receptions but this season he already has five catches for 104 yards — to stay competitive with the Wolverines he may need to finish the game with at least eight catches.
The defense must pick its poison
Even though the Wolverines are still trying to figure things out offensively, they are still talented enough to impose its will on an SMU defense that some will say is significantly smaller. Because of that, defensive coordinator, Kevin Kane must decide which is the better approach; slow down the Michigan rushing attack by stacking the box and testing the inconsistent passing attack, or play a soft zone and hope you can keep the Michigan receivers and backs in front of his defenders and hope they can make the plays when called upon.
Head coach Sonny Dykes must pull out all the stops
Fake punts, wildcat formations, double-reverses… any and every trick play in Sonny Dykes playbook needs to be under consideration. The Mustangs will need to keep the Wolverines off-balance early and often to stay with the more-talented Wolverines. The Mustangs still have the conference season to look forward to, but this game is essential for a coaching staff that has yet to show anything in two games so far. The chances of winning the game are next to slim, but the SMU fans making the trip from Dallas will be looking progress from the team as it gets ready for conference play next week against Navy.
The tone of the game will be set within the first offensive drives for each team. If the SMU defense can force an empty possession for the Wolverines and the offense can generate any points, it may give the team the confidence it needs to make the game competitive.
Unfortunately, that won’t happen, and the Mustangs will be exposed on both sides of the ball early. The game will be out of hand by the end of the first quarter, which will allow the younger SMU players to experience playing in the Big House.
Michigan 63 SMU 17