Memphis vs. SMU Betting Preview: Mustangs Could Surprise on Friday

Zachary Cohen
Sports Illustrated

Memphis (-8.5) at SMU

Fri. 11/16, 9:00 p.m. ET

Three things you need to know before betting on Memphis-SMU:

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1. Memphis has won and covered in four straight games against SMU, but this Tigers team is the worst the program has had in years. When looking into the numbers, you’ll find that SMU actually has a real chance when the two teams meet on Friday. Memphis is 4-10 against the spread when facing teams that average 31 or more points per game since the start of the 2016 season, while the Mustangs are an impressive 6-3 ATS against teams that are completing 62% of their passes or better in that span. And when shrinking the sample to just this season, SMU is also a solid 3-1 against the spread against teams averaging 31 or more points per game. The Mustangs are simply covering in games against high-scoring teams, which means Sonny Dykes’s team knows how to hold its own in a shootout.

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2. For the fourth straight season, Memphis has a top-15 FBS scoring offense. That’s bad news for an SMU team that is allowing more points per game than only 15 other FBS teams (36.8). But the Mustangs are rolling offensively as of late. Over the past two weeks, SMU is averaging 53.5 points per game to earn wins over Houston and Connecticut. And while one of those wins was astronomically more impressive than the other—you guess which was which—the Mustangs are going to be confident when they hit the field on Friday. One area where Dykes knows he’ll be able to exploit Memphis is in the ground game. In SMU’s win over UConn, the Mustangs rushed for 315 yards with six touchdowns. And while UConn has the nation’s worst rushing defense by a wide margin, the Tigers still haven’t been good at stopping the run. Memphis is a bottom-half FBS rushing defense, and the team is going to have trouble with the creative designs that come out of Dykes’s Air Raid offense. Look for SMU to have success running here.

3. If the Mustangs are able to get the ground game going, then Ben Hicks should also be in for a big game for SMU. Hicks has had an up-and-down year for the Mustangs, but he came up huge against Houston two weeks ago. In what was SMU’s biggest game of the season, Hicks threw for 318 yards with four touchdowns and no picks to help the Mustangs pull off a massive upset. That performance had to do wonders for his confidence, as he knows he has what it takes to compete at a high level. Hicks wasn’t really needed in the win over UConn due to how well the team ran the ball, but he still followed up the Houston game with 276 passing yards and no interceptions. He has not thrown more than one pick in a single game this season, and that sturdiness in the pocket will keep the Mustangs close against Memphis. Overall, this passing game can be expected to have a big game against the Tigers. This offense is clicking as a whole unit right now, and an outright win seems like a real possibility on the Hilltop.

Pick: SMU (+8.5)

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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