Nov. 27, 2013
SMU Mustangs (5-5, 4-2 American)
at Houston Cougars (7-4, 4-3 American)
Friday, November 29, 2013 - 11 a.m. CT
Reliant Stadium (71,000)
ESPN2/SMU Radio Network
Setting The Scene
SMU looks to become bowl-eligible for a fifth-straight season as the Mustangs travel to Space City to take on Houston in an 11 a.m. CT American Athletic Conference game at Reliant Stadium.
SMU QB Garrett Gilbert left the USF game with a knee sprain and is questionable for the UH game. Over his last five games prior to the injury, Gilbert averaged 459 yards of total offense and 420 passing yards, with 17 TDs and only one interception, and was named American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week three times. Despite the hit to his season averages due to missing half of last week's game, Gilbert still leads the AAC and ranks third in the nation in total offense and completions per game and ranks fourth nationally in passing yards.
If Gilbert misses the game, SMU would be led by Neal Burcham, a redshirt freshman, who saw his first extended action last week at USF. Burcham had not played extensively in almost two seasons, having torn his ACL as a high school senior and redshirting in 2012. Prior to his senior season, Burcham shared MVP honors at the ESPN Elite 11 Showcase with current Florida State redshirt frosh Jameis Winston.
Mustang receivers Jeremy Johnson and Darius Joseph are first and fourth in catches per game nationally at 10 and 8.8 grabs per game respectively, and all four starting Mustang receivers have at least two 100-yard games in 2013 - Johnson (6), Keenan Holman (4), Joseph (3) and Der'rikk Thompson (2).
SMU LB Randall Joyner leads the Mustangs with 83 stops on the year despite missing two games with an injury. He ranks second in The American and 11th nationally with 10.4 tackles per game and leads the league and ranks 10th in the nation in forced fumbles.
After finishing 2012 with a +9 turnover margin (10th in the nation), SMU has struggled with turnovers in 2013 and is -5 on the year (96th nationally). The Mustangs have fared better of late, rating +5 over the last three games.
SMU WR Jeremy Johnson leads the FBS in catches per game with a 10-grab average and enters the UH game having already set a school record with 100 catches this season, breaking Emmanuel Sanders' mark of 98 in 2009.
About The Cougars
After opening the season 7-1, Houston has dropped three straight to the top three teams in The American - UCF, Louisville & Cincinnati. The Cougars have been very tough in 2013, as the team's four losses have been by a combined 20 points. UH has also been extremely opportunistic, leading the nation with a turnover margin of +23 and forcing 36 takeaways. Trevon Stewart leads the way, accounting for 10 turnovers - the most of any FBS player this season.
Houston has won nine of the last 11 meetings between the two schools, giving them a 17-10-1 series edge. SMU won last year's meeting in Dallas, 72-42, after forcing nine UH turnovers.
June Jones is in his sixth season at the SMU helm. His SMU record is 36-39 and his career mark is now 112-80. Jones led SMU to back-to-back Conference USA Western Division Co-Championships in 2009 and 2010, and has led the Mustangs to four straight bowl berths. Jones went 76-41 in nine seasons at Hawaii, leading the Warriors to the Allstate Sugar Bowl following the 2007 season. Prior to heading to Hawaii, Jones had a 12-year coaching career in the NFL, including head coaching stops at Atlanta and San Diego.
Tony Levine is in his second full season as a head coach and sports a record of 13-11.
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