Southern Methodist at Michigan

The Sports Xchange

September 12, 2018 at 5:13 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
TV: Big Ten Network
SERIES: Michigan leads 1-0, winning 27-16 in 1963
RANKINGS: Michigan No. 19

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mustangs

–RB Braeden West is one 15 active players to have at least 1,000 all-purpose yards in each of the last two seasons. In this season’s opener against North Texas, his 71-yard TD catch was the longest by an SMU running back since a 57-yard reception by Derron Brown in 2003. Against No. 16 TCU, West had a 51-yard touchdown run, giving him his second 50-plus yard touchdown of the season. “It’s not surprising,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “He practices really well, takes a lot of pride in what he does and how he does it. He’s a really good athlete, really good football player.”

–QB Ben Hicks is second in SMU career passing yards (6,862) and is fourth in total offense at 6,802 yards. He sits seventh among FBS active leaders in career passing TDs (54) and 10th for career passing yards. He has completed only 30 of 62 passes this season, though.

–S Patrick Nelson, a graduate transfer from Illinois, leads the SMU defense after his first two games with 19 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Wolverines

–WR Nico Collins, who had a 44-yard touchdown catch against Western Michigan, is averaging 27.5 yards per reception. The 6-foot-4 sophomore had only three receptions for 27 yards last season.

–LB Khaleke Hudson, who led Michigan with 18.5 tackles for loss last season, had six tackles and blocked a punt against Western Michigan. It was the junior’s third blocked punt of his career, getting his hands on a pair as a freshman in 2016.

–DB Ambry Thomas has recorded statistics on offense, defense and special teams. The sophomore caught a 5-yard pass against Western Michigan, has made a tackle in both games and is averaging 37.8 yards on four kickoff returns including a 99-yard touchdown against Notre Dame.

–P Will Hart is averaging 50.2 yards on six punts this season. That would rank second in FBS if he averaged the 3.6 punts per game needed for national rankings.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

After the first two weeks of the season, there seems to be two camps surrounding the Michigan football team.

One camp is thrilled with how the team looked last Saturday, when the 19th-ranked Wolverines (1-1) dominated all phases in a 49-3 rout of Western Michigan.

The other camp is still stinging over a subpar performance in a season-opening loss at Notre Dame. That camp insists that it won’t be convinced things are different from last year’s 8-5 season unless the Wolverines fare better against quality competition.

Those in the latter camp certainly won’t have their questions answered this Saturday, since Michigan once again is heavily favored over SMU (0-2). Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. at Michigan Stadium.

“There was a feeling that everyone wanted to get rid of,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said after the win over Western Michigan. “We took nothing for granted, worked really hard all week, and that’s where we want to be as a football team. One week at a time.”

After rushing for 132 yards on 47 carries (2.8 yards per carry) versus Notre Dame, the Wolverines ran for 308 yards on 35 attempts (8.8 yards per carry) against WMU and saw senior running back Karan Higdon rush for over 100 yards in the first quarter.

Quarterback Shea Patterson threw three touchdown passes in his home debut and has completed 32 of 47 passes to start the season.

The much-hyped Michigan defense also returned to form, limiting Western Michigan to just 208 yards of total offense after yielding three first-half touchdowns at Notre Dame.

“We really played good,” Harbaugh said. “Really played with their wits about them.”

Next up for Michigan is an SMU club that is off to a rough start.

The Mustangs surrendered 529 yards of offense in a 46-23 loss to North Texas in their season opener before falling 42-12 to TCU last Friday.

This is the first full year on the job for SMU head coach Sonny Dykes, who came over from California during the offseason and inherited a returning starting quarterback in Ben Hicks.

However, Hicks has completed less than 50 percent of his passes (30 of 62) in the first two games.

“It just takes some time for those guys to get on the same page,” Dykes said following the loss to TCU. “We lost two of our top receivers. We didn’t get a lot of separation. We’ll look at the tape and see what the issue was. We’ve got to be able to throw it and catch it better than we did.”

If there was a silver lining in the TCU game for the Mustangs, it’s that they were only down two points at halftime before getting dominated in the second half.

Dykes praised the effort of his defense, and feels that unit has shown some promise early in the season.

“I think we are doing some good things defensively,” Dykes said. “We are really playing hard over there and have some depth. I think we are playing hard enough to have a chance to turn into a good defensive football team.”

This will be the second ever meeting between Michigan and SMU. The only other meeting came in 1963, which Michigan won 27-16 in Ann Arbor.

This marks the final nonconference tune-up of the season for Michigan before Big Ten play begins.

The Wolverines will host Nebraska on Sept. 22 before playing at Northwestern and hosting Maryland on Oct. 6.

After that, Michigan will enter the stretch of the season that will likely determine how far it goes in 2018, with games against Wisconsin, at Michigan State and against Penn State.

For SMU, this will be the second-to-last nonconference game of the season.

The Mustangs will host Navy on Sept. 22 before playing one last nonconference game on Sept. 29 against Houston Baptist.

 

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