Tonight’s match-up between the SMU and Houston is about so much more than a win or loss on the field.
This game is another battle in the ongoing war for the state of Texas within the American Athletic Conference.
Much more than just the teams on the field, this game is about cities, coaches, recruits and more. It’s Dallas vs. Houston and Chad Morris vs. Tom Herman, fighting for Lone Star supremacy. In all likelihood, the result will be a deciding factor for many high school players weighing scholarship offers from both schools.
It’s a chance for each program to make a statement, cultivate an identity and begin building a brand it can use to distinguish itself from the other.
“This is the battle for the great state of Texas in this conference,” Herman said during his weekly press conference. “For us this is a really, really, really big game because we run into these guys in just about everything that we do from recruiting to exposure to media market to you name it. We want to make sure we have bragging rights for the entire year in the great state of Texas.”
Obviously, both coaches are aware of the competition for the eyes and ears of those in the state with so many programs competing within such a concentrated area.
“We’re not going to take a backseat to anybody in this state,” Morris said during his weekly press conference. “I’ve said that since I got here and that’s not going to change.”
And, considering some of the motivational tactics going on in Houston this week, I’d say there is certainly something more than a regular rivalry budding between these two.
— Joseph Duarte (@Joseph_Duarte) October 5, 2015
Houston and SMU really aren’t that dissimilar aside from their current records. Both have a first-time, energetic and charismatic head coach, and both heavily rely on an explosive offense led by a dual-threat play-maker at quarterback.
Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. is averaging over 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards per game (264.5 and 118, respectively), and is the only player in the country accomplishing that right now. His 382.5 total yards per game currently ranks fifth in the nation. It appears it didn’t take long for Herman to maximize his quarterback’s talents as he’s making an early case for AAC offensive player of the year, even if he insists Ward Jr. is just “barely scratching the surface.”
On the flip side, the SMU offense has drastically turned it around from last season. The Mustangs are averaging 20 more points and nearly 160 more yards per game this year. A large part of that is due to the success Matt Davis has enjoyed, as he’s currently 19th in the FBS in total yards per game, averaging 312.4. The Ponies still have a lot of room to grow being as young as they are, but it already looks like Morris has this team heading in the right direction after a truly abysmal 2014.
In all likelihood, this game is going to come down to which team makes more critical defensive stops or is able to force the most turnovers. Both schools have forced 11 turnovers this season, but the difference between the two is the Cougars have only given the ball away three times while the Ponies have coughed it up on seven occasions.
This should be a fun one to watch, and although we aren’t talking Urban Meyer vs. Jim Harbaugh here, this looks to be a coaching rivalry on the rise between Herman and Morris, which gives us all the more reason to tune in.