Every week the Mustangs are given a task that will put them closer to national football relevance again.
Last season they went to a bowl game for the first time since 1984, they have already defeated their first BCS conference opponent since 2000, they have their best start since 1986 and last week they fell just short of winning their first non-conference road game since 1998.
SMU will face another game on the path of a different “first since” moment. When the Mustangs (4-3) face off against Houston (3-3), it will be to take the top spot in Conference USA West.
With a win SMU would be the only undefeated team left in its division; if Houston wins, it will have a loss against Rice but wins against UTEP and SMU in the division. That will put SMU in a position to win its first conference title since 1984.
Saturday’s homecoming game is the biggest hurdle the Mustangs will face in their quest to win the West and play in the C-USA championship game. They will get another test against UTEP on Nov. 6, but if they lose to Houston that game will not matter.
SMU quarterback Kyle Padron has completed over 66 percent of his passes in each of the last two games and has only completed fewer than 50 percent one time this season. In the loss against Navy Padron threw for 254 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. But it was the interception that killed a final drive with the game tied.
Zach Line continues to get the ball and contribute to SMU’s rushing game. Against Navy he ran the ball 15 times for 83 yards, bringing his season total to 635 rushing yards. But he has not scored a touchdown since the game against Rice.
The Cougars are coming off a 34-31 loss to Rice. David Piland got the start at quarterback and completed 23 of 45 passes for 282 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Piland, a freshman from Southlake, has started the past two games for the Cougars.
Terrence Broadway played when both Case Keenum and Cotton Turner were injured against UTEP and got the first start after that against Tulane. Broadway didn’t start the next week against Mississippi State but threw two passes for a touchdown. He didn’t see the field against Rice.
Houston is coming off back-to-back losses. The last time they lost two games in a row was the C-USA Championship and the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl last season.
SMU’s offense got out to a strong start against Navy last week but then stalled midway through the game. If they want to get a win on homecoming, they will have to keep the pressure on the Houston defense to stop them and to stop the Houston offense to keep scoring.
The Mustangs are eight-point favorites to win, but the game will be tough. SMU has not beaten Houston since 2005 and is an overall 9-15-1 against the Cougars. Another thing both teams will have to deal with is the weather. Right now there is a 60 percent chance of rain by game time, and it is supposed to start raining any time beginning Friday night.
The homecoming parade starts at 11 a.m. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. at Ford Stadium.