EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - SMU tries to build off an upset victory over then-No. 17 Houston when it visits struggling Connecticut on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game. The Mustangs built a quick 17-point lead before outlasting the Cougars 45-31 last week behind four touchdown passes by junior quarterback Ben Hicks and must win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible for the second straight season after a four-year hiatus.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN3. LINE: SMU -19.5
"I think the bar has been set for our guys from a performance standpoint and I think we know what we're capable of,'' SMU coach Sonny Dykes told reporters. "I'm excited to see how they respond from here." The Mustangs, who trail Houston by one game in the AAC West Division, go from facing one of the top scoring offenses in the country in Houston (47.7 points per game) to one of the worst. The Huskies, who have lost six straight and have already wrapped up their eighth straight losing season, are 120th among the 129 FBS teams nationally with an average of 20.9 points. “If we don’t change the culture, if we don’t change work habits, the attitude, the commitment to preparation, we’ll have no chance to win,” UConn coach Randy Edsall told reporters. “I want to win every darn game we play, but the wins and losses aren’t going to matter unless we get everything right.”
ABOUT SMU (4-5, 3-2 AAC)
Hicks, who was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week, has 15 touchdown passes against four interceptions this season while completing 55.4 percent of his attempts. Junior wide receiver James Proche (64 receptions, ACC-most nine TDs) is second in the AAC and 16th nationally in all-purpose yards with 133.3 per game. Junior running back Ke'Mon Freeman broke out for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries last week after gaining 48 yards total in four games during a shoulder injury-plagued 2018.
ABOUT UCONN (1-8, 0-5)
Senior quarterback David Pindell paces the Huskies in rushing with 934 yards and eight touchdowns but completes only 58.8 percent of his passes with 11 TD throws and eight interceptions. Sophomore running back Kevin Mensah has rushed for 269 of his 676 yards and three of his five TDs this season in the last three games. Sophomore defensive back Tyler Coyle has a team-high 81 tackles -- good for third in the AAC -- while sophomore linebacker Darrian Beavers boast a club-most four interceptions.
1. Mustangs senior LB Kyran Mitchell won AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording two sacks among his seven tackles and two fumble recoveries against Houston.
2. The Huskies have lost 11 straight games to FBS teams with their only victory this season over FCS Rhode Island 56-49.
3. SMU leads the series 4-0, including three by an average of 15 points since the teams helped form the AAC in 2013 after last season's 49-28 victory featured four touchdown passes by Hicks.
PREDICTION: SMU 42, UConn 27
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