SMU vs Tulane Pick, Updated Odds | 2023 AAC Championship Betting Preview
Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Miller of the SMU Mustangs.
It's time to look at the updated odds for SMU vs. Tulane, along with our pick in our 2023 AAC Championship betting preview.
SMU vs Tulane Updated Odds
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The American Athletic Conference has represented the Group of Five in six consecutive New Year's Six bowls and is in an excellent position to do so again, with 11-1 Tulane taking on 10-2 SMU.
Tulane is the favorite to defend its title, as Willie Fritz’s squad is 23-3 in the past two years. The Green Wave went 8-0 in conference play and have a chance to be the first Group of 5 team to win back-to-back New Year’s Six games.
Unfortunately, this game lost a little luster after SMU starting quarterback Preston Stone broke his leg in a blowout win over Navy. SMU is clearly downgraded without Stone, but don’t count out the Mustangs.
SMU will turn to redshirt freshman Kevin Jennings in its biggest game of the season.
A three-star recruit from Dallas, Jennings has attempted just 46 passes in two seasons but has completed 76% of them. He's thrown four touchdowns with no interceptions.
He also has arguably the best receiver room in the Group of Five at his disposal, as five SMU receivers average at least 30 yards per game.
Depth is the key for SMU, as the Mustangs are also loaded at running back.
Returning sophomore Camar Wheaton is joined in the backfield by Miami transfer Jaylan Knighton and Texas A&M transfer LJ Johnson Jr. The Mustangs average 180 yards per game on the ground and have 27 rushing scores on the year.
Rhett Lashlee deserves a ton of credit for how he utilized the transfer portal to immediately flip this defense into a great unit. After fielding a horrific defense last year, the Mustangs rank fourth in the country in Defensive Success Rate.
They rank top-10 in Success Rate allowed against both the run and the pass. They are elite at creating Havoc, putting pressure on the quarterback and have a fantastic secondary.
It all goes back to the work they did in the transfer portal.
Edge rusher Elijah Roberts transferred in from Miami and has 11 sacks and leads the AAC with 55 pressures. Their two leading tacklers, Kobe Wilson and Ahmad Walker, came in from Temple and Liberty, respectively, and SMU’s three best defensive backs were at West Virginia, Stanford and Fresno State last year.
One of the best quarterbacks in the Group of Five, Michael Pratt has been excellent for the Green Wave over the past two seasons. He has tossed 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions and is also the team’s second-leading rusher.
Pratt leads a Tulane offense that ranks 12th in Success Rate. However, he'll be without leading receiver Lawrence Keys III, who is injured. Also, Jha’Quan Jackson has missed the past three games and is questionable for Saturday.
Chris Brazzell has stepped up big without his running mates and will need another big game this weekend.
Running back Makhi Hughes will also need to carry the load. He averages 103.8 rushing yards per game and has scored seven times. Hughes has talent, but Tulane ranks just 113th in Rush Success Rate.
Defensively, Tulane was expected to drop off after losing a lot of talent from last year’s team. However, it plugged enough holes to field a solid defense. The Green Wave rank top-50 in Success Rate and are especially strong up front.
Tulane’s front seven is its strength, ranking top-25 in creating Havoc and putting pressure on the quarterback.
The Green Wave do have issues in the secondary, though, sitting 94th at defending the pass. Tulane doesn't allow big plays, but teams can pick it apart underneath.
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how SMU and Tulane match up statistically:
SMU Offense vs. Tulane Defense
Tulane Offense vs. SMU Defense
Pace of Play / Other
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It's such a bummer that Stone isn't playing in this game.
Coming into the season, I was very high on SMU and bet it to win the conference based on the offense's incredible upside. Before the season, it would have sounded crazy to say this, but I believe SMU's defense can help it win this game.
Jennings can't replace Stone, but he'll have enough weapons to take advantage of a vulnerable Green Wave secondary.
Opponents have completed 66% of their passes against Tulane, the worst in the AAC this season. Jennings just needs to get the ball to his talented playmakers, and the Mustangs should be able to move the ball.
Tulane is undefeated in conference play but hasn't looked right all season, going just 3-5 against the spread and squeaking by Rice, East Carolina and Tulsa.
Of course, Pratt is an excellent quarterback, and there's always a chance he puts the team on his back and wins this by himself.
However, SMU has the better defense and enough offensive weapons to overcome Stone's absence. I’ll back the Mustangs over a field goal here, and I think there's a good chance they pull off the upset.