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No. 19 SMU, Tulsa To Face Off In High Stakes AAC Contest

No. 19 SMU, Tulsa To Face Off In High Stakes AAC Contest

Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery wont downplay what Saturdays game against No. 19 SMU could do for his team.

Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery wont downplay what Saturdays game against No. 19 SMU could do for his team.

With a win, the Golden Hurricane (3-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) would be positioned to make a run at a berth in the conference championship game and likely would crack the AP Top 25.

I think it puts us in the drivers seat, Montgomery said. We definitely control where were headed and where were going. Another Top 25-type win opens a lot of different doors for you.

SMU (7-1, 4-1) cant afford to stumble, with Tulsa and Cincinnati entering the weekend unbeaten in league play.

Tulsas only loss this season was a close one against now No. 14 Oklahoma State. The Golden Hurricane got on the nations radar when they beat then-No. 11 Central Florida last month to end the Knights 21-game home win streak.

What stands out to me is that they play really hard and they play really tough, SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. The word that comes up to me when you see them play is gritty.

Gritty might not be enough on Saturday. SMU quarterback Shane Buechele leads the nation with 2.581 yards passing, and hes ninth in yards passing per game.

Shane is playing lights out, Montgomery said. Hes kind of the catalyst to it all. I mean his play — hes calm in the pocket. He uses his feet. He gets out of the pocket and makes plays that way, hes pushing the ball down the field. One of the best deep throwers that Ive seen in a really long time in terms of placement, accuracy, all of those things.

DYNAMIC COLLINS

Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins has been named AAC Defensive Player of the Week twice, and hes only played four games. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound junior had 10 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss, two pass breakups against Central Florida and had an interception return for a touchdown and a forced fumble against South Florida.

You look at their linebacker play — 23 I think is probably as good a linebacker as there is in college football, Dykes said. Theres just nobody thats his size and that strength who runs that well, has that kind of instincts and is that productive.

CRAZY SERIES

The teams have split their past four matchups and each has won an overtime game. Neither has won by more than six points during that stretch. Last year, SMU won 43-37 in three overtimes.

Its just been that game, Montgomery said. Its been one of those that it always stands out to you, one that we always look forward to. You know its going to be physical. You know its going to be exciting. It seems to never let you down in that sense.

RUNNING SMOOTHLY

SMU freshman running back Ulysses Bentley IV is one of the nations most productive running backs. He ranks fifth nationally with 774 yards rushing and is tied for fifth nationally with 10 rushing touchdowns.

Hes so explosive, Montgomery said. You may have the hole actually covered up, and then all of a sudden he reverses field and bounces something outside and hes making a big play.

SPREADING THE WEALTH

Four SMU players have at least 25 catches. Rashee Rice has 39 catches for 580 yards and five touchdowns. Tyler Page has 32 grabs for 383 yards and two scores. Tight end Kylen Granson has 30 catches for 485 yards and three touchdowns and Danny Gray has 25 catches for 355 yards and four scores.

QUIRKY SCHEDULE

This is just the second home game of the season for Tulsa. The first came on Oct. 30 against East Carolina The Oklahoma State game was pushed back a week because Tulsa was short-handed. The Golden Hurricane were supposed to play Arkansas State on Sept. 26, but the Red Wolves couldnt put a two-deep lineup together. Navys cases caused last Saturdays scheduled game to be postponed.

The game against Cincinnati has been moved twice — once for Cincinnatis cases and once for television. The Arkansas State and Navy games have not been rescheduled.

The games that weve been able to play weve done a decent job in those, Montgomery said. Just havent played enough of them. Trying to figure out exactly where our team is.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.


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