American Championship Expert Pick and Prediction – December 2, 2023
AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – DECEMBER 2, 2023 – Finally, we have the matchup the American Athletic Conference couldn’t give us all season: SMU and Tulane. And thanks to the way the schedule worked out, there’s a high probability the winner’s going to the Peach Bowl as the Group of 5 representative to the New Year’s Six games.
But this looks like a case where the public bias is coming into play, because Tulane really shouldn’t be favored in this game. The Green Wave have been surviving each week, while the Mustangs have been blasting the same teams, yet Tulane is the favored team. That’s because of its ranking and because of past history, as the Green Wave claimed the Cotton Bowl last year by beating USC and have gone 11-1 this season.
However, ACC-bound SMU sits in prime position to steal the bid to the New Year’s Six. The Mustangs’ situation is more precarious because they’ve lost twice, but the defeats were Oklahoma and TCU, neither a bad loss. Of their past eight games, only Rice and Memphis have kept things within three touchdowns.
In short, this is going to be the hardest game Tulane has seen since losing to Mississippi in Week 2. Are the Wave up for the challenge?
(10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS)
(11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 2nd at 4 p.m. EST
Where: Yulman Stadium, New Orleans
Public Bets: 63% on SMU
Public Money: 75% on SMU
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of November 29th, 2023
SMU vs. Tulane In-Season Trends
If you’ve expected points when Tulane’s playing, you’ve been sorely disappointed. The Wave have played to the under 10 times in 12 games this season, only exceeding it against Rice and South Alabama. Most nights, the Tulane defense more than does the job, as it has held four straight opponents to 22 points or less.
There is one concern with backing SMU in this game: The Mustangs have not covered as a road underdog this season. SMU has only been a road dog twice, and it came against TCU and Oklahoma. Against the American, though, SMU has gone 2-2 ATS away from home while going a perfect 4-0 SU. Whether the Mustangs have learned from the early year issues will tell a lot of this story.
Preston Stone has really come into his own as a signal caller. The SMU sophomore doesn’t throw it a lot, but when he does, he’s effective. Over his past seven games, he’s thrown for 17 touchdowns against a mere one interception. Stone will only throw it about 20 times a game, as SMU looks more to not beat itself with its offense.
Tulane seems to be in better shape because of Michael Pratt, but the Green Wave seem to be struggling as his season has continued. Pratt completed just nine passes last time out against Texas-San Antonio, and he has been held under 200 yards in two of his past four starts.
But with Makhi Hughes having a fantastic year, Tulane is likely to rid him and let Pratt play his way out of the swamp. However, that could be problematic here: these are the two best run defenses in the American.
With humidity and a thunderstorm coming for New Orleans, this is not a great day for football. It’s likely to be a fairly gross, low-scoring game, which should help SMU’s cause.
The wrong team appears favored here. Yes, Tulane has the better record and has dominated the American for two years. But SMU’s powerful showings the past few weeks have suggested this team really wants to go out of the American with a league title.
The Mustangs have been waiting since getting the death penalty in 1987 to claim a conference championship. They now have that chance, and they look the superior team.