Pony Express makes stop in Memphis

Week 10 of the college football season is pretty bland as far as the slate of games is concerned, but a couple of Top 25 American teams square off in the “City of Blues”. Photo courtesy by Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News.

It’s been 30 years since SMU went down in college football lore as the first and only team to ever receive the “Death Penalty”. The “Pony Express” of the late 70’s and early 80’s was a force to be reckoned with. Names like Dickerson and James come to mind, but what you really think about when you hear SMU is the “Death Penalty”. SMU was caught in a scandal in the 80’s for paying players and the NCAA decided to do something they had never done, or would ever do again, and that was to shut down a program completely.

The Mustangs were not allowed to play football for two whole seasons in 1987 and 1988. No one had imagined what the consequences of the “Death Penalty” would be. No one could foresee the damage that would be caused to the SMU program. The Mustangs were allowed to play again starting in 1989. Since then, SMU has only had a handful of seasons where they finished .500 or better. June Jones was able to turn around the program when he got to Dallas in 2008. In only his second year, in 2009, he was able to lead the Mustangs to the program’s first bowl win since the 1984 Aloha Bowl. Since then, the program really started to be competitive.

Now, here in 2019, the “Pony Express” is back and they are blowing through their competition like they used to before 1987. The undefeated Mustangs will get to show the nation just how good they are when they travel to Memphis in a prime-time showdown of Top 25 American Conference teams.

They’ll will be taking on a Memphis team that is also having a 2019 season to remember. The Tigers have had little struggle this year, outside of the loss to Temple and a close win last win over Tulsa. Both teams are extremely talented on offense and can put up a bunch of yards and a bunch of points. Former Texas QB Shane Buechele gets all of the attention on the SMU side, however, Brady White for Memphis can also sling the ball. Defensively, these are probably two of the best in the American Conference. Great offenses vs great defenses. What more could you ask for in a football game?

The other marquee game on Saturday takes place down in Jacksonville, FL. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Georgia vs. Florida. Gators vs. Bulldogs. A battle for SEC East supremacy. Florida has been surprisingly good this season with QB Kyle Trask behind center. The Gator offense has actually gotten better with him in the lineup. Florida’s defense is also nothing to laugh at. On the flip side, Georgia has had problems of late on offense, at least playing consistently on offense. Jake Fromm hasn’t been spectacular. I have no doubt that he will be locked in for Florida, but my fear is that his offensive line won’t be able to keep him upright. This will be an interesting battle to watch to see who can control the line of scrimmage. The team that can do that, on both sides of the ball, will win.

Outside of these two games, there aren’t really any other games that really catch the eye. I’m sure there will be some good games once they are underway, but just looking down the slate of games, there aren’t any games that look appealing right off the bat. Some games, that just might be good, include #9 Utah traveling to Seattle to take on Washington. Also, there is a very important match-up in the ACC Coastal between Virginia and North Carolina.

There are some very important games at the FCS level in the Southern Conference. Teams like Samford and The Citadel find themselves heading into tricky road games against teams that really don’t have anything to lose at this point. The Citadel will get tested by a good defense when they face ETSU, the problem for the Bucs is their offense and whether or not they can score enough to knock off The Citadel. Their defense might just have to force a couple of turnovers or make something happen on special teams in order to win.

Same can be applied to Samford when the head down to Macon to take on Mercer. The Bulldogs are in a situation where a loss completely destroys any hope at a conference championship or playoff bid. For Mercer, at this point they really don’t have anything to lose and could very well be playing for their head coach, Bobby Lamb, who just might be on the hot seat. All of the pressure is on Samford coming into this game, so it will be interesting to see how they are able to handle it on Saturday.

The biggest game in the SoCon takes place in Chattanooga between the Mocs and the Paladins. Chattanooga is coming off a close, heart-breaking loss against Wofford last week, so I’m interested to see how they respond. Do they play a let down or play inspired? For Furman, the offense has been slow the past couple of weeks. The Paladins were thoroughly dominated at home by The Citadel two weeks ago and then found themselves in an uncomfortably close game with Western Carolina last week. If Darren Grainger and the offense can get it back into rhythm, I don’t think the Paladins should have any problems on Saturday. Furman’s defense is good enough to shut down the Mocs offense, but they will need help from the offense to relieve some of the pressure. This just feels like a must win game for both teams, where a second conference loss really hurts any chances at a SoCon championship or playoff bid.

Not the greatest weekend just looking at the schedule, but I have no doubt that this will still be a fantastic weekend of football with some really good games. This week, instead of doing a full blow pick ’em section like I normally do, I will just quickly give you my picks for some of the games this weekend. You can listen to SoCon John’s and My picks and thoughts on the games in our Week 10 Preview show, now on our podcast page and on Soundcloud.com.

North Carolina – 31, Virginia – 20

TCU – 35, Oklahoma State – 31

SMU – 49, Memphis – 45

Florida – 28, Georgia – 17

The Citadel – 20, ETSU – 10

Furman – 35, Chattanooga – 21

Upstate SC High School

The playoffs are just around the corner as the regular season begins to wind down. Most of the high schools around the Palmetto State will be playing their 10th and final regular season contest tonight. My Devildogs take on their hated rival Berea, on the road in Berea. Travelers Rest had a couple of tough losses against Eastside and Greenville earlier this season, but sitting at 7-2 look to get their 8th win and gain some momentum going into the postseason. For Berea, at 1-8, 2019 has been a year to forget, but a win over rival Travelers Rest would definitely end the year on a beautiful note. I don’t think that happens and TR gets a big win over Berea. WE are TR!

Other good games around the Upstate to keep an eye on tonight:

Southside Christian (8-1) @ Landrum (4-5)

Daniel (8-0) @ Belton-Honea Path (6-2)

Eastside (8-1) @ Greenville (7-2)

Pendleton (6-3) @ Seneca (4-5)

Woodmont (6-3) @ T.L. Hanna (6-2)

Wren (7-2) @ Walhalla (7-2)

Palmetto (4-5) @ Pickens (2-7)

Mauldin (5-4) @ Hillcrest (4-5)

NFL

San Francisco survived a scare last night just barely squeaking out a win on the road against Arizona. The 49ers continue to roll and keep their unblemished record intact.

The Carolina Panthers, who were totally destroyed by San Francisco last week, will look to get a bounce back win when the host Tennessee on Sunday. Kyle Allen has been good this season, but played a terrible game a week ago. He’s still a young quarterback, so it will be interesting to see how he will respond. The Panther’s defense also had a rough day against San Fran last week. They should be able to handle a Titans offense that has been wildly unimpressive this year.

The biggest match-ups in the league this week include a match-up between the Vikings and the Chiefs and then a fantastic game in Baltimore between the unbeaten Patriots and the Lamar Jackson led Ravens. Can Baltimore do something no team has been able to do so far in 2019 and knock off New England.

Looking forward to another great weekend of football. Let me know your thoughts on this weekends slate of games, whether it be college or NFL. Go check out our social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter).

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