Oct 6, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights defensive lineman Trysten Hill (top left) dives over the pile for a touchdown during the second half against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Spectrum Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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SMU looking to rebound against red-hot UCF

Once seemingly headed for a showdown with undefeated Cincinnati for the top spot in the American Athletic Conference, SMU finds itself struggling to regain its mojo as it hosts UCF on Saturday in Dallas.

With losses to Houston and Memphis the past two weeks, the Mustangs (7-2, 3-2 AAC) remain mathematically in the race for the league’s championship game but will need breaks to get there, with Cincinnati and the Cougars undefeated in conference play.

The Bearcats would have to lose two of their last three league games remaining, including against SMU on Nov. 20, for the Mustangs to sneak into the title game. The Cougars need to win only one of their last two AAC games to clinch a spot.

The Mustangs’ late collapse comes amid reports and speculation about the future of coach Sonny Dykes, who has been tied to the recent openings at Texas Tech (since filled) and later TCU. Dykes emphatically rejects the notion that “stuff” has had any effect on the Mustangs’ play.

In a report in the Dallas Morning News, Dykes said he didn’t know where these rumors originated but discounted their impact.

“I don’t care about that stuff,” he said in the report. “I promise you there’s not one person in the locker room that’s thought one second about any of that, or it affected anybody’s performance, or my performance or anybody else’s. To insinuate that, I think that’s reflective of who insinuates that. You know what I’m saying? Not what we’re doing.”

UCF goes to Dallas sitting alone at third in the conference. The Knights (6-3, 4-2) have won their last three outings after losing three of four following the injury that sidelined starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel.

True freshman Mikey Keene has started the last six games. He is 34 of 46 for 558 yards and seven touchdowns against only one interception in his last two games, both wins (49-7 over Temple, 14-10 over Tulane).

Knights coach Gus Malzahn says Keene is playing with the knowledge that he is a starter, not just a replacement.

“You can see his leadership growing each week, his confidence growing each week,” Malzahn said. “I’d like to think the game is slowing down a little bit for him.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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