DALLAS (AP) — SMU has only one win over a ranked team the past seven years. That is a game Houston certainly remembers.
The No. 17 Cougars (7-1, 4-0 American) are ranked again just in time for their trip north to Dallas to play SMU (3-5, 2-2) on Saturday night.
"We're all on the same page because we haven't won anything. These are just rankings," second-year Houston coach Major Applewhite said. "These are the entertainment dollars right now; these aren't real. This is what people want to get involved with, talk about, like and retweet, but it doesn't matter."
High-scoring Houston, which has won five in a row, is instead focused on trying to get another step closer to claiming a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
With quarterback D'Eriq King accounting for 39 touchdowns (28 passing, 11 rushing), the Cougars have scored more than 40 points in all eight games this season — a school record and the nation's longest active streak. They shot into the Top 25 after a 21-point win at previously undefeated USF last week.
This is the first time the Cougars have been in the Top 25 under Applewhite. They went to SMU two years ago when Tom Herman was still their coach, and a 38-16 loss dropped them all of the way out of the AP poll from 11th. They got ranked once more that season, only to lose again.
SMU has lost 18 of its last 19 games against ranked teams. The Mustangs have lost all six since that win over Houston two years ago by an average margin of three touchdowns.
Since an 0-3 start in coach Sonny Dykes' first season, the Mustangs have won three of five. The losses in that span were to still-undefeated UCF and last week at home to Cincinnati, which forced overtime with a last-second field goal and then won on an interception returned for a touchdown.
Cougars star defensive tackle Ed Oliver missed last week's game with a bruised right knee, and it was unclear if the 6-foot-3, 292-pound anticipated high NFL draft pick would play against SMU.
"It's up to Ed and the doctors," Applewhite said. "We prep these guys, and trust our doctors and the young man to tell us how he feels. We work our plans around it."
Hicks has thrown only four interceptions this season. All four of them have been returned for touchdowns, including Cincinnati's game-winner. After Bearcats safety James Wiggins' pick-six last week, Dykes had a different response than he did earlier this season when Hicks was replaced by true freshman William Brown.
"Every situation is different," Dykes said. "In overtime, trying to convert on third down, you're more inclined to throw the ball into a tight window."
MAJOR AND HICKS
After initially committing to Houston and planning to enroll there in January 2015, Hicks switched to SMU. Applewhite became Houston's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach that same month, and tried to get Hicks to Houston.
"I had about two days to recruit him and keep him here, but he had already had SMU sheets and everything," Applewhite said this week. "I love the way he plays. He is a tough guy, quarterback, competitor, can make a lot of throws, and he has given us fits before."
Hicks threw three TDs and ran for another in that win over Houston two years ago.
SMU has only 142 yards rushing the past three games and dropped to 123rd out of 129 FBS teams with its 98.6 yards rushing per game. "When half your offense isn't very productive, you've got to figure out a way to fix it. We've been trying, and we'll continue to try," Dykes said. ... Houston is the worst among FBS teams, allowing 325 yards passing per game. ... King has at least two passing touchdowns and one rushing score in every game this season.