Dallas' Southern Methodist University is a very interesting addition to our conference as they probably have the most historical prestige of any program in the AAC. Their rich history includes 11 Conference titles, 3 National Championships and NFL notables Doak Walker, Lamar Hunt, Craig James, and Eric Dickerson. Current Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders is also a former Mustang. Once a big time player on the national scene coming out of the Southwest Conference, they've been in the process of a serious rebuild after receiving the harshest penalty ever levied by the NCAA: The death penalty.
In 1987, after a lengthy investigation and one too many instances of suspicious behavior while already on probation, the NCAA came down on the SMU with the Hammer of Thor. They were to cease football operations for the 1987 season, and ended up having to shut it down for 1988 as well. Interestingly enough, UConn was actually the second team SMU played in their first year back from the ban. Their ragtag team of misfits clawed out a come-from behind victory against us that has become part of SMU football lore… and we must avenge it!
Flash forward to the present: after nearly 20 years of abysmal football, SMU now has the look of a promising program that will continue to make strides under head coach June Jones. The Mustangs come into this year having made 4 straight bowl appearances, going 3-1 including a win over Pittsburgh in the 2012 BBVA Compass Bowl.
How they've fared
SMU finished last season with a blowout win against Fresno State in the Hawai’i Bowl to end the season 7-6. The Mustangs went 5-3 in the C-USA last year, good for second in the Western Division, losing to UCF, Rice and Tulane. They hosted Texas A&M and #14 TCU, and despite losing both games this young team definitely benefited from having tested themselves against some very tough out of conference competition.
How they look
I’ve seen a pretty wide range of predictions on where SMU will finish in the conference from fourth to eighth, with more of them towards the back end. Their offense led by QB Garrett Gilbert has been inconsistent, but Gilbert returns and the Mustangs have a new offensive coordinator Hal Mumme who will run a fast paced aerial attack. Mumme promises to bring the best out of the talent he has at hand as he had done at many of his previous stops. They’ll need to see that offensive improvement to win a majority of their games this year because they're going to have to win a lot of shootouts.
The defense is losing a lot of starters from last year. For a defensive unit that wasn't too great last year it’s not promising that people seem to believe this years D will be worse. They do have Deion Sanders Jr. and his Versace sheets… but unlike his father he plays (just) WR.
What will happen
We’ll be playing SMU at Gerald J. Ford (different from former U.S. president Gerald R. Ford) Stadium in Dallas on November 16th. As has been the theme with teams coming in from C-USA, their strength is on the offensive side of the ball and in this instance they appear to be quite weak defensively. I think we win this one on the strength of McCombs and Whitmer being able to make enough plays against a vulnerable defense while our defense is able to successfully slow them down.
Regular Season Prediction: 6-6 (4-4)