"Welcome to the Hilltop Sonny Dykes, here's your schedule. Just ignore September."
That's how we assume the powers that be at SMU introduced Dykes to his 2018 slate. The Mustangs four-game stretch to start the season is brutal and for a new coach hoping to make an impression, less than ideal. Let's sort through it.
September 1 at North Texas
The Hippogriff Trophy is contested again, this time in New Denton. Last season the Mean Green hung around for a quarter and a half before SMU announced its presence with authority. This year the Mustangs head North, a spot that's been difficult for the Mustangs the past few years. North Texas has won two of the last three in Denton. The Mean Green are as good as they've been in years with Mason Fine and virtually all of their skill talent back, plus they'll circle this game, again, as a chance to climb on equal footing with their neighbors to the south.
September 7 TCU
SMU turns around on a short week and welcomes TCU. The Frogs are rebuilding with a new quarterback and four new offensive linemen, but some fashion the Frogs as a top 15 team. The Frogs ran away from SMU in 2017. The Mustangs haven't won the Iron Skillet since 2011. A win by TCU will set the mark for the longest win streak by the Frogs in the series' history.
September 15 at Michigan
After not leaving the Metroplex, SMU heads to Ann Arbor and the Fighting Harbaugh's. Most see this as the year Michigan breaks through and with a couple of viable options at quarterback, the Wolverines will be tough to deal with. They'll also face a Don Brown defense, perhaps the best in the business right now bringing pressure.
September 22 Navy
SMU hasn't beaten Navy since 1998. The Midshipmen are a different animal than they were even two years ago, they've lacked a playmaker at quarterback and have come back to the pack among the Service Academies. But preparing for the flex-bone is still difficult to simulate and defend against.
That's a tough four-game stretch, let alone for a team that's replacing two receivers and a defensive lineman taken in the NFL draft. If SMU can finish 2-2, they should celebrate the accomplishment. More likely SMU opens 1-3 before their brief respite against Houston Baptist. If SMU starts 0-4, whoa, that's a lot of ground to make up in the tough AAC.