It’s time to get used to the idea that 2019 SMU is different. Long known for dynamic passing offense, the Ponies are the most complete SMU team since guys like Dickerson, James, and McIlhenny were running around the Hilltop. This team can run the ball to extinguish a game or change pace; they have two of the most dynamic receivers in college football, and, shocker, their defense is salty, fast, and physical. Shane Buechele is a top fifteen passer in the FBS and a grownup running the offense.
The leering press is taking note; the AP ranked SMU in its top 25 for the first time since the Reagan administration. The win in Fort Worth wasn’t a fluke. SMU dismantled a decent North Texas team. Last week, in a game that would typically give the Ponies a heart attack against a down USF, SMU demonstrated the ability to obliterate a team.
SMU checks a lot of boxes, now the challenge is to get its fanbase, and the casual metroplex fan, to Ford Stadium. SMU’s been talented before. The 2017 Ponies featured Courtland Sutton, Trey Quinn, Justin Lawler, and Kyrian Mitchell. That team went to a bowl game and averaged just over 19,000 at the Ford. This season, through two home dates and bolstered by a home opener game against neighbor, if not rival North Texas, the Mustangs are just beyond that at 20,118.
In SMU’s heyday, when the cash flowed like beer, the Mustangs would draw 50,000 plus to Texas Stadium, selling the joint out against teams like Texas or Arkansas. The Ponies helped usher in modern college football thanks to Doak Walker and the Cotton Bowl. After ever so brief revivals, the Mustangs fought for two decades to outrun the death penalty and a changing college football landscape.
And now, here we are. An exciting, complete team playing exciting football. A program making every effort to reach out to the Dallas community, whether through reading at elementary schools, billboards, or specialty uniforms. A team that should challenge for a conference title, and if form holds, who knows, a New Year’s Six Bowl. And if form holds, they’ll do it in front of a third filled stadium.
I’m not sure what else SMU can do.
The Mustangs returns home for the first time since knocking off Power 5 rival TCU, swatting USF, and earning a top 25 ranking. We’ll see if the fanbase and community respond on Saturday by arriving at Ford Stadium. The football program has arrived in a big way.