SMU 2019 Season Preview

It’s SMU week, and our preview of the Mustangs rolls out like this, today we’ll look at their quarterback situation. Tomorrow, scroll down, and we’ll delve into SMU’s skill players. Wednesday we hit the big uglies and Thursday we switch to the defense and the front seven. Friday let’s look at the Pony secondary, and Saturday we’ll cover specialists and our predictions for the 2019 campaign.

Offense

Sonny Dykes first year in Dallas was up and down offensively, but in the end, in the words of the late Dennis Green the Mustangs “were who we thought they were.” Dykes’ offense threw the ball around the field at a high level, but that running game, oh boy. SMU brought in Guz Malzahn disciple Rhett Lashlee to ensure the running game was up to snuff, it wasn’t.

Team Rush Yards / Gm (Nat'l Rank) Pass Yards / Gm Passer Rating Pts / Gm Avg FP
SMU 119.75 (120) 263.83 (29) 126.85 (90) 30.42 (53) 34.5 (18)

The Mustangs finished 120th in the FBS in rushing yards, but countered that by finishing in the top 30 in passing yardage, welcome to the Air Raid. SMU tried to run the football, keeping it on the ground 46% of the time, they just weren’t any good at it. Three times the Mustangs ran the ball for less than a yard per carry. That’s an amazing stat, it’s hard to do, but SMU did it three times. As we’ll see, rushing ineptitude is more of a line issue and might see some correction.

Plays per game under Sonny Dykes.

Interestingly, the Dykes/Lashlee offense was slower than in years past, both in total plays per game and plays per minute. When Dykes’ offense is humming he’s churning out nearly 90 plays a game, playing fast, getting the ball out and into one on one’s in space. I’m interested to see if this number ticks up significantly in 2019.

The other area that is ripe for improvement is the quarterback position, where SMU finished 90th in passer rating, so while the Ponies threw for yards, they weren’t very efficient doing so. Part of the pace improvement comes from a higher percentage of completed passes to prime the engine and get into an offensive rhythm.

SMU averaged 30 points per game, in part thanks to special teams that set them up with the 18th best in starting field position in the FBS.

Quarterback

Oh Ben Hicks, you are a riddle wrapped in an enigma. The leading passer in SMU history and yet every year Mustang fans hoped someone would rise up the depth chart to take your job. After transferring and following the great used car salesman to Arkansas, SMU supporters get the chance to see life without Hicks.

Shane Buechele texassports.com

Enter Texas transfer Shane Buechele, once anointed as the next “one” in Austin, to run the SMU offense. Buechele was the prized recruit of Charlie Strong, most thought destined to bring Texas back to the salad days, then Sam Ehlinger came in as the next big thing. For his part, Buechele handled the demotion as well you’d hope, Tom Herman raved about his leadership and preparation.

When we talk about the inefficiency that SMU suffered the past few years, Buechele can help erase some of those issues. He’s more accurate than Hicks, with better control on intermediate routes. Hicks was potent when it came to challenging defenses downfield, whether Buechele can pick that up is a question. Hicks threw what seemed like an inordinate number of pick-sixes if Buechele can eliminate a portion of that trait from the offense, that inefficiency gap closes further.

Dykes’ offense, or at least the pure air raid derivative, is quarterback friendly. Buechele played in a similarly QB friendly system under Sterling Gilbert at Texas in 2016. Buechele is a verified gym rat, so the learning curve won’t be steep for the Arlington Lamar grad.

Backing up Buechele is true sophomore, William Brown. I like Brown a lot. The ball whips out of his arm, and he’s a plus athlete. He completed 62% of his throw and hit on seven touchdowns compared to one interception.

William Brown smumustangs.com

He’ll benefit from having Buechele in the quarterback room as well and, if Buechele stays healthy, a year of seasoning. That said, Brown has a high ceiling. Austin Upshaw returns after his redshirt freshman year. He completed two of his three passes last year. Derek Green, son of NFL QB Trent and Brenham product Jacob Oehrlein redshirted in 2018.

Dykes signed one prep quarterback in the 2019 recruiting cycle, Terrance Gipson from North Houston powerhouse Spring Westfield. A knee injury in the second game cut his senior season short, but he threw for 2,000-plus yards and ran for nearly 500 years with 25 total touchdowns in 2017.

Skill Players

The Mustang rushing attack fell off a cliff last season. Lack of continuity on the offensive line, a new system, and a slow start all contributed. Lashlee was supposed to infuse some of that Malzahn laced rushing prowess into the Mustangs, the first year’s experiment failed. The good news is SMU has a lot of skill talent back, plus an infusion of new receivers and backs might make SMU explosive if not balanced.

Xavier Jones smumustangs.com

Xavier Jones rushed for 1,000 yards two seasons ago, last year he rushed for a third that number and a yard and a half less per carry. Jones flashed productivity against Houston and UConn in back to back weeks last season, but those performances sat in a wash of non-productive outings. He also carried the ball 113 fewer times.

Do you like chicken and egg debates? Me neither, but the question for Jones is whether he was less productive because he was used less or was he used less because his production waned. Either way, Jones has been a productive back at this level, he’s strung together two good seasons, separated by an injury in 2016 and whatever 2018 was.

Ke’ Mon Freeman has always intrigued me with his combination of thumping power and quickness. He’s a talented one cut back, but if he starts moving east and west instead of downhill, those skills are negated. Thanks to injury his carries fell off as well, by nearly half.

Redshirt freshman TaMerik Williams ran for 1,814 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior at Angleton. He’s a bigger back at 205, and he’ll get into the rotation.

On the recruiting trail, SMU didn’t go far to find Southlake athlete T.J. McDaniel. McDaniel ran for 2,200 yards as a senior at Carroll with 34 touchdowns. He’s versatile, catching 22 passes. Ulysses Bentley comes in from C.E. King in Northeast Houston. Bentley chose SMU over Houston, and carpetbagging Syracuse, and played a little quarterback in King’s flexbone offense.

James Proche smumustangs.com

James Proche established himself as the best pass catcher in the AAC last season with 93 catches, eighteen more than the next highest receiver. He also added twelve touchdowns and a 12.6 yards per catch average. He did his best work against the best on SMU’s schedule, eleven catches vs. Michigan, twelve vs. UCF, another dozen against Memphis.

Proche returns along with Reggie Roberson. Roberson proved to be a home run hitter in the return game and a big play threat on offense, averaging 15.4 yards per catch. He added 52 receptions.

Name Team Pos TAR/G YDS/TAR TAR REC Catch Rate YDS TD
James Proche SMU WR 12.5 8 150 93 62% 1199 12
Reggie Roberson SMU WR 10.4 7.7 104 52 50% 802 6
Myron Gailliard SMU WR 3.9 4.4 31 18 58% 137 1
Tyler Page SMU WR 2.9 10.2 23 12 52% 234 2
Judah Bell SMU WR 2.7 5.9 16 8 50% 95 1
Xavier Jones SMU RB 1.6 5.9 16 10 63% 95 1
Ryan Becker SMU TE 1.6 11 11 9 82% 121 3
Ke'Mon Freeman SMU RB 1 6.9 8 7 88% 55 0
CJ Sanders SMU WR 1.8 5.6 7 5 71% 39 0
Ben Redding SMU TE 1.3 12.3 4 4 100% 49 1

Injuries cut into Notre Dame transfer C.J. Sanders’ 2018 season on the Hilltop, but he preserved a redshirt season. A productive Sanders could make this the most talented receiving group in the league. Myron Galliard and Tyler Page each added double-digit receptions. Judah Bell contributed nine catches in 2018. They’re nice rotation players but may find themselves deeper down the depth chart if some of the first-year receivers hit their projections.

Calvin Wiggins Jr. might be the best of that bunch. He’s a long strider at 6-3 from Byron Nelson catches the ball in traffic well and doesn’t seem averse to getting physical. Rashee Rice from North Richland Hills is in the mix as well. Dykes targeted length in this class of receivers; Rice checks in at 6-2. Rice is a dynamo with the ball in his hands.

Keontae Burns is a two-way player out of Pittsburgh, Texas; he’s 6-3 and another long strider. Burns is country strong, throwing his slender self around the field on defense. His frame will hold more weight, and he’ll be a player.

Any combination of those three could make an impact for SMU this season, and they go to show what Sonny can do when he recruits this state. Dykes beat out the likes of Baylor, TCU, Arkansas, Arizona, Cal, and Arizona State to land that haul.

At tight end Ryan Becker is the headliner returning. His nine catch season led SMU tight ends, three of his receptions went for touchdowns. Ben Redding added four as a true freshman. The Ponies brought in a grad transfer, Tommy McIntyre from Cornell, all 6-8 of him. He caught 20 passes for the Big Red last season. I’d assume Dykes’ imagination is running wild with what he could do with McIntyre near the goal line.

The player to watch however might be Rice transfer and former Westlake Chap Kylen Granson. Granson was the most talented receiver for the Owls in some time and left after his sophomore season. He caught 33 passes as a freshman, then 18 as a junior in one of the worst quarterback seasons in the 2017 FBS. He sat out last year, put on some weight and will play tight end, but he’s athletic enough to flex out into a slot or even an X or Z. Granson could do big things with Proche and Roberson occupying defensive resources.

Carson Welch is a walk-on, and we rarely mention first-year walk-ons, but dude threw for 5,156 yards and 56 touchdowns as a prep play at The Oakridge School. He could fling it. Welch also shocked me on film with his athleticism, jumping over guys, outrunning defensive backs, and then unleashing 40-yard dimes off his back foot. SMU lists him as a tight end, he’s 6-5 and listed at 200, he needs to hit the buffet and the weight room, but he’s got a high athletic baseline.

You can see what Dykes is doing, raising the athletic average of his roster. Get enough athletes on the field and find them space and you can win a lot of games or at least be fun to watch. The receiving corps is an interesting mix of production and projection. If Proche and Roberson continue on their paths and young, rangy athletes can augment and fill in; this offense will put up a ton of points a stretch defenses to their breaking point.

Offensive Line

SMU’s offensive line was beaten up then beaten down in 2019. The Mustangs cycled in seven different line combinations last season. The group allowed the fourth most sacks in the AAC (31) and third most tackles for loss (84). According to Bill Connelly’s adjusted line stats, the Ponies ranked 116th in worst in five of the six rushing statistics. Pass protection was better, the SMU offense relies on a lot of quick game, but against the better teams in the AAC, protection struggled (UCF - seven hurries and two sacks; Memphis - five sacks and two hurries; Cincy - four hurries and two sacks).

This offseason five SMU linemen entered the transfer portal, including converted defensive lineman Ken McLaurin, depth could be an issue. I think there’s combination on this roster that can give SMU a shot at improvement, but they’re an injury or two away from trouble. Let’s think of 2019 as a blank slate and see where we are.

This offseason Dykes brought in A.J. Ricker from Kansas to coach the Pony front. I think he’s a good hire; he’s worked with lines at Missouri when the Tigers won the SEC East. Most recently he spent time as an analyst on Tom Herman’s Houston staff in Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State program.

Hayden Howerton smumustangs.com

I like Hayden Howerton. The eighteen game starter from the birthplace of Texas prep offensive linemen, Katy, holds up well on the pass rush, drops his hips and hunkers down on inside rushers, and moves as well as any SMU lineman. Alan Ali is serviceable at guard, nothing jumps off the screen athletically, but he’s a thumper who’ll mix it up.

At right guard, Nick Dennis and Columbia transfer Charlie Flores will fight it out for starting preference. Dennis is better in the run game with a nice nasty streak. Flores made 23 starts for the Lions, sandwiched between two seasons cut short by injury.

Jalon Thomas was baptized in the grease last year, starting the last six a right tackle. He’s got some tools to work with, nice base and long arms come to mind. Faster rushers give him fits unless his movement improves, in particular, his hips, but he can counter with better control with his arms. I think he’ll be better in 2019 after a year with strength coach Kaz Kazadi.

Beau Morris played tackle as well; he’s a mammoth individual who moves like an Easter Island Statue. Maybe he can play guard, but the edge is a dangerous place for him. SMU returns Kadarius Smith, junior at tackle who will be in the mix. The Mustangs brought in Riverside Community College tackle Cobe Bryant to challenge for playing time. I like him on film, he’s a plus athlete, with decent, but a little choppy technique. The tackle opposite Thomas is going to be worth watching this fall.

Playing freshman on the offensive line is always risky, but SMU has some good ones who should at least provide depth. Danielson Ike is a giant at 6-7, 350 but he’s surprisingly light on his feet. According to 24/7, he’s the highest rated of a highly regarded 2019 SMU recruiting class. Tai Brooks from Allen is an interior mauler, he’s best in a phone booth. He will benefit from a year in SMU’s strength program.

The Mustangs are three-fifths of an offensive line with Howerton, Ali, and Dennis/Flores inside. The tackle positions are the issue, if Thomas develops and either Morris, Bryant, or Smith plug in at left tackle, SMU could have something, but those are some large ifs. This group doesn’t have to be 1995 Nebraska, but if they can become an average rushing unit, watch out, SMU’s skill talent is that good.

Defense

Kevin Kane proved to be an inspired hire for the Mustangs in 2018. SMU wasn’t the ’85 Bears, but they weren’t a rusty screen door either, baby steps. Kane’s inaugural season had ups and downs, but the defense ended up a net positive. While the Mustangs were a top 30 defense in tackles for loss and top 40 at creating turnovers, the Ponies allowed opposing quarterbacks to get a little too comfortable; the defense was 98th in opposing completion percentage and 81st in opposing passer rating.

But the most significant area of improvement needs to be third down where SMU allowed conversions 48% of the time. In their last three games, with a bowl bid on the line, that number rose to 57%. SMU allowed a 66% completion rate on the money down.

The Mustangs faced 77 plays per game, the ninth most in college football. With nine starters back, Kane should keep creeping this unit towards the middle of the FBS pack, an excellent progression considering the offense that Dykes prefers.

An Air Raid defensive coordinator is usually between a rock and a hard place. The offense is going to expose you to more plays and less rest, the offense can’t bleed clock to finish games (See the 2018 UConn game), and if you need to get a look at a more physical offense, your scout team isn’t built to do it.

Jay Bateman was widely lauded for his work at Army the past few seasons, but Army’s offense, when run effectively dictated the pace. The Black Knight defense saw the fewest possessions (9) and plays per game (51) in college football. He’s the new DC for Mack Brown’s “Hey We’re Getting the Band Back Together” remodel North Carolina and air it out Phil Longo is the OC. Longo ran the offense at Ole Miss last season, and by contrast, the rebel defense faced 13 possessions a game and 76 plays a game. That extra exposure makes a huge difference.

Dykes ain’t running the flexbone anytime soon, so Air Raid and Spread defensive coordinators must hang their hats on points per play/possession rather than points per game. Last season SMU ranked 100th in points per play and the 96th in points per possession. For a point of reference, Kane’s UNI defense in 2017 was top 30 in both and faced a comparable number of plays and possessions. Making this SMU defense, in the AAC into a top 30 unit is a bit much to hope for, but If Kane can get his defense to improve on third down and drop the points per play/possession rating into the 70s or, dare to dream, the 60s, watch out.

Front Seven

Kane runs a variable 4-2-5, so while we call it a front seven, it’s a front six unless the star backer moves into the box at which point…shit. Whatever. The defensive line, let’s talk about those guys.

Delontae Scott smumustangs.com

In the words of Beck, Delontae Scott is on his last farewell ride. The senior from Irving Nimitz has pro-size, good quicks, and developed strength. He’s All-AAC caliber if he can pressure the quarterback more consistently, but pressuring the quarterback is an underrated difficult proposition these days. The seven-step drop and play action with the QBs back turned to the defense are like leather helmets and salt tablets, artifacts of a bygone era.

Scott led the Mustang defensive line in tackles (32) finished third on the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and second in sacks (4.5). He’ll draw a lot of attention this from opposing offensive lines this season.

Like a lot of 4-2-5 coordinators, Kane plays a field and boundary side defensive end. The field or wide side plays a more tradition four-down defensive end while the boundary or short side end will spend a lot of time as a stand-up 5-technique.

Turner Coxe and Gary Wiley were baptized in the grease last season as true freshman playing the boundary side end position last season; it’s a hybrid outside linebacker look. Coxe is a high motor player who saw a lot of action as a true freshman out of Highland Park, he’s beefed up since arriving on campus, but he moves well. Wiley, like Coxe, put on some good weight in the offseason. I think he’s due for a more significant role.

Along with Scott at the field side defensive end, Tyeson Neals played in three games last season after a productive 2017. His injury damaged SMU’s rotation. Toby Ndukwe flashed on film during his redshirt freshman season. If Neals and Ndukwe play a majority of the season, that’s a massive development for this team.

Noah Spears played on special teams in 2017 and missed last season. He and Gerritt Choate will fill in. Choate is a legacy at SMU; his dad Putt was a tackling machine for the Mustangs in the late 70s.

Kane and his staff signed Warren Walls from Bishop Lynch at defensive end in December. Walls was an All-American high school wrestler at Lynch, that bodes well. Wrestling might be the most important skill set a defensive lineman can acquire. Wrestlers learn about leverage, hand fighting, and how to be maniacal in preparation. I think he’s going to be a player down the road but may not see much action with SMU’s depth.

Demerick Gary and Pono Davis return inside. Davis made ten starts in 2018 while Gary contributed seven. Davis is a one-gap run plugger, while Gary is quicker and could move outside if necessary. Their return is critical for SMU, and it means the SMU front returns intact and with some help.

The Mustangs picked up a grad transfer from Rice in Zach Abercrombia. Abercrombia came into his own as an Owl last season. After starting 29 games at Rice, another big, experienced body does nothing but help. Abercrombia’s presence gives SMU three starting level interior players, which is more than a lot of AAC teams can boast.

Chris Biggurs made three starts in 2018 with six tackles. He’s another one-gapper who can occupy bodies. He and sophomores Terrance Newman and Harrison Loveless offer some rotational depth.

I’m interested to see what some transfers might contribute. Will Jones signed with Baylor, then transferred to Tyler JC. He has a quick first step and active hands and was a three-time All-State selection out of Prestonwood High School. Jacob Pugh comes to the Hilltop after three seasons at Tulsa and Cody Banks is a 6-7 converted tight end who transferred in from Glendale Community College after starting his career at UMass.

Richard Moore smumustangs.com

At linebacker, Richard Moore is the truth. The A&M transfer quickly became one of the best defenders in the AAC in 2018 with 92 tackles. He lives in the backfield, leading SMU with 13.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and five hurries. Moore’s disruptive, physical, and what makes him most dangerous is he’s smart. He’s a potential first team All-Conference selection.

At the other linebacker, Kyrian Mitchell leaves some big shoes to fill, but SMU has a group of talented players ready to compete for the job. Patrick Nelson moves into the box full time after coming in as a safety transfer from Illinois. He outgrew the position, but at linebacker, he gives Kane a lot of flexibility and is a three-down player.

Shane Hailey and Delano Robinson will work into the rotation as well. Robinson is all over the field and a sure tackler. I don’t see Jordon Williams listed on the roster and I can’t find anything on his status, but if he’s not there anymore, that’s a hit to the Mustang’s depth.

After that, it’s a crap shoot. Jordan Ward redshirted in 2018 after seeing time the previous two seasons. Myles Duke returns as well after missing 2018, and Jimmy Phillips was a special teams contributor last year.

The biggest difference between this SMU front seven and past seasons is depth, especially on the defensive line. The Ponies can run out a serviceable two-deep this season as opposed to years past when SMU struggled with a rotation.

Secondary

While the front seven is deep, the secondary is pretty thin. Chances are SMU’s struggles are going to come on the back end where they must replace ballhawk Jordan Wyatt, transfer safety Mikial Onu, and medically retired Elijah McQueen.

Wyatt held down a corner spot at a reasonably high level for four seasons. On the other side, SMU’s gone through corners like Spinal Tap went through drummer. Last season the Mustangs played five corners opposite Wyatt. Eric Sutton, Christian Davis, Kevin Johnson, and Robert Hayes all started, add to that safety Cole Sterns who played with the first unit against Navy, and you had a hodgepodge next to a stalwart. The stalwart is gone, and multiple jobs are open.

Hayes probably gives SMU the best chance at one corner. Sutton, Johnson, and Davis, like Hayes, are all seniors, and none jump off the page, but Davis, statistically, was the most productive of the group. The Ponies will also give sophomore Justin Guy-Robinson a chance to get some live action as well.

Chevin Calloway

I’d bet you’ll see at least one newcomer in the starting lineup. SMU brought in Sam Westfall from Mesa JC to compete for a starting spot. He’s a physical man to man corner who uses his hands to redirect and impede. He plays the game intelligently, uses the boundary to his advantage, but he’s not a burner.

Arkansas transfer Chevin Calloway is seeking a waiver for immediate eligibility. Calloway, a four-star prep recruit from Bishop Dunne, started two games for the Hogs last season and might be part of the answer. Pick a blue blood program, and they all wanted him out of Dunne, including Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, Texas A&M, and LSU. Those schools don’t tend to miss by much.

I’m not sure which direction they’ll go, but the Ponies will be looking for productivity multiple cornerbacks to step up and play significant minutes. Perhaps newcomers fill a spot or two, or one of the seniors steps up, but unknowns at corner is a scary proposition.

A 4-2-5 uses three safeties in its base package, a boundary safety, a field safety, and a hybrid which is sometimes called a “star” or “rover” that lines up closer to the box and acts as a dual-threat defender, either a third linebacker against the run or in coverage. The boundary or short side safety is going to “roll nearer the box as well, while the field safety is more of a traditional free safety.

Rodney Clemons smumustangs.com

At the field safety, Rodney Clemons returns with his 37 career starts. He’s a long, rangy athlete who should be in the running for All-Conference consideration. Next to him at the “star”, the Mustangs will start a thumper in Trevor Denbow.

With Nelson apparently moving to linebacker, Denbow sticks at safety. The Mustangs couldn’t risk playing both in the secondary with what safeties are tasked with these days. Denbow will come up and lay the leather on you, just don’t ask him to back peddle and what not.

If Nelson’s position change is masking him as a rover or star then Denbow will play that boundary safety. The Ponies will be better against the run but struggle to cover real estate downfield.

The loss of Onu and McQueen hurts here. Either or both could, at the very least, add depth. Junior Collin Rock will add support after spending two seasons contributing on special teams. The Mustangs are moving Treveon Johnson to the defensive side. The former four-star recruit from Brenham played receiver last season. He’s a long, gifted athlete who can play center field but will come up and hit you. I wish he’d wrap his arms, but he’ll hit you regardless.

Former Mansfield high school star and Nebraska Cornhusker Cam’ron Jones transferred in as well. Jones, like Calloway, is seeking a waiver after sitting out 2018 due to a shoulder injury. According to Nebraska coaches, Jones needs to dedicate more time in the classroom. If things break right and Calloway and Jones are eligible for 2019, this landscape changes considerably.

SMU signed three safeties int he 2019 class; the highest regarded was Donald Clay out of New Orleans power John Curtis. Clay is a multi-tasker safety who can slide down and cover a slot play deep over the top, and mix it up in the box. Roderick Roberson and Chace Cromartie are nice players. Neither was as touted as Clay, but all three may get a chance to play with the new redshirt rules.

Like the offensive line, I think SMU is part of the way there, but they’ll have to catch some pretty fortuitous breaks to avoid some trouble spots. The secondary might be a year away from coming together.

Specialists

SMU has not one, but at least three viable kick returners in James Proche, Reggie Roberson, and Kevin Johnson all averaged at least 24 yards per return. Roberson averaged 41 yards in five kickoff returns last season with a touchdown. In his four games, C.J. Sanders averaged over 24 yards as well. Those efforts helped SMU to a top 20 average starting field position.

Kicker Kevin Robledo made 11 of 14 attempts with a long of 49. 16% of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Punter Jamie Sackville was last in the AAC with a 39.6 yard average with a 36-yard net. Twenty of his 67 punts landed inside the 20, and hey, Sackville was 3 for 3 passing with a touchdown last year.

SMU’s special teams ended 2018 ranked 84th in opponents average starting field position.

Sonny

I think Sonny Dykes was a coup for the SMU program. His move to Cal was ill-advised, and for a lot of folks branded him, but Dykes is the same coach that won 17 games in two his last two seasons at Louisiana Tech. His 2011 team started 1-4 before running off seven straight wins to capture a WAC title. The next year the Dogs won nine and took Johnny Football and A&M to the brink. Last season in spite of a slow start, injuries, and a new system, SMU controlled its destiny in the AAC West down the stretch.

Dykes can coach, and as importantly, he knows the state. He spent his early career in the high school ranks, then coached receivers at Navarro Junior College before moving into the college ranks. Rather than ride his legendary father’s coattails at Tech, Dykes took a graduate assistant job at Kentucky under Air Raid godfather Hal Mumme, a position coach gig for Northeastern Louisiana, and returned to Kentucky as a receiver’s coach before joining Mike Leach in Lubbock.

Dykes’ ties to this state are paying off for the Mustangs. Last seasons recruiting class finished 69th in the country, the best since 2011 and third best in the AAC. His 2020 class already has a higher 24/7 composite rating than his 2019 haul. He’s turning the Mustang roster into his own, one long, versatile athlete at a time and in 2019 that should start translating into wins. By 2020, even with attrition, that should translate into a conference contender.

The Schedule

The Mustangs don’t make it easy on themselves, even when they try to. Arkansas State is a huge opener, and it’s on the road. Then comes the Hippogriff game against a tough North Texas squad. If the Ponies can when either of those this team could get to eight wins, they drop both it’s a race to six wins.

SMU gets its second and third Roundup opponents in a row against Texas State and TCU. The September 14th matchup will be the second-ever meeting between the Bobcats and Mustangs. The Iron Skillet game has turned one-sided with TCU winning seventeen of nineteen.

AAC play opens a week later at Charlie Strong’s South Florida. Circle the Tulsa and Temple games as the Mustangs have a shot at getting on a bit of a roll. They then head to Houston where SMU hasn’t won since the second Bush administration. After a trip to Memphis, it’s a dash for cash as SMU tries to qualify for their second bowl game in three seasons.

Date Day Opponent Conf Prediction Notes
8/31/19 Sat at Arkansas State Sun Belt L The Red Wolves in Jonesboro is an bear trap.
9/7/19 Sat North Texas CUSA L SMU is 25-1 vs. the Mean Green in Dallas.
9/14/19 Sat Texas State Sun Belt W This one cold get pointsy.
9/21/19 Sat at TCU Big 12 L The Iron Skillet remains in Fort Worth. Again.
9/28/19 Sat at USF American L The Bulls might be ripe for an upset.
10/5/19 Sat Tulsa American W No repeat of last year's debacle.
10/19/19 Sat Temple American W Owls and Ponies have played five times with two ties.
10/24/19 Thu at Houston American L Mustangs haven't won in Houston since 2005.
11/2/19 Sat at Memphis American L AAC West favorites at home.
11/9/19 Sat East Carolina American W Maybe SMU can beat ECU back to CUSA.
11/23/19 Sat at Navy American W Ponies get a bye week to prep for the flexbone.
11/30/19 Sat Tulane American W Last 3 games have been decided by 11 total points.

Checking Our Work

So you’re asking yourself, yeah, but what do you know? You’re right, not much, so in the interest of full disclosure, let’s look at our predicted wins in years past vs. the actual wins. We hang our hat on transparency and grammatical indifference.

Year Win Prediction Actual Wins
2016 3 5
2017 6 7
2018 5 5

More 2019 Season Previews…