Johnny’s Surprise of the Week: the SMU Mustangs

Photo via Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Even through player opt-outs, game postponements, cancellations and conference delays, college football pundits and casuals alike would still expect some certainties in the 2020 College Football Season. 

One certainty to many, perhaps, would come in the form of Texas schools performing up to their necessary championship standards. Perhaps Tom Herman is finally putting the Texas Longhorns onto the championship contention pedestal once more. Maybe Jimbo Fisher is finally proving his 10-year, $75-million worth to the Texas A&M Aggies. 

No matter the year, analysts and fans would expect both teams to perform to potential College Football Playoff standards.  

Both teams, however, already have one loss tallied to their resume already. Another Texas team, meanwhile, is not only the sole team in the country to be 4-0 but is also in prime position to make a New Year’s Six bid, should their fortunes favor them through the rest of the fall. 

Well, howdy there, SMU. 

The Mustangs, through their riddled history of mediocrity, controversy and even a death penalty, finally put it all together last season and went 10-3. The 10-win season was the team’s first since 1984, and while they lost in the Boca Raton Bowl to the Florida Atlantic Owls, they brought back their head coach in offense-oriented Sonny Dykes and their gunslinging redshirt senior quarterback in Shane Buechele. 

The duo, in their second year together, have brewed together an offense that would give Power Five teams a case of the shakes. 

Among all 74 FBS teams that have played college football through Oct. 7, SMU’s 44.0 points per game ranks sixth, while their 558.8 total yards per game ranks fourth. When discussing their explosive passing attack, the Mustangs stand out even more, as their 142 pass attempts and 10 passing touchdowns are both tied for fourth, while their passing yards per game (339.3) is 10th. To top off SMU’s passing attack, their 1,357 passing yards rank first in the entire FBS. Buechele’s 1,326 passing yards additionally rank first in the entire FBS. To cap off the first-place trifecta, Mustangs’ wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. leads the FBS in receiving yards (474).

You get the picture at this point.

The offense, however, does not solely take the cake in regard to SMU’s 2020 success. After allowing a dismal 33.4 points per game last season (which ranked 110th out of 130 FBS teams), SMU’s defense, through four games played, is allowing only 23.2 points per game, which is 27th. Their five interceptions on the defensive side of the ball, in fact, are tied for third in the entire FBS. The defensive prowess on this side of the ball helped propel the Mustangs over the Memphis Tigers this past weekend, as the unit collected two picks and kept the ball out of the hands of Tigers’ quarterback Brady White. As a result, SMU picked up the win over the nationally ranked Tigers. 

The significance of the win over Memphis did not stem solely from the fact that Memphis was ranked 25th in the AP Poll, nor from the fact that it was SMU’s first win over their rival since Oct. 19, 2013. 

The victory now gives SMU the possibility of being the Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Six. 

Sure, there is still plenty of college football to play. The offense must keep on chugging and the defense must remain in a bend-not-break mindset. Their matchup against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Oct. 24 also looms large.

Nevertheless, SMU is in the mix to be a Group of Five force come postseason time. 

While the Mustangs might not bring the household familiarity the Longhorns or Aggies might bring, make no mistake – this team is lethal. So lethal, perhaps, that they might become more and more a certainty toward a high-profile bowl bid. 

Published by John Crane

I am originally from Alexandria, Louisiana, but have lived in South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and now Colorado. After recently graduating from Northern Arizona University, I am now continuing to sharpen my journalistic craft through writing, radio and podcasting. My dream is to become a sports reporter or broadcaster.

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