American Athletic Conference Preview: SMU Mustangs
Part 5 of my AAC Preview brings us to SMU. The Mustangs were 5-7 in 2016 but had a lot of problems on offense. They have a very talented backfield running the ball. Their defense is the biggest question mark as they will need to stop the run. Last season in the 75-31 season finale loss to Navy, SMU allowed almost 500 rushing yards and 9 TDs. They need to be better at stopping the run in order to find success this season.
Best Case Scenario- They open against 2 cupcakes in Stephen F. Austin and North Texas Mean Green which should be two wins heading into Fort Worth to face TCU which they won’t win so that moves them to 2-1. They then have Arkansas State and UConn. SMU should win both of those games moving them to 4-1. That brings us to our key game for SMU– at Houston. This matchup will go a long way to deciding who will win the West Division. I think Houston ultimately gets it but it will be a battle. They then have a road game against Cincinnati and two home games against Tulsa and UCF. I think they will win the road game and split the home games beating Tulsa but dropping to UCF. That will move SMU to 6-3 with 2 road and a home game left. The road games are against Memphis and Navy and the home game is against Tulane. They will be out for revenge after last years 75-31 embarrassment to Navy but they won’t get it and Navy will get the win. They will also lose to Memphis on the road but will salvage their last game against Tulane bringing their record to 7-5. They will be bowling and for a while were in the mix for the division. This is a successful season for SMU.
Worst Case Scenario- Even though they open against 2 easy opponents if that offense struggles like last year they could lose one of those 2 games. And then get obliterated by TCU so that will leave them at 1-2 after their first 3 games. They still beat Arkansas State but lose to UConn in their AAC opener. Next 3 they lose 2 beating Cincinnati but losing to Houston and Tulsa. This moves their record to 3-5 with 4 left and they will need to win 3 out of 4 to become bowl eligible. They won’t get there as they lose 3 out of 4 and their only win is against Tulane to finish the season. Their record finishes at 4-8 and they don’t qualify for a bowl.
Players to Watch for SMU- Braeden West-RB, Courtland Sutton-WR, Xavier Jones- WR, Justin Lawler-DE, Kyran Mitchell-LB
I think the worst case scenario is a bit extreme but I do believe they will be better than last year so I will say 7-5 or 6-6 and a third place finish in the West Division.