NCAA Football

College Football Analysis: Will SMU Play Role of BCS Buster in 2011?

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Lame title aside, SMU has been mentioned by some as a possible BCS Buster this season out of Conference USA, which would make it the first non-WAC or MWC school to earn the title.

Fresh off back-to-back seven-win regular seasons, SMU could take that next step this year and come away with eight, nine, ten or more wins this season if everything goes according to plan. Just about everybody is back on an offense that finished ranked 33rd in total offense and 21st in passing offense. Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson needs to be replaced, but there’s experience in the receivers corps and running back Zach Line gives the offense an added element not seen often in June Jones‘ Run and Shoot system. What’s more, the entire starting offensive line is back for another go-round.

Jones is known for his teams’ prolific offenses, but SMU’s defense was quite impressive last year. The Mustangs D isn’t perfect, but when compared to other defenses in the C-USA West, they’re a step above the rest. Consider that Houston and Tulsa will bring it on offense, and a defense that held both the Cougars and Golden Hurricane under 400 yards last year and returns plenty of experience becomes all the more important. (Note that Houston put up 45 points in SMU’s loss last year, but the Mustangs held Tulsa to just 18 points in their 21-18 win.) 

We’ll know quite early in the season where this SMU team stands on the national level. They’ll open on the road against a Texas A&M team that will probably be ranked in the top 15 and could be ranked as high as the top ten in the preseason rankings. Winnable games against UTEP, Northwestern State and Memphis follow before heading to Fort Worth for the Battle for the Iron Skillet against TCU. The Horned Frogs lost a lot of players to graduation, but are expected to earn a top 25 preseason ranking once again. One win against either of these two teams, and especially against both, would catapult SMU into the top 25 early.

An early top 25 rankings, however, won’t mean a thing unless SMU can take care of business within its own conference. Losses to Houston and UTEP last season can’t happen if SMU is to be the BCS Buster that some are saying it could be. The Mustangs earned an appearance in the C-USA Championship Game—not bad for a team who only two seasons prior finished 1-11—but fell to UCF, unable to put the ball in the end zone save for one score in the fourth quarter.

That brings up the next key to a higher win total: with an offense that can move the football, SMU has to score points. The Run and Shoot offense is working, especially when you factor in the success of the running game. However, SMU ranked 74th in scoring offense last year, putting up 25.7 points per game. They failed to even reach that mark in six of their seven losses last season.

I cannot outright predict a BCS Buster type of season for SMU, but I can say that they have the pieces to at the very least make a run if the defense holds and the offense finds the end zone.  BCS Busters come ready to roll day one, so stay tuned for the September 4 opener in College Station.