A lot like we do with Baylor, it's easy to get distracted making fun of SMU- what with their blue-blooded, east-coast, cokehead student body and their mostly-laughable last two decades of football. But they've now been to a bowl game two years in a row, return 17 starters and will be one of the toughest tests of the 2011 season for the Frogs when they come to Fort Worth on September 30th.
While Kyle Padron was fairly pedestrian against TCU last year (169 yards on just 14-35 passing and an INT), he did throw for 3,828 yards as a sophomore and is nearing 6,000 and 5o TDs for his career. He's got 1,000-yard receiver Cole Beasley returning as well as Darius Johnson, a junior out of the Houston area that's so athletic you wonder how the heck he ended up at SMU. There's also four returning starters on the senior-laden offensive line that will protect Padron and pave the way for Zach Line, the junior tailback who lit up TCU for 139 yards on just 17 carries last year on his way to nearly 1,500 for the season.
The defense that returns 8 starters in 2011, you might be surprised, ranked a respectable 40th overall a year ago. Junior linebackers Ja'Gared Davis and Taylor Reed are tackling machines, senior Chris Banjo is a head-hunter at free safety, and both defensive ends (6-6, 287 Taylor Thompson and 6-9, 295 Margus Hunt) have NFL size and potential. I wouldn't rank this unit anywhere near a Patterson defense just yet, but it's light years beyond where the Mustang D was just a few short years ago.
Bottom line: SMU is a team with an extremely dangerous offense and a defense that, for the first time in years, gives them a chance to win ballgames. What hurt them last year was the crippling combination of inconsistency and turnovers...which are two areas that experience (something they have a lot of) goes a long way in reversing.
Keep an eye on their season opener against aggy down in College Station. I'm not calling for the upset, but I think it will be a lot closer to the hard-fought contests between those two programs in the mid-80s than the pile up the stats, get our freshmen some PT-type easy win that most of those maroon-clad fascists are probably expecting. If SMU can stand their ground in Kyle Field, it will give them a measure of confidence for their trip west on I-30 for what you know will be their Super Bowl.
-CFN 2011 SMU Preview
-CFN 2011 SMU Offensive breakdown
-CFN 2011 SMU Defensive breakdown
-CFN 2011 SMU depth chart