#81 SMU 2018 Football Preview

SMU Mustangs
Overall Rank: #81
#7 American
 SMU Logo
Last year SMU reached their first bowl game since 2012, where they lost to Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl. That was good progress for a team that went 1-11 in 2014. But now they will be ushering in a new coach as former Louisiana Tech and California head man Sonny Dykes takes over the program.
2017 Record: 7-6, 4-4
2017 Bowl: Frisco Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech (L 10-51)
Coach: Sonny Dykes (0-0 at SMU, 41-45 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Rhett Lashlee
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Kane
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Xavier Jones, RB, 1,075 yards
Passing: Ben Hicks, QB, 3,569 yards
Receiving: James Proche, WR, 816 yards
Tackles: Mikial Onu, S, 105
Sacks: Kyran Mitchell, LB, 4.5
Interceptions: Jordan Wyatt, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Braeden West, RB Ke’Mon Freeman, DB Rodney Clemons
Key Losses: WR Trey Quinn, WR Courtland Sutton, OL Evan Brown, DL Justin Lawler, LB Anthony Rhone
Coach Dykes has proven at Louisiana Tech and California that he can put up some big numbers offensively. Quarterback Ben Hicks should be a great fit for the Air Raid offense after throwing for 3,569 yards and 33 touchdowns as a sophomore. The concern in the passing game is the loss of Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton. Both left early for the NFL after combining to catch 182 passes for 2,321 yards and 25 touchdowns. That is a lot of production to replace, but expect James Proche, who caught 40 passes for 816 yards in 2017, to emerge as the next SMU superstar receiver. This team may like to pass the ball, but they can run too. Xavier Jones rushed for 1,075 yards last year and Braeden West was a 1,000 yard rusher in 2016.
The defense ranked 121st in the nation in total defense, allowing 476.7 yards per game last season. The coaching change is not going to alter much, so the hope is the seven returning starters will help see drastic improvement. The front seven has some talent, but there is a lot of work to do. Pono Davis and Demerick Gary have some experience at the interior of the line, but there is a need for the ends to step up. At linebacker, Kyran Mitchell is back after tallying 73 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2017. He will be joined by Texas A&M transfer Richard Moore. The secondary returns three starters to a unit that was consistently beat for big plays last season. Jordan Wyatt is a quality cornerback, while safety Mikial Onu led the team with 105 tackles last season.
The Bottom Line:
SMU will again have a potent offense. In fact, it should be even better under the leadership of Coach Dykes. That could be enough for this group to get to a bowl game. The previous regime did a good job of building up the depth across the board and that will pay off for Coach Dykes.
Projected Bowl: Gasparilla Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 184.4 (42nd in nation, 71th in conference)
Passing Offense: 294.1 (19, 4)
Total Offense: 478.5 (15, 4)
Scoring Offense: 37.8 (12, 4)
Rushing Defense: 207.7 (107, 9)
Pass Defense: 269.0 (117, 8)
Total Defense: 476.7 (121, 9)
Scoring Defense: 36.7 (117, 9)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (40, 5)
Sacks: 2.38 (38, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.77 (43, 9)