Saturday night marks SMU’s first step into the 2016 football season, Year 2 under head coach Chad Morris.
The Mustangs will open the season on September 3rd against North Texas, a team the Mustangs beat last year to give Morris and #PonyUpTempo its first win on The Hilltop.
Here’s five things to watch as the Mustangs kick-off another year in Gerald J. Ford Stadium:
1. Getting off on the right foot
The Mustangs finished last season with a very unimpressive 2-10 record.
However, SMU had their fair share of bright spots throughout the season including encouraging performances against the likes of in-state powers Baylor and TCU.
One of their main problems a year ago was being able to compete for a full four quarters, but given that their first opponent of 2016 made up 50 percent of last year’s win total, they have a great opportunity to start the new year off right.
2. Matt Davis
He’s been called one of the country’s most underrated quarterbacks this offseason, but he’s also had his stretches of inconsistency that has occasionally left SMU fans scratching their heads.
Matt Davis should have the keys to a garage full of offensive weapons in 2016, and in an interview with etfinalscore.com, he talked about being ready to rise into a leadership role.
“[I take it] 100 percent seriously; that’s my job,” Davis said. “I am the voice, I am the leader of this team. I take a lot of pride in it and I take it very seriously, so I just try to be the best I can every day.”
Davis will undoubtedly be ‘the man’ to open the year, but should he falter, it wouldn’t be unlike Chad Morris to see what his other quarterbacks could offer. He did play Darrel Colbert Jr. in three of the season’s final six games a year ago.
3. Courtland Sutton and Co.
Speaking of those offensive weapons…
Last year, we saw the debut of one of the most gifted wide receivers SMU has seen since the days of Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, and Aldrick Robinson (all now in the NFL). It wouldn’t be shocking to anyone to see Sutton put up the Mustangs’ first 1,000-yard receiving season since both Jeremy Johnson (1,112) and Keenan Holman (1,037) eclipsed that mark in 2013.
The problem last season, if teams could cover Sutton, they could usually slow down the SMU offense. Period.
But with another year under the Morris system, returning running backs Xavier Jones and Braeden West, and the influx of young receivers, including James Proche from DeSoto who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last season, there could actually be an “and Co.” in “Courtland Sutton and Co.” in 2016.
4. Big 12
Whether anyone gives SMU a real shot to join in on any Big 12 expansion fun or not, they’ll have their chance to make an impression this year.
North Texas, Baylor, TCU, and Houston all come within the first seven games of the year – not to mention the matchups with other AAC expansion candidates late.
The schedule offers a chance to showcase just how “Texas Tough” this squad will be — all 47 recruits in Morris’ first two recruiting classes have been from the state of Texas — and they will get their shot to impress the Big 12 brass.
5. The June Jones formula
Ah, doesn’t that name just bring back so many positive vibes?
Well, at one point, it did. June Jones’ first year in Dallas was also very unsuccessful (1-11), it took until his second year on campus for everything to click on the field. He led the Mustangs to an 8-5 record (the most wins the school’s had in a quarter century) including a 45-10 win over Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada Wolfpack in the Hawaii Bowl (the school’s first bowl win in the same quarter century).
So, what might Chad Morris have up his sleeve for his second year in Dallas? We’ll start to find out on Saturday night…