A series examining the more intriguing opponents on Navy's schedule

This is a relatively safe statement to make: No 2-10 team in the United States was as impressive as Southern Methodist was last year.

That statement reads like a laugh line, and it could easily be interpreted as such. Nevertheless, it's true, and it's meant to be taken seriously (with a chuckle thrown in).

SMU really was impressive as far as 2-10 teams go. The Ponies were expressly better than they were in 2014; the scoreboard simply didn't show it.

First-year head coach Chad Morris injected a lot of horsepower into the Mustangs' offense. Matt Davis showed ample natural ability at quarterback, instinctively knowing when to leave the pocket and when to sling the pigskin. SMU established in the first 20 minutes of a rip-roaring season opener against Baylor that it would apply a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. This level of potency resurfaced at various points during the season.

It just didn't exist on a steady basis, and that's why SMU somehow won only two games despite a highlight reel filled with offensive pyrotechnics.

The best sports seasons involve relentlessly consistent (many would say statistically improbable) distribution of points scored. Every game -- or almost every game -- features just enough offense to win. The worst seasons are just the opposite. A few games involve substantial production, while most games are marked by a modest level of production. This is what happened to SMU, and the kicker is that the games in which the Mustangs looked particularly threatening on offense were also the games against extremely capable offensive teams (or teams whose offenses overachieved, or both).

In the first 1.5 quarters against Baylor, SMU engaged in a firefight, but Baylor wins firefights, and that season opener was no exception in 2015. 

SMU scored 37 at TCU against the Horned Frogs' injury-depleted defense. However, TCU had Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson, among others. The Horned Frogs piled up 56 points. Yes, SMU was down by only one score with seven minutes remaining on the road, but the Ponies ultimately lost that game by 19 because of the firepower on the other sideline.

SMU scored 28 at Houston, but Houston scored 49. The Ponies were in the game until late in the third quarter. They would have beaten many other teams the way they played that night, but Houston isn't most teams, as Florida State learned in the Peach Bowl.

Temple doesn't have a great offense, but the Owls scored 60 against SMU. The Ponies riddled Temple's credentialed defense for 40 points, but all that bought Morris and his men was a chance to win late. When Temple scored a touchdown for a 53-40 lead inside the two-minute mark of regulation, SMU''s dream died. 

It's all rather peculiar: SMU played its best games in 2015 against the four toughest teams on its schedule: Baylor, TCU, Houston, and Temple. Unfortunately, those four opponents were able to absorb all of the Ponies' punches. Because SMU drained itself in each of those four contests, the Mustangs had nothing left in the tank the following week on three of those four occasions. 

SMU beat North Texas after the Baylor loss, but it fell to James Madison after it nearly upset TCU. The Mustangs got clobbered by South Florida the week after losing to Houston. They were thumped by Navy the week after losing to Temple.

The question is simultaneously simple to ask and grasp, but complicated in terms of predicting in 2016: Will SMU, after one year of learning under Morris, demonstrate greater weekly consistency and be less prone to the letdowns it suffered last year? SMU treated a few games as its Super Bowl, and other games as bye weeks while looking forward to the next five-star event. Will the Mustangs be a mentally refreshed team in 2016, one which can replicate performances and perform at an even keel, or will this team remain erratic, therefore teasing observers with conspicuous talent but a lack of readiness for each successive step along the path of a full college football season?

These are the questions one must ask of SMU. The Ponies host Navy late in the 2016 season. On one hand, the Mustangs' offense could be a well-oiled machine late in the year. On the other hand, a regular season which falls short of expectations could leave SMU depressed and flat heading into this game. Getting SMU could benefit Navy not only because Tago Smith would get extra reps at quarterback, but because SMU might not be a happy and motivated host when the Navy game finally arrives.

These are the kinds of questions worth asking about a few Navy opponents this fall. We'll continue this series of questions next week.

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