2012 Schedule Breakdown:
Game 1 vs. Baylor
SMU and new starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert will have a tough test right off the bat when the Mustangs travel to Waco to take on Baylor in the season opener. Baylor had one of the most explosive offenses in the NCAA last year but lost a trio of playmakers in Kendall Wright, Terrance Ganaway and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. Taking over for Griffin under center is Nick Florence, who has starting experience and had an impressive game against Texas Tech last season. Florence still has Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese to throw to, which could give the SMU secondary fits. New starting corner Chris Parks will play a huge factor in the outcome of this game. He will need to be physical and prevent big plays. If he doesn't, SMU will be doomed. Offensively, Gilbert should be confident in his first start thanks to his Big 12 experience. He is facing a defense that allowed over 37 points per game in 2012 so expect fireworks. The Bears also ranked 102nd in the nation in rush defense so pounding the ball with Zach Line would smart.
Prediction: L 35-31, 0-1 record
Game 2 vs. Stephen F. Austin
After a close loss to Baylor, expect SMU to come out and dominate FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin in the home opener. Garrett Gilbert should have a field day against a defense that surrendered close to 36 points per game last season. Remember last year when Zach Line scored five touchdowns against Northwestern State? Don't be surprised if he does that again in this game. Stephen F. Austin did finish the year with five straight victories and returns quarterback Brady Attaway, who passed for over 3,000 yards and tossed 27 touchdowns. But the Mustangs should breeze by the Lumberjacks with no trouble.
Prediction: W 45-17, 1-1 record
Game 3 vs. Texas A&M
This is without a doubt the most interesting game on this schedule. Picking SMU to pull the upset would not be a bad idea. But is a June Jones coached team ready to finally make a big statement and beat a team like Texas A&M? That remains to be seen. The Aggies may be down after a loss to Florida the previous week, and the Mustangs can take advantage. This one should come down to the wire on the Hilltop and will be an instant classic. Yes, last year the Aggies thrashed the Mustangs 46-14, but SMU showed they could play at a high level early on in the game. SMU needs to maintain a high level of intensity and can't afford turnovers. Texas A&M lost Ryan Tannehill, Jeff Fuller, and Cyrus Gray. But the Aggies do return Ryan Swope, who made the SMU secondary look silly, and hard nosed running back Christine Michael. SMU's defense will need to put the pressure on inexperienced redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel so it's Margus Hunt's time to shine. In the end, the pressure could be too much for SMU, which will miss a game-winning field goal in a heartbreaking loss.
Prediction: L 30-28, 1-2 record
Game 4 vs. TCU
If an SMU student is going to go to one game the entire semester this would most definitely be the one. SMU vs. TCU is an age old rivalry that has really heated up during the June Jones era and peaked for SMU last year when the Mustangs took home the iron skillet after defeating TCU in Fort Worth 40-33 in an overtime thriller. This year, the rivalry comes to the Ford Stadium and should not disappoint. The biggest headlines for the matchup will be SMU's secondary vs. TCU quarterback Casey Pachall who set records last year for TCU's all-time passing yardage in a season as well as completion percentage. Pachall will retain his number one target in wide receiver Josh Boyce, who is on the Biletnikoff watch list. With SMU's secondary looking very different from last years (i.e. starting safety Jay Scott, and starting cornerback Chris Parks) SMU will have a big test in trying to cover Boyce and the receiving corp. The key to the game for SMU is simple: dominate the line of scrimmage. TCU had five lettermen leave from the offensive line last year three of whom were starters last year. If SMU can get constant penetration to the QB with Margus Hunt, Ja'Gared Davis and Torlan Pittman they can make it very hard for Pachall to get the ball out to his receivers. Also, on the other side it will be important for Ben Gottschalk and Bryan Collins to keep tabs on Stansley Maponga, who had 13 ½ tackles to go along with nine sacks and five forced fumbles last year.
Prediction: L 34-24, 1-3 record
Game 5 vs. UTEP
Last year the Mustangs didn't have much trouble beating the Miners at home and made some major plays including knocking UTEP's starting QB Nick Lamaison out of the game. Lamaison, who will return as a senior in 2012, impressed in a couple of outings most notably against Houston where he passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns. UTEP will also be bringing back their two leading receivers in Mike Edwards and Jordan Leslie as well as tailback Nathan Jeffery, who earned a spot on the Doak Walker Award Watch List. In just nine games last year Lamaison threw 10 interceptions, four of them coming against Rice and Stony Brook. If SMU can get pressure from their front seven then the Mustang secondary can take advantage of some of Lamaison's mishaps and possibly rack up multiple interceptions.
Prediction: W 38-21, 2-3 record
Game 6 vs. Tulane
In one of their more lop-sided victories last year, SMU put up six touchdowns on the Green Wave- three in the air and three on the ground. This year the eldest quarterback in Conference USA will return for the Green Wave in Ryan Griffin, and he'll be playing under new head coach and former New Orleans Saints assistant coach Curtis "CJ" Johnson. Johnson has a few promising weapons to work with other than his veteran quarterback such as running back Orleans Darkwa who finished the season with 13 touchdowns and an all-purpose average of 94.5 yards per game. Johnson also has a defense that will return seven starters including All-C-USA honorable mention Ryan Travis and C-USA All-Freshman Michael Pierce. With veterans in the secondary, Tulane could potentially have some success from their defensive backs if Zach Line can't force them to defend the run. If Line can duplicate his effort from last year, then that will open up the passing game for Gilbert to pick apart the defense.
Prediction: W 35-10, 3-3 record
Game 7 vs. Houston
Houston has new coach Tony Levine at the helm and a bunch of unproven receivers as well as a defense that will be looking to develop a pass rush with linebacker Sammy Brown now playing on Sundays. Houston has won the last six matchups against SMU and sophomore quarterback David Piland, will look to keep that streak going. Piland stepped in for record setting quarterback Case Keenum as a freshman and beat the Mustangs two years ago. SMU will look to exploit the defensive line with a steady dose of running back Zach Line, but SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert has to be able to hit passes when given opportunities. Houston's senior cornerback C.J. Hayden is their defense's best player and will be looking to shut down SMU's talented group of receivers. If SMU's front seven can control the line of scrimmage. it will force Piland to beat the Mustangs through the air and that will play right into defensive coordinator Tom Mason's plan.
Prediction: W 27-17, 4-3 record
Game 8 vs. Memphis
Memphis is a pretty bad football team. There's really no way around it, but new head coach Justin Fuente hopes to ignite some energy into the program as Memphis moves to the Big East. The Tigers were 119th in the country in rushing in 2011 at 84 yards a game and against a tough Mustangs defense, that number may be tough for the Tigers to get to even under a new system. With Zach Line controlling the clock and a few timely throws by Gilbert, the Mustangs should have no reason putting up a good number of points against Memphis.
Prediction: W 42-10, 5-3 record
Game 9 vs. UCF
If UCF was eligible to compete in the C-USA championship game, this game may have been a preview. But it's still a key match between two teams headed to the Big East next season. New starting UCF quarterback Blake Bortles will be seasoned by this point in the season, but he does not posses the athletic ability of former starter Jeff Godfrey. SMU's front seven is talented and could very well dominant the UCF offensive line. UCF does have three very capable running backs to carry the load including senior Latavius Murray, but if Murray cannot carry the load, Miami transfer Storm Johnson is talented enough to get the job done. This game will be a battle of who can control the clock.
Prediction: W 35-21, 6-3 record
Game 10 vs. Southern Miss
Coming off an impressive 12-2 season that saw the Southern Miss upset Houston, and win the Conference USA title, the Golden Eagles are forced to rebuild their team this year, as they have starting quarterback, Austin Davis, and head coach Larry Fedora to North Carolina. Last season, Southern Miss trounced SMU 27-3 at home, turning in their best defensive performance of the year, along with a balanced air and ground attack, that saw Davis throw for 266 yards, and their running back Jamal Woodyard run for 116 yards. The loss of Davis and Fedora will impact the Golden Eagles mightily and if SMU can contain Woodyard on the ground this year, look for an SMU victory.
Prediction: W 28-24, 7-3 record
Game 11 vs. Rice
After playing Southern Miss, the Mustangs will travel to Rice, to take on the Owls. Rice, coming off a 4-8 season last year, will look to revenge last year's 3-point loss to the Mustangs by throwing the ball with quarterback Taylor McHargue, who in limited time last year, threw for eight touchdowns. Rice will look to beat the Mustangs through the air, so the key for SMU will be their secondary, who will need to be on point if the Mustangs want to leave Rice with a victory.
Prediction: W 34-17, 8-3 record
Game 12 vs. Tulsa
In SMU's final game of the regular season, it will take on the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa, in what should be a high scoring affair. Tulsa is coming off a tremendous 8-5 season, with losses to Oklahoma and Boise State, Oklahoma State and Houston. Last year, Tulsa thrashed SMU 38-7 in a one-sides affair, and will look to do the same with new quarterback Cody Green, a transfer from Nebraska. Green is a dual-threat quarterback, and is as dangerous in the air as he is on the ground, meaning the SMU front seven, especially the linebackers, must contain Green, and force him to stay inside the pocket. Unfortunately, Tulsa is too high powered on offense, and will ultimately find ways to break through the SMU defense, and beat the Mustangs.
Prediction: L 34-24, 8-4 record
SMU Football Schedule Breakdown
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