Last season was an interesting one for the SMU secondary against the pass, with both its highs and lows.
The highs included tying the NCAA record for interceptions taken back for touchdowns in a season, along with the development of inexperienced talent such as Shakiel Randolph and Hayden Greenbauer.
But with highs come lows, which include getting absolutely torched in non-conference play, and the season-ending injury to J.R. Richardson before the year even began.
This season, in a new conference, SMU will face a plethora of talented passers, who will each challenge the SMU secondary in a way in which they have yet to be tested.
Here is a list of the top five quarterbacks SMU will face in 2013:
5. Jacob Karam (Memphis)
Against SMU in 2012: (L) 8/17, 85 yards, 0 TD's.
Picking between the likes of Gary Nova (Rutgers), Chandler Whitmer (UConn) and David Piland (Houston), and with the assumption that Michael Brewer (Texas Tech) will not be healthy enough to play against the Mustangs in the season opener, Karam was the defacto choice at number five.
This pick may come as a surprise due to the fact that Memphis had one of the worst passing games in the country last year, a mere 166 yards per game but not all of the blame should be put on Karam. With poor supporting cast around him last season, Karam was able to somehow manage an impressive 14 touchdowns against only three interceptions, along with a completion percentage of close to 65%.
In 2013, with an improved cast around him, Karam should be able to put up much improved numbers, despite being in a tougher conference and give the Tigers a legitimate shot to reach a bowl game.
4. Brendon Kay (Cincinnati)
Against SMU in 2012: N/A
Kay may very well be one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the AAC in 2013. Granted his 6th year of eligibility this past winter, Kay took over the reigns as the Bearcats starter in Week 10 of last season against Temple.
Despite only starting five games last season, Kay proved to be very effective, posting a 4-1 record, including 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions. While mobility is certainly not his strength, Kay makes up for it in arm power, throwing for over 245 yards in four of his five starts.
Riding the wave of momentum that comes with throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns against Duke in last season's Belk Bowl, Kay has the ability to put of big numbers this season in new coach Tommy Tuberville's pass first system.
3. Blake Bortles (UCF)
Against SMU in 2012: (W) 10/15, 110 yards, 2 TD's. Rushing: 6 carries, 33 yards, 1 TD.
2012 was Bortles' first full season as a starter for the Knights, and he did not disappoint. Bortles earned first team all-conference honors, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Bortles was incredibly efficient last year, as seen in his impressive touchdown to turnover ration of 3.6, a number that includes a total of seven interceptions, three of which were on the road against Ohio State. Bortles is also quietly a very efficient runner, totaling 285 yards on the ground last season, along with eight rushing touchdowns.
In 2013, Bortles will not be able to surprise his opponents with his talent, and unlike last year, he will be the main target opposing teams game plan around. With a murderers row of a schedule, including at Penn State, South Carolina and Louisville, Bortles will have a chance to prove that he is not only one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, but quite possibly the entire country.
2. Casey Pachall/Trevone Boykin (TCU)
Against SMU in 2012: (W) 10/26, 107 yards, 2 TD's.
Whether it is Pachall or Boykin who ends up winning the starting job in Forth Worth in 2013, both will be incredibly difficult for the Mustang defense to handle, although Pachall is expected to win his job back.
Pachall, who started last season, threw for nearly 1,000 yards in his first four games (all wins) before being suspended for his off the field conduct. Pachall's last game of the season before being suspended was in Dallas against the Mustangs, in what was his worst game of the season. Amid a terrible rainstorm, Pachall managed only 107 passing yards, in a game won by the Horned Frogs, due in large part because of Garret Gilbert's five interceptions.
After being suspended, Trevone Boykin took over the starting job, and played incredibly inconsistent, going 3-6 in the final nine games of the season. Boykin does offer the threat of making plays with his feet but in a season where TCU is expected to compete for the Big 12 crown, it seems to be Pachall's job to lose.
But with almost a season of experience under his belt, Boykin has looked much better in spring and fall camp, so much so that TCU head coach Gary Patterson has yet to name a starter. The most conventional thought is that Pachall will win the job, but with TCU playing a bit of a two-quarterback system, with Boykin coming in to run the spread option every now and then.
1. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
Against SMU in 2012: (W) 20/36, 294 yards, 4 TD's. Rushing: 124 yards, 2 TD's.
No surprise here at the top with Manziel, who became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman trophy, electrifying college football in the process. Known better as ‘Johnny Football,' Manziel started off his Heisman campaign last season in Dallas, throwing for 294 yards with four touchdowns, in addition to his 124 yards rushing and two touchdowns, absolutely embarrassing the SMU defense in the process.
Since hoisting the Heisman, Manziel has been followed with controversy at every step, including being thrown out of fraternity parties, tweeting his desire to leave College Station, and most recently allegedly receiving payments for signing autographs.
How the tumultuous offseason will affect his play on the field remains to be seen, but expect Manziel to be his regular self once college football starts up, and Mustangs fans may be advised to watch their September 21st meeting with the Aggies with caution, as Manziel, this time at home, could very well go off again against the Mustang defense.
Breaking Down The Top 5 QBs SMU Will Face
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