Adam via Twitter: If SMU gets football rolling under Morris, do you see them in a P5 conference?Billy: Yes. I think the Pac 12 and ACC are the two most viable options. The next round of realignment is coming at the backend of the decade and SMU has what most conferences would want in a school. The football program just have to climb out of the cellar and be truly competing (and winning) AAC titles in the next few years. Here's what SMU brings: great academics, great facilities, top five media market, top recruiting market, and something most people don't realize is Dallas is the company headquarters for many of the biggest sponsors in collegiate sports.
First, Dallas is a top 5 college football market. Expanding a conference footprint in to Texas means more TV money.
Second, Dallas is home to some of college football’s biggest advertisers and sponsors: AT&T, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Dr. Pepper, Frito-Lay, Toyota, Exxon Mobil, JC Penney, Gamestop, etc. Those conferences and schools want access to these sponsors for their own rights. That can be made possible with a yearly trip to SMU and maybe a non-conference game in AT&T Stadium like the conferences are doing.
Third, Texas high school football’s doors would be opened up to a conference’s schools with SMU in their conference. Schools like Stanford, Michigan, Arizona State, Northwestern and others are some of the regulars that already come down to Texas to recruit. A trip home for some of the DFW kids for a game would be a nice thing to add to their recruiting pitch.
SMU has made the commitment to campus and athletic facilities to be at the highest level. The final step will be major renovations to Ford Stadium, building an indoor practice facility and a new soccer facility. Once those and the golf and swimming facilties are done, SMU will have some of the best facilities in the country.
Larry Brown has shown what you can do with new facilties, a new commitment to a program, and that's winning. Morris has his formula and if it works, SMU will be in position to be picked by a Power Five conference. He hasn't coached a game yet, but has already reenergized the school, alumni, Texas high school football coaches, recruits, and most importantly, the team. It's his job to steer the ship to a championship program. Morris is really SMU's last bet before realignment swoops in. As of now, I'll bet he can get it done.
John via email: Do you see SMU ever playing Baylor again? Or A&M for that matter?Billy: The more likely of the two is Baylor because I'm a true believer that the Big 12 will fold (or look drastically different) after the next round of realignment in a few years. A&M isn't leaving the SEC and SMU isn't going there so it'd have to be a non-conference game. I don't see SMU scheduling that one unless if somehow in the future, Baylor and TCU are in a conference with SMU and it's looking for a Power Five in-state opponent on the OOC slate.
This is a lot of speculating, but the state of Texas will be the epicenter of the next round of realignment. Baylor, Houston, SMU, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech will all be up for grabs if the Big 12 folds. Those are solid media markets (Lubbock and Waco not as much as Houston, Austin and DFW), but that's what drives the ship and a real reason why SMU could sneak into a Power Five conference the next time around. Not to mention SMU being in Dallas with the top college football sponsors all are headquartered. A lot of college football money lives in Dallas and those sponsors would love to see a Power Five conference come to the heart of Dallas.
That was kind of a rant, but the point is 5-10 years from now, I could certainly see SMU playing Baylor again, but only in the same conference. The trio of Baylor, TCU and SMU are attractive to a Power Five conference with academics, money, football programs (SMU is contingent on Morris turning it around), but all those things will be big factors for the next round of realignment. It has a lot of moving parts, but if the Big 12 folds, crazy things will happen and SMU could be in position to be there.
Tom via email: Do you think SMU's offensive line or defensive line will see the biggest improvement (hopefully) from last year's Baylor game?Billy: The offensive line. That's because of three main reasons. The line is in much better shape to physically compete against Baylor plus they've actually been going full speed and with contact in practice during game situations. The strength and conditioning program has done wonders for all five starters. Most of the linemen in general have truly changed their whole lifestyle and it shows. The second reason is the scheme. While it will take a little bit longer for Morris to have everything the way he wants it in terms of playbook, but play-action (non-existent last year), the multiple looks the offense throws at an opponent, and the tempo will even put pressure on the Baylor defense.
Last year, the offense gave Baylor all the time it needed to line up and diagnose a play. This year, even they will be tested by the tempo. Third and finally is Dustin Fry. He's an absolute technician with his craft and expects his linemen to do the same. Granted, this is the same five that SMU rolled out against Baylor last year, but they've grown in many ways. I expect them to have issues with the Baylor line of course, but the group has a lot more reason to succeed (or at least progress) this year vs. last year. It was brutal last year, but improvement will be shown the most along the offensive line.
Paul via PonyStampede message: College football playoff picks?Billy: Ohio State, Auburn (tough for me to say), Oregon and TCU. OSU is the most talented team in the country, but the one thing that almost held me back was the quarterbacks. That's tough on any team to have two QBs that good and of course, the media will ask each week if Barrett or Jones was good enough last week and will we see the other QB next game. Could wear on a team, but I see them almost breezing through their schedule.
Auburn's new quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a stud and is the best quarterback they've had since a guy named Cam Newton. He hasn't started a game, but people have been talking up his talent since the spring. It's almost Jameis Winston-like how hyped this kid is. Also, Will Muschamp will drastically improve their defense. Oregon also has a newcomer at quarterback, but Vernon Adams is a very capable passer with great potential in this offense. They're loaded at the skills, return solid talent along the offensive line and the defense also returns enough talent. It's on Adams to make it work. The Ducks face his former team week one, but then head to East Lansing for their matchup with Michigan State. A win there and Oregon could really get rolling. TCU is my last pick and it's because Trevone Boykin returns. The defense has some holes to replace, but Patterson has proven he can do that. The offense is pretty much intact, which is ridiculous. The defense will develop throughout the year and TCU will beat Baylor to get the job done this year.
National champion: TCU over Ohio State. Mustang fans cry a little bit.