SMU 101: Death Penalty U vs. Doba's Disaster

HOW IRONIC THAT TWO teams who received the death penalty -- one in 1987 for NCAA violations and the other for the Bill Doba Recruiting Calamity -- are set to clash in a showdown that carries as much outside interest as a dog fight in Hillyard. For ye unwashed, Hillyard is the north Spokane neighborhood where the trains used to bustle. They're long gone now, much like the glory days at SMU and WSU.

The Cougars limp into this one after consecutive poundings by Stanford and Hawaii. SMU, which has struggled mightily for two decades to recover from its sanctions, is actually riding higher than it has in years. Last week the Mustangs snapped a 17-game Conference USA losing streak and is now 2-0 for the first time since 1996 -- albeit the victories coming against Stephen F. Austin and Alabama-Birmingham.

Still, the massive investment the university laid out to lure head coach June Jones away from Hawaii could be starting to pay dividends. The Mustangs are beginning to flash some of the offensive potency his system is known for. If the defense can find a way to plug a few holes, the ‘Stangs could even start thinking about the possibility of their first bowl game in 25 years.

Cougars (0-2) vs Mustangs (2-0)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
2 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (37,000)

TELEVISION:
None

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
SMU by 3

THE SERIES:
This is the first meeting between the schools.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 35, Mustangs 34 (3 OT)

THE MUSTANGS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Bo Levi Mitchell, QB: The sophomore is still on the small side for a quarterback but is starting to play big time in his second season in Jones' system. He threw for 353 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win over UAB.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR: Is in second place in the school record books with 204 career catches, adding nine last week for 148 yards.

Overview
Another week, another June Jones designed run-and-shoot offense. The Cougars had plenty of practice against the carbon copy version he left at Hawaii, now they get to try their hand against the architect himself. The good news is SMU has less talent than what Hawaii brought to the table. Combined with a true home field advantage, there is some reason for optimism.

Strategy
Learn to play defense.

THE MUSTANGS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Rock Dennis, S: One of only three seniors on SMU's defensive roster. He was defensive player of the week after the first game and had an interception, pass deflection, and six tackles in week 2. He and fellow safety Chris Banjo are the primary ball hawks WSU needs to account for.

Overview
SMU's 3-4 sacrifices size for speed and aggressively tries to force turnovers. So far they have been successful, forcing 6 fumbles and intercepting 9 passes in the first two games. But they are far from impenetrable. Through the first two games opponents are averaging 454 yards per game and 6 yards per play against the Mustangs.

Strategy
Hang on to the bloody football.

THE MUSTANGS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
SMU appears sound in most special teams categories. Bryan McCann is a dangerous kick returner.

FINAL THOUGHTS
If the Cougs aren't in full panic mode this week I am not sure what it takes. If WSU doesn't get a win this week, an O-fer season appears likely. SMU has a new confidence under June Jones but this same team went 2-22 coming into this season. Their confidence is high, but could be fragile. Hawaii had much more reason to expect success, as many on their roster still remember the Sugar Bowl season of 2007. SMU won't have that kind of swagger until the scoreboard backs them up.

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