Head Coach: June Jones (85-57, 9-16 SMU)
Cougar fans that are looking for a college football example to give them hope that the dark days can be turned around, they should look no further than this week's opponent, the SMU Mustangs.
June Jones took over the team in 2008 and promptly led them to a 1-11 record. In 2009, SMU posted an 8-5 record after dismantling Nevada in the Hawai'i bowl. Makes you wonder why they didn't take their proper turn in smacking WSU around last year. Actually, we know exactly why, and we'll get to that in the offensive preview.
OFFENSE: 27.5 PPG, 5.5 YPP
Last year, SMU quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell seemed hellbent on bringing the Cougs back into the game, as he threw two pick-sixes in the second half, nearly erasing the 24-7 lead SMU had built all by himself.
Mitchell eventually went down to injury, and it turned out to be a blessing for the Mustangs. Kyle Padron stepped in and put up some very impressive numbers. As a freshman, he completed 67.2% and gained an average of 9.6 yards per pass. In June Jones's run-and-shoot offense, an accurate quarterback can pile up the stats.
So far this season, Padron really has not matched that same level of accuracy, connecting on just 54.9% and averaging only 5.1 yards per pass. He struggled mightily in SMU's opening loss at Texas Tech, throwing three interceptions.
Speedy wideout Aldrick Robinson returns for the Mustangs this year. He averaged over 17 yards a reception last season and has put up 101 yards on seven catches so far in 2010. Padron's favorite receivers thus far have been junior Cole Beasley (8 catches, 108 yards, 2 TD) and sophomore Darius Johnson (11 catches, 81 yards, 2 TD).
As for the running game, June Jones has put more of an emphasis on it since arriving at SMU. Last year, senior Shawnbrey McNeal carried the ball 238 times. His replacement, sophomore Zach Line, isn't getting the same amount of carries, but has been very effective through two games. He has carried the ball 28 times for a 6.93 average and three touchdowns. Overall, SMU has had great success on the ground, averaging 5.56 yards per run as a team.
DEFENSE: 21.0 PPGA, 4.9 YPPA
SMU comes in again running the 3-4 defense. Last year, they relied heavily on takeaways to stop teams. So far this season, they are doing things that are a little more sustainable. As an example, the Mustang defense has been particularly stout against the run so far in 2010. In their first two games, they have allowed just 2.86 yards per carry.
Senior linebacker Pete Fleps leads the team in tackles with 16. Sophomore Ja'Gared Davis has already put up an impressive 4.5 tackles for loss. Junior Marquis Frazier is the anchor in the middle at nose tackle, weighing in at 298 pounds.
Opposing teams have had success in the short passing game against SMU (they did open against Texas Tech). Quarterbacks have completed 59.4% of their passes for an average of 6.48 yards per pass. Overall, this unit does look to have potential to be an upgrade over a year ago.
The Mustangs are in trouble if...The quarterback is inaccurate. This offense is predicated on a lot short completions to move the chains, and controls the ball that way (they have averaged 34 minutes TOP so far). If the quarterback is missing, they will be faced with a lot of third and longs.
Additionally, SMU has to make sure they aren't looking forward to next week, when they play their rival, #4 TCU. That will be the biggest game of their season