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2021 SMU Mustangs: A Rising Program, Maybe
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

2021 SMU Mustangs: A Rising Program, Maybe

SMU went 7-3 last year and very few people noticed. They return 20 starters off of that squad and are primed for a run at the conference. But their schedule is tough and they will be depending on a transfer QB to step up and keep their productive offense going. The defense will have a new coordinator who has a great resume and if they can improve they could make that jump.

Offense: Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai won the job in the spring over super-recruit Preston Stone. He was ok in spot duty at OU but how will he fare as “the” guy. He has a big arm and might be the answer or he might not. Regardless, he has plenty of help on the roster. Running back, Ulysses Bentley IV (913 yards rushing with 11 TDs) will provide run balance. The receivers return Reggie Roberson and Rashee Rice and added another Oklahoma transfer in tight end, Grant Calcaterra who had concussion problems last year when he announced he was done with football. If he has recovered, he will be productive. The offensive line returns all five starters and that is always a big plus. On paper, they appear loaded.

Defense: Jim Leavitt was brought in as the defensive coordinator and his track record is impressive. The defense needs improvement; in their 3 losses they gave up an average of 40 points per game. They return linebacker, Delano Robinson with his 77 tackles. The other two linebackers (Richard Moore and Jimmy Phillips Jr.) join him. Upfront all three starters return led by tackles, Elijah Chatman and Mike Williams. Brandon Crossley comes in from Colorado State and is expected to be a playmaker. Both safeties are also returning starters. ;

Non-Conference Schedule:

9/4 Abilene Christian

9/11 North Texas

9/18 at Louisiana Tech

9/25 at TCU

The non-con schedule has two home games that are must wins. The game at Louisiana Tech will be a challenge and the battle with crosstown rival TCU will be a fun one to watch. If the Mustangs are as good as they think they are, anything less than a 3-1 start will be disappointing.

Conference Schedule:

10/2 South Florida

10/9 at Navy

10/21 Tulane

10/30 at Houston

11/6 at Memphis

11/13 UCF

11/20 at Cincinnati

11/26 Tulsa

The AAC schedule makers weren’t kind to SMU as they play every other top contender in the conference. They have difficult road games at Navy, Houston, Memphis, and conference favorite Cincinnati. They could lose all 4 of those games and a 2-2 split would be acceptable. Games at home against South Florida and Tulane are must wins but UCF and Tulsa will be toss-ups.

Summary: There’s a lot to like about SMU. They are experienced, talented, and deep. I’m not sold on Mordecai at QB, or the defense and the schedule is daunting. I probably will regret where I have them ranked and I will admit they can fall anywhere from 2nd to 5th in the conference behind Cincinnati. They are a team to keep an eye on.

Predicted Finish: 5th in the AAC

Overall Record: 7-5

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