July 23, 2007

Will the dominance continue?

WHERE: Dallas
WHEN: September 3, 3 p.m.
ALL-TIME: Tech leads the series 28-16
LAST MEETING: 2006, Tech 35 SMU 3 in Lubbock
LAST SEASON'S RECORD: 6-6

The Mustangs will be a veteran ball-club in 2007, and they return numerous quality players at the skill positions. But it will take much more than that for SMU to seriously threaten the Red Raiders, even in Dallas. In short, the SMU program is still not at the level of Texas Tech, and there's not enough of an upward trajectory to suggest a breakthrough against the Red Raiders this season.

Playing in the modestly exacting Conference USA, the Mustangs slogged through to a 6-6 overall record, and missed out on a bowl opportunity despite being 5-4 going into the home stretch.

With that 6-6 mark, head coach Phil Bennett's record stands at 17-41 going into his sixth season with the Mustangs. SMU has not gone bowling since 1984, and if Bennett doesn't turn the trick this year, he may not get another chance.


OFFENSE

Starters Returning: 9
Coordinator: Rusty Burns

With nine starters returning, the Mustangs obviously have few holes to plug. Sophomore Justin Willis returns to pilot the attack and he has the makings of an exceptional quarterback after throwing for 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions as a freshman. Columbus Givens and Emmanuel Sanders, one of the best wideouts in Texas college football, will be dangerous weapons for Willis to deploy.

But he'll have even more options in the backfield with big tailback DeMyron Martin, and speedsters James Mapp and Cedrick Dorsey returning to tote the mail. The offensive line, too, should be sound. Right tackle Kenard Burley is the bellwether.

What to look for: Look for a mystery to unfold. The Mustangs will probably have a better passing than running attack, but the Red Raider defense looks to be stronger against the pass than the run. Will SMU go strength against strength or weakness against weakness? The surmise here is that the Mustangs will go to the ground game early on and fail. After turning to the pass, however, SMU will make some hay and do some damage. Look for the Mustangs to post a respectable point-total against the young Red Raider defense.


DEFENSE:

Starters Returning: 6
Coordinator: Jim Gush

The Mustangs return over half of their starting defense from 2006, but the losses will prove critical. SMU goes into the 2007 campaign having lost three defensive line starters, their best linebacker in Reggie Carrington, and their best defensive back in safety Joe Sturdivant. That bodes ill for an afternoon with the Air Raid. Particularly when one considers that the Mustangs ranked dead last in the C-USA against the pass last season.

On the plus side for SMU, Cory Muse, a four-year starter, is a very good defensive end and Wilton McCray is a solid linebacker. But will that really be enough?

What to Look For: The Mustangs have been known to blitz on occasion, but against the Red Raiders that looks like a hopeless proposition. SMU simply doesn't have the hosses up front to get it done. Look, instead, for the Mustangs to drop and cover, to disguise coverages, and to throw multiple looks at Tech quarterback Graham Harrell in an attempt to confuse him. Don't look for it to work, however, against a quarterback who is verging on veteran status.

In the End: The game will contain plenty of offensive fireworks, and both teams will do their share of exploding. The Mustangs will find success through the air against a Red Raider defense that should have trouble pressuring Justin Willis. But the Tech offense will have more of that success. Indeed, if the Red Raider defense can prevent the Mustangs from scoring touchdowns on just three occasions, that should be good enough for the win. They will do that, and probably then some.

Just for Fun: Texas Tech 51 SMU 24




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