Sonny Dykes and the new look Ponies had themselves quite the scare last weekend during a clear trap game after defeating TCU, but Southern Methodist is going bowling this year.
Mustangs are Must-watch
It took 3 Overtime periods for Shane Buechele to outduel former Baylor QB Zach Smith, but the players who were expected to have big roles for SMU are definitely stepping up this year. Xavier Jones has seized the RB1 reps and found the endzone a dozen times for his senior campaign. To couple with the ground game, Reggie Roberson and James Proche have combined for over 1000 yards and 10 TD grabs. The offensive potency has resulted in the Mustangs scoring over 40 points in 5 straights games.
While the offensive turnaround from last season has been astounding, the whelp of returning starters on defense have also picked their game up. The pass rush and strong secondary have coupled to give the Mustangs 26 sacks, as well as snagging 8 interceptions at the halfway point of the season. Patrick Nelson leads the way with 5.5 sacks and a pick, as well as a team-high 38 tackles. After transferring from Illinois for his junior year, Nelson has built off his experience in this defense last year and is putting up all-conference numbers.
The Mustangs will be searching for their 7th win of the season at home against a gritty Temple defense after a much-deserved bye week this weekend. Temple will be coming off of tilt with the other top team in the AAC, Memphis, where SMU will be headed for a showdown that could be a conference title game preview in week 10.
Can Frogs Find Consistency?
The Horned Frogs are struggling to find an identity early on this season. Freshman Max Duggan has shown some bright spots after earning the starting (???) job against Purdue in week 4. When the Frogs offense goes up-tempo with a sense of urgency, Duggan has been exactly what was advertised in high school. However, the strange rotation of bringing Alex Delton in to relieve Duggan in the past few games may be hurting the progression of the freshman signal-caller. To speak more certainly, the running game makes it easier on either of the QBs. Darius Anderson has come out of the gate like he has something to prove this year and has totaled over 500 yards for the third straight season, with seven games left to play. He leads the team with 6 total touchdowns, all on the ground.
Each game has provided a different epiphany for the Horned Frogs offense. Against Purdue, TCU showed how well their offense could run the ball, as they put up almost 350 yards on the ground to go with 3 scores. Against SMU, the Frogs realized they have tight ends on the roster, as Pro Wells grabbed 2 touchdowns to match TCU’s TE production from 2015 to 2018. Against Iowa State, the Frogs played more into the strengths of their best receiver in Jalen Reagor as he broke out of a dismal slump that saw him catch 6 balls for 46 yards in a 3 game span. If this offense wants to be productive, they need to get the ball in their best player’s hands.
Alas, it is not all on the offense. Gary Patterson’s famous 4-2-5 gave up a combined 90 points to SMU and Iowa State for their two losses on the season, after giving up 7, 13, and 14 to UAPB, Purdue, and Kansas respectively. The key to winning this bye week is if the Frogs prioritize consistent play. If the Frogs can utilize their strong run play, organize their passing attack, and establish a consistent defensive identity, we could see them make a solid run to finish the season.
Raiders out-duel Cowboys, My Red River Revelation, and Matt Rhules
Across the Big 12 landscape, it appears as though getting conference wins will come at a premium. Texas Tech defended their home turf against what everyone believed was an unstoppable OSU offense. Spencer Sanders’ 3 interceptions sunk the Cowboy offense into a hole that even Chuba Hubbard’s insane skills couldn’t run out of. I will give credit where credit is due, Jett Duffey played his best game as a Red Raider with 400+ yards and 5 scores. With that performance and a stout defensive game, the Red Raiders earned their first victory of Big 12 play.
I noticed a phenomenon in Morgantown, WV that also took place in Lawrence, KS. The top two teams in the conference were looking right past the lower-tiered opponents they were facing on the road. In my humble and honest opinion, West Virginia had no business hanging around with Texas as long as they did. Similarly, Kansas should not have been able to score 20 on OU’s defense, as well as OU scoring a season-low 45 points. I know, we’re pretty much-splitting hairs at this point but the Sooner’s average margin of victory of 36.75 was down 2 scores in Lawrence. This being said, the Red River Shootout should see the clear front runners of the conference playing with a lot of focus on October 12th.
Not enough can be said about what Matt Rhule has done in Waco. People weren’t ready to embrace Baylor as a Big 12 contender after their soft non-conference schedule, but two salty victories over a strong Iowa State squad and Kansas State in their own stomping grounds has caught the attention of AP voters. Rhule’s fixer-upper has seen the Bears jump from 1-11 his first year to 7-6 last year and now his squad is one of two undefeated Big 12 squads. His offense has rallied behind junior QB Charlie Brewer and his defense has the best pass rush this program has seen since the ’80s.
If Texas drops the Red River Shootout, we could see a Christmas themed color scheme in the Big 12 title game on December 7th.
Wouldn’t that be festive?
Featured Image: Dallas News