By Paul Tenorio | Orlando Sentinel
10:57 AM EDT, June 5, 2013
Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 82: SMU
Coach: June Jones (31-34, sixth season; 107-75 overall)
2012 record: 7-5 (5-3 Conference USA; second C-USA West Division)
Look back: It was a relatively disappointing season for SMU, which managed to eke out a .500 record and get to the Hawaii Bowl. The Mustangs dropped three of their first four games, including home dates against Texas A&M and TCU. SMU was relatively strong in conference play, but it had a troublesome one-point loss at Tulane, was blown out at UCF and couldn't keep up at Rice. The Mustangs were solid offensively, averaging more than 30 points per game, and stout defensively, ranking 15th in the country against the run and 10th in turnover margin. The losses at Tulsa and Rice, however, indicated SMU just couldn't fully get over the hump.
Offensive starters returning: 5
Offensive starters lost: 6
Defensive starters returning: 6
Defensive starters lost: 5
Key losses: DE Margus Hunt, RB Zach Line, LB Ja'Gared Davis, OL Bryan Collins, WR Darius Johnson, LB Taylor Reed, OL Jordan Free, DL Torlan Pittman, LB Ja'Gared Davis
Top returnees: QB Garrett Gilbert, DB Kenneth Acker, WR Jeremy Johnson, OL Ben Gottschalk, OL Taylor Lasecki, WR Der'rikk Thompson, LB Randall Joyner, P Mike Loftus, K Chase Hover, DB Jay Scott
Strengths: The Mustangs could be an explosive passing offense with the return of Garrett Gilbert under center and the addition of coach Hal Mumme as the passing-game coordinator. Gilbert passed for 2,932 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, but he also threw 15 picks. SMU brings back anchors on the line, Ben Gottschalk at left tackle and Taylor Lasecki at center. The Mustangs also bring back all four starters in the defensive secondary and ranked 36th in the country in pass efficiency defense last season.
Weaknesses: SMU has some big shoes to fill in RB Zach Line, who carried the ball 277 times last season for 1,278 yards and 13 touchdowns. No other back had more than 12 carries. SMU will likely look to transfer Traylon Shead, an ex-Texas recruit who rushed for over 1,000 yards in junior college in 2012. The Mustangs must also find some production in the pass rush, where they lost DE Margus Hunt, a second-round draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals. The 6-foot-8 end had eight sacks and 11 quarterback hits, and LB Taylor Reed added another 6.5 sacks. All three starters from the defensive line are gone, as well as two of four starting linebackers from last year's strong run-stopping front.
Outlook: SMU will need to replace plenty of production on both offense and defense going into the fall, but it has enough returning on the roster to present some intrigue during its first season in the American Athletic Conference. Gilbert's growth, with improved play from the wideouts, could make the Mustangs a dangerous team. However, SMU will have to overachieve to match its win output from last season against a tougher overall schedule.
Aug. 30 Texas Tech
Sept. 7 Montana State
Sept. 21 at Texas A&M
Sept. 28 at TCU
Oct. 5 Rutgers
Oct. 19 at Memphis
Oct. 26 Temple
Nov. 9 at Cincinnati
Nov. 16 Connecticut
Nov. 23 at USF
Nov. 29 at Houston
Dec. 7 UCF
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