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The Dirty Dozen: SMU

When USF arrives in Dallas to play the Mustangs, they’ll need to be prepared for an SMU team looking to make a statement.

USF’s last road game of the regular season will bring them to Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, where they will match up with an SMU team that could be looking for Chad Morris’s first... (cringing)... (I hate this phrase so much)... (you have no idea)... signature win.

Opponent: SMU Mustangs
Date: Saturday, November 19 (time TBA)
Head Coach: Chad Morris (2nd season at SMU, 2-10 last year)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Craddock (but seriously, it’s Chad Morris)
Defensive Coordinator: Van Malone

All-Time Series: USF leads 2-1. After dropping a hideous 16-6 game in 2013, they needed the world’s first six-minute drill to eke out a 14-13 win in Dallas two years ago, then trounced SMU 38-14 last year in a game Marlon Mack missed with a thigh injury.

The game in Tampa last year was the Quinton Flowers show. He set a single-game USF quarterback rushing record with 201 yards and three touchdowns, including a spectacular helicopter dive into the end zone for the Bulls’ final score. And sure, it knocked him out of the game and hampered his mobility for a week or two and may have led to USF’s subsequent loss to Navy that kept them out of the American championship game, but it looked really cool!

The game was a little closer than the score indicated. The Mustangs had a lot of fight and actually outgained USF 365-352, but were undone by four turnovers. On the other hand, Mack didn’t play and the Bulls’ receivers had a terrible afternoon, dropping several throws that would have given Flowers much more than 97 yards passing.

2015 Results: It was a Year Zero for former Clemson offensive coordinator and Texas high school coaching legend Chad Morris. SMU ponied up the cash (sorry, not sorry) and hired Morris to pick up the pieces June Jones left behind when he bailed in the middle of the disastrous 2014 season. SMU finished 2-10, only managing wins over North Texas and Tulane (who combined for just three wins themselves). They lost to FCS James Madison, were hammered 55-14 by Navy, and finished the season with an embarrassing 63-0 skunking at Memphis.

Offense: The Mustangs finished 85th in Offensive S&P+, as a lineup filled with underclassmen was as inconsistent as you might expect. Quarterback Matt Davis was handing off to two freshmen running backs and led the team in rushing himself. His top five wide receivers were all freshmen or sophomores, including Courtland Sutton, a USA Today Freshman All-American who led the team in receiving. SMU brings back virtually all of their offensive production this year, and if they can keep their offensive line together they should be much improved.

Defense: WOOOOOO LORD THEY WERE BAD. SMU was 126th in defensive S&P+, and dead last (128th) on standard downs. You could do anything you wanted against the Mustangs’ defense. Injuries racked an already bad unit, and by season’s end they had given up an incredible 548 points.

Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they won’t have the same continuity on defense this season as they will on offense. They lost one of their key defensive linemen (Zach Wood) and their best linebacker (Jonathan Yenga). While senior safety Darrion Millines and corner Horace Richardson are back to try and anchor the secondary, SMU will still have a bad defense this season, especially against the run.

Bottom Line: Despite SMU’s obvious shortcomings, this could be a dangerous game for USF. The Mustangs should have little trouble generating offense, and this game falls in a spot on the calendar where they might be looking for the big win that kicks them up a step on Chad Morris’s rebuilding plan. Plus, you can get almost any kind of weather in Dallas the weekend before Thanksgiving, like the miserable cold and mist that hung over the 2014 game between these teams.

But! As long as USF is healthy and clicking on offense, they will be able to move the ball, dictate the tempo, and score with ease. This should be a win for USF, even if the score is uncomfortably high.

P.S. Remember the 5.