The SMU Mustangs (4-2) have played six games this season, and have six regular season games left. What do we know, what have we learned and what should we expect in the second half of the season.
What We Know
We know that SMU is now one of the top teams in Conference USA. After finishing with the same record as Houston, but taking second in the West because of losing head-to-head, the Mustangs were expected to finish second in the division again.
Quarterback Kyle Padron is good. He showed that after taking the starting job after he came into the Houston game last season. He showed it again in the Hawaii Bowl throwing for a school-record 460 yards against Nevada.
SMU's core of wide receivers can catch and run. Led by senior Aldrick Robinson, junior Cole Beasley and sophomore Darius Johnson the Mustangs have several options for Padron. Robinson usually gets the big play, Beasley is usually the slant route for the first down and Johnson gets the ball in the end zone.
Robinson leads the team with 539 receiving yards and six touchdowns, but has six fewer catches than Johnson and three fewer than Beasley, but he averages 20 yards a catch.
Margus Hunt is a beast. The 6'8", 272-pound sophomore from Estonia turned heads as he was a kick-blocking machine last season. He has continued that trend this season as well as getting on the field for first through third downs as well.
The Mustangs defense is solid. The team has allowed just 25.5 points a game this season, compared to 27.6 a year ago. They only allow red-zone touchdowns 74 percent of the time, and total red zone scores of just 78 percent. Defensive back Sterling Moore returned an interception for a touchdown and linebacker Ja'Gared Davis returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown.
What We Have Learned
SMU should win the West. It was a two-horse race in the West between SMU and Houston, but Houston had to retire their stud quarterback Case Keenum as well as his backup Cotton Turner and had to turn to a freshman. Houston is still good, but the Mustangs have a chance to go 8-0 in C-USA and play for the conference title.
Zach Line is a running back. Line was recruited as a linebacker and a running back and head coach June Jones expected him to sit on the bench for a couple of seasons to learn the linebacker position in SMU's defense. But on a small roster Jones needed him to play running back.
Last season he was the power to Shawnbrey McNeil's speed, this year he is showing he is an all-around back running for 552 yards and five touchdowns this season. Line averages 6.8 yards a carry.
Hunt can play some defense too. After being a special teams hero last season Hunt has found his place on the defensive line. He has 12 tackles, two for loss, one sack, two pass breakups and two blocked kicks. The coaching staff has done a great job of taking and molding a player who came to SMU with no football background.
SMU linebackers are solid. Led by senior, and second leading tackler, Pete Fleps the linebackers are fast and can tackle. Fleps has 51 tackles and 3.5 for loss, Davis has 44 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks along with a forced fumble. Youri Yenga has also been solid with 36 tackles, 2.5 for loss, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
The SMU secondary is good too. With the loss of Bryan McCann and Rock Dennis there were several question marks about the Mustangs secondary. But with Moore, Ryan Smith and Richard Crawford those questions have been answered so far. Moore has 18 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and a touchdown, Smith has 19 tackles and two interceptions and a forced fumble and Crawford has 23 tackles, one for loss and an interception.
What to Expect
Padron to break the SMU single-season passing record. The record stands at 3,103, set by Chuck Hixson in 1968. SMU has played against the tougher defenses in the first half of the season and it took a little while for the passing game to get going. In the past two weeks Padron has thrown for 752 of his 1,564 yards this season. With games against Tulane and Marshall coming up in the second half Padron should break the record easily.
After going 4-2 in the first half of the season expect 4-2 to be the worst the team does in the second half. There are three big games for SMU: Navy, Houston and East Carolina. Navy and Houston come up in the next two Saturdays, and ECU comes on the last game of the season and could be to decide who hosts the C-USA championship game between the two teams.
SMU to win the West. Houston is still good, but without Keenum, and even Turner, they will not repeat as C-USA West champions. If the Mustangs go out and take care of business against their remaining conference schedule they will be playing on Dec. 4, and if they win out that game will be played at Ford Stadium.
High expectations are still a scary thing to have as an SMU football fan, but the 2010 team is getting the job done, and looks like they will only get better in the second half of the season.