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SMU is on an upward trajectory in Chad Morris’s third season at the helm after the Mustangs won five games a year ago, up from two in 2015. With 16 returning starters, nine on the offensive end, this year has all the makings of a bowl appearance. But before they reach those goals, Morris still has to decide on his starting quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Ben Hicks took over early last year when regular starter Matt Davis went down. Hicks was fine, tossing for 19 TDs and 15 INTs with a 55.5% completion rate, but those interceptions were an issue. And so, SMU had a quarterback battle in the spring and that was still undecided going into the fall. Hicks has the experience in the offense, while Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavey and Wisconsin transfer D.J. Gillins both reportedly had great springs. No matter who wins the job, the offense should be set with four linemen returning to the mix, which will lead the way for running back Braeden West (1,036 yards, 6 TDs) to top last season’s numbers. Even better, top wide out Courtland Sutton (1,246 yards, 10 TDs) is back for another year along with James Proche and Shelby Walker. If this offense can’t top the 27.7 points per game it scored a year ago, it’d be a major disappointment.

The situation is slightly different on the defensive end as the Mustangs allowed 36.3 points per game and only return five starters from that group. The main problem could once again be on the line where senior end Justin Lawler is the only returning starter. At the least, there are pieces to work with in the back from linebackers Kyran Mitchell and Anthony Rhone to corner Jordan Wyatt and safety Rodney Clemons.

The defense should get out to a good start with the help of two favorable matchups before heading to TCU. After that, two more favorable games await with UConn opening up the AAC campaign and a possible 1-0 start. It’s hard to see SMU stealing any of the road games as they draw four difficult squads in conference play in addition to the TCU trip. Getting to six wins will require the Mustangs to win home games in which they’re favored such as against Tulsa and maybe even UCF. Then again, if they win all of their home games, which is possible, that’d be seven wins and that’s all they’re looking for.

SMU still has to figure out its quarterback so that will be something that could limit them from doing more, but with the nice run of home games, the Mustangs are in line to reach six wins and a bowl game for the first time since 2012. If that doesn’t happen, look to a defense that doesn't improve and a quarterback situation that never figures itself out.


2017 SMU Mustangs Football Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. Stephen F. Austin
Sept. 9 vs. North Texas
Sept. 16 at TCU
Sept. 23 vs. Arkansas State

Sept. 30 vs. Connecticut
Oct. 7 at Houston
Oct. 21 at Cincinnati

Oct. 27 vs. Tulsa
Nov. 4 vs. UCF
Nov. 11 at Navy
Nov. 18 at Memphis
Nov. 25 vs. Tulane

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