A 10-win season was great for SMU last year. But it is 2020 and time to prove last season was not a fluke. It starts Saturday afternoon in San Marcos in the season opener against the Texas State Bobcats. If you are looking for signs of how good the Mustangs can be this year, Saturday’s game is probably not the best barometer. It has all the makings of a route.
Texas State is coming off a 3-9 season. The offense was so poor that head coach Jake Spavital showed offensive coordinator Bob Stitt the door. Spavital will be calling the plays himself this season. And he is going to be doing so with a revamped offense.
The Bobcats will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. Brady McBride is a redshirt sophomore transfer from Memphis. In McBride’s one year at Memphis, he played in three games. He threw for 88 total yards with one interception. Seventy of those yards were in one game against Mercer. He also rushed for 31 yards. He was recruited as a dual threat quarterback out of Coppell High. McBride sat out the rest of the 2018 season and utilized his redshirt. He then transferred to Texas State and sat out 2019 under NCAA transfer rules.
Whatever the offense is going to look like Saturday, McBride has to be the one to make it work. He was chosen as the starter over veteran Tyler Vitt. But Vitt, now the back-up, will not be available for the game as he is in COVID uarantine. The Bobcats were 121st in the country in total offense last year, and now start the season in a depth hole on offense. Tight ends Seth Caillouet and Jackson Lanham will also miss the game for the same reason. McBride will have veteran receivers Caleb Twyford and Javen Banks at his disposal. Twyford is in his fourth year at Texas State and has yet to reach the 500 receiving yards in any one season. He has less than 1,000-yards for his career. Banks has 30 receptions for 528 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons.
All of that sounds good for an SMU defense that allowed 500-plus total yards in five of its last six games last year, but did lead the country with 51 sacks. The Mustangs could use the time to figure out what it has on the defensive side of the field this year. SMU returns defensive ends Turner Coxe and Gary Wiley. Coxe had 49 total tackles last year including seven-and-a-half for loss. The linebacking group also gets back Richard Moore, who was the leading tackler in 2018, but missed most of 2019 with a knee injury. The SMU defensive has enough experience to keep McBride in check. But they have to cut down on the big plays they gave up last year.
When it comes to the SMU offense, there is not a lot of mystery. Spavital was on Sonny Dykes’ staff at Cal. The two are very familiar with each other. And at this point, every opponent knows the SMU offense begins and ends with quarterback Shane Buechele. The senior was less than spectacular last year in week three against Texas State. He was efficient at 14 for 18 passing. But he had only 219 yards to go with just two touchdowns and two interceptions. Receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. returns after an injury shortened 2019. Even though he only appeared in eight games, he had 803 receiving yards. He is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list and is easily one of the top 10 receivers in the country.
On the defensive side, Texas State also comes into the game having lost their all-time leading tackler as Bryan London graduated. Cornerback Jarron Morris returns. He is fully capable of making some plays in the secondary, but it is asking too much of one defensive back to keep Buechele and Roberson in check. .The Bobcats defense already was not very deep, so the SMU offense should have a big day.
The Mustangs won last year’s match-up 41-17 and they are a 20.5 favorite going into this season’s game. And that was before Texas State was hit with COVID quarantines.
They shouldn’t have too many difficulties in this game, so it is a chance for Dykes to see what he has individually on defense, without reading too much into the results against a weak Texas State team.