SMU Mustangs have their work cut out for them

Freshman SMU quarterback Ben Hicks still has opportunity for more cheers as the season draws to a close. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Freshman SMU quarterback Ben Hicks still has opportunity for more cheers as the season draws to a close. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports /

With three games to go, the 4-5 SMU Mustangs are going to need a very strong finish.

SMU Head Football Coach Chad Morris’s second season is now 75% over and there is still plenty of work for them to do. In order to get to six wins and earn much-coveted bowl eligibility, the Mustangs will have to win two of the final three games. It won’t be easy.

November 12 @ the East Carolina Pirates

Don’t let the 3-6 record fool you. The Pirates can pull off an upset in a heartbeat, especially at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Senior quarterback Philip Nelson can make big plays and boasts a 16-6 Touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also has a very reliable target to hit in senior wide receiver Zay Jones.

Jones has an astonishing 127 receptions this season and he still has three games left to play. This places the native Texan just 28 catches shy of the NCAA record held by Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green State in 2009. But even when Jones can’t get open, fellow senior Jimmy Williams has made his fair share of catches this season as well.

The ground game is where the Mustangs will have the chance to keep it all balanced. SMU is stronger against the run and also has more talent at running back on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore Braden West will get some opportunities to find holes and break off long runs.

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The question is whether that will be good enough. The Pirates are SMU’s best shot at a win, and they will need to cash in on that with what the final two weeks offer.

November 19 vs. the South Florida Bulls

There’s a reason the South Florida Bulls are 7-2 and that reason is junior quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers has 17 touchdowns to five interceptions this season with 1,491 yards.

He’s also the team’s leading rusher with 921 yards. As a dual-threat, he will give the SMU defense fits all over the field.

Through the air, he’s connected with senior wide receiver Rodney Adams 41 times for 556 yards and four touchdowns this season. They’ll have to connect a few times to make Mustang fans feel good about this one. Otherwise, they really stand no chance.

November 26 vs. the Navy Midshipmen

At 6-2, Navy will bring a heavy rushing game to Dallas. Powered by senior quarterback Will Worth, their option-based offense will be gimmicky enough to keep SMU guessing all day.

But unlike many option offenses, the Midshipmen will pass just enough to keep opponents honest. So, it’s not feasible for SMU to simply load the box and follow the ball. It will be imperative to keep at least one guy deep to play the pass.

Offensively, the Mustangs will have to capitalize on the ground game. Should West find a groove, an upset is plausible for SMU and fans would be elated to see that happen. This is especially true in the event they can take down South Florida this weekend.

Next: Frogs still have a long road ahead

It won’t be easy for the Mustangs. They have their work cut out for them. But by taking it just one game at a time and one play at a time, the opportunity is there. It’s just up to SMU to take it.