DALLAS (AP) – As expected, SMU’s schedule got more difficult in its debut season in an automatic-qualifying BCS conference.
To go along with their American Athletic Conference games, the Mustangs are playing two Big 12 teams and have a trip later this month to seventh-ranked Texas A&M of the SEC.
This week should have been a breather.
So much for that with Montana State coming to town Saturday night after an opening weekend filled with upsets by FCS teams.
The Bobcats (1-0) are the No. 3 team in the FCS polls. The top two teams, two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State and Eastern Washington, were among eight FCS squads that beat upper-tier FBS teams.
Montana State is 0-6 against FBS teams under seventh-year coach Rob Ash. But there was a one-point loss at Washington State in 2010.
The Mustangs (0-1) have won all four of its games against lower-division teams under sixth-year coach June Jones. There were a couple of close calls his first two seasons, but SMU beat Stephen F. Austin 52-0 last season, a year after a 40-7 victory over Northwestern State. Jones’ first home game with the Mustangs was a 47-36 win over Texas State in 2008.
Five things to watch when Montana State plays at SMU, which opened the season with a 41-23 home loss to Big 12 team Texas Tech:
AIR RAID: As expected, SMU came out throwing in the first game with passing game coordinator Hal Mumme on Jones’ staff. Garrett Gilbert completed 41 of 62 passes for 388 yards. There were also two 100-yard receivers, Jeremy Johnson and Darius Joseph. They were no interceptions, but also no TDs through the air.
SECOND LINE: Only Eric Dickerson had more yards rushing in a single season or career at SMU than Zach Line, who had 4,185 yards and 47 touchdowns the past four seasons. While Line was playing his senior season a year ago, his younger brother Prescott Line was redshirting. Prescott Line is now expected to get his first start for the Mustangs in place of Traylon Shead, the Texas transfer who is out with a strained knee. As a high school senior two years ago, Prescott Line was “Mr. Football” in Michigan, when he averaged more than 200 yards rushing and 14 tackles. The 233-pounder running back, who is also a quality blocker, made his debut in the opener.
RECORD-SETTING QUARTERBACK: Fourth-year Montana State starting quarterback DeNarius McGhee is 31-8 as a starter, and the 31 wins are the most in school history. The two-time Big Sky Conference MVP has a school-record 71 touchdowns and is second in Bobcats history with 9,356 yards passing. Even though he didn’t throw a TD in the opener, he completed 19 of 27 passes for 240 yards while running five times for 54 yards and a score.
HITTING THE ROAD: After opening the season with two consecutive home games for the first time since 2007, SMU won’t play at home again for almost a month. The Mustangs have an open date after playing Montana State, then have consecutive road games against Top 25 teams — seventh-ranked Texas A&M of the SEC, and their Iron Skillet rivalry against No. 24 TCU of the Big 12. Their next game on The Hilltop will be their AAC home opener against Rutgers on Oct. 5.
HOLDING ON TO THE BALL: SMU and Montana State both got through their season openers without any turnovers. The Mustangs had 23 turnovers last season — 13 in the first four games. Montana State had seven turnovers the first three games last season, and finished with 22 overall.
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