Just like last year, we could go 12-0!!! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now that that is out of the way, let’s take a look at the realistic best case scenario for the upcoming season. Now, is this my prediction? No. Of course, not.
First, let’s review the SMU Football Blog definition of a “winnable game.” A game is a winnable game if the opponent meets one of the following four characteristics:
1. SMU defeated the opponent in the previous year. Why? Because if you beat ‘em once, you can do it again.
2. The opponent finished with a record below .500. Why? Because a team, regardless of conference that did not have a winning record is beatable.
3. The opponent is from a lower division. Why? Scholarship restrictions; smaller budgets; fewer coaches; and the fact that I-A teams that play against I-AA teams win 89% of the time.
4. The opponent is from the Sunbelt conference. Why? While contraversial to pick on an entire conference, the statistics support it. The Sunbelt has a terrible nonconference record, last year winning just one of 28 nonconference contests. Further, the Sunbelt has the worst record against I-AA teams.
So, if you keep that definition of “winnable games” in mind, you will see where this is going quickly.
• Sep. 2-at Texas Tech Loss. Like last year’s A&M game, I can imagine a scenario where SMU pulls this one out. After all, the 2004 contest was far closer than the Texas Tech faithful expected. And, hey, Tech has a new starting quarterback. However, it just ain’t going to happen. The best anyone can realistically hope for is to keep it close. Oh, and I don’t think it is going to be close. The best case scenario for SMU in the Tech game is to keep it close and stay healthy. Nobody wants to hear it, but it is the truth. The only bright spots are a nifty td pass from Willis and one good sustained drive with a heavy dose of Martin who caps it off with a three yard touchdown run. Tech wins 40-14. 0-1
• Sep. 9-at North Texas
Win. 1 of 28. That is the Sunbelt Conference’s nonconference record last year against I-A teams. That is a 4% winning percentage for you math whizes out there. And let us not forget that North Texas wasn’t very good last year, going 2-9, with no win by more than a touchdown and losing each game by an average of 22 points. You aren’t going to believe this, but Willis will throw for 350 yards and two touchdowns in the best passing performance by an SMU quarterback since 2000. SMU wins 34-10.1-1
• Sep. 16-Sam Houston State
Win. I-A beats I-AA 89% of the time. Sam Houston State isn’t even a very good I-AA team. When I get around to doing the worst case scenario, this is still a win. I can’t, in my wildest dreams, imagine losing this game. As I type this, I am reminded that I said the same thing about the ECU game last year, which SMU lost in uninspired fashion. This game will be a tad closer than people would like, but the result is the same as the team rides Martin, Dorsey and Mapps into the endzone no fewer than three times. 2-1
• Sep. 23-Arkansas State Win. 1 of 28. Absent the “Sunbelt Rule” for winnable games, this would be a loss. Arkansas State had a regular season record of 6-5 and went to the New Orleans Bowl. Like most Sunbelt champs, however, without feasting on other Sunbelt teams and going 5-2 in conference, it would have never had a winning record. The only nonconference win was a schelacking of I-AA Tennessee-Martin. Did I mention that Arkansas State lost its three best offensive players to graduation? SMU pitches its first shutout of the season 21-0. 3-1
• Sep. 30-at Tulane
Win. Tulane is picked last or next to last in every Conference USA poll. However, if there is one team that is hard to judge going into this season, it is Tulane. SMU’s game against Tulane last year was an uninspired effort and that loss upsets me more than any other. So why do I think SMU will win? Because I have always believed that SMU did a terrible job with its schedule, to the point that it hurt the team. Now with a softer schedule, it is time to put that theory to the test. This team has confidence headed in the conference part of the schedule. Final score: 30-14. 4-1
• Oct. 7-at UTEP
Win. SMU defeated UTEP last year in one of the most unexpected quarterback meltdowns of last season. And it wasn’t by an SMU quarterback! I have a working theory that because of parity teams in non-BCS conferences, much like the NFL are succeptible to up and down seasons. Just as teams that make the Superbowl one year miss the playoffs the next, teams with good records may see dramatic dropoffs and vice versa. There is some evidence to support this: last year’s UCF, Houston, Tulsa have all had up and down years. I think this is UTEP’s year to be down. Don’t ask me why. Just a feeling. Final score 24-21. 5-1
• Oct. 14-Marshall
Win. I don’t know what happened to the Marshall offense, but by and large it disappeared. Marshall is treanding downward in every statistical category. I think this is a down year for Marshall. They secondary is being completely rebuilt. SMU throws all day. Final score 31-7. 6-1
• Oct. 21-at East Carolina
Win. There is no team in Conference USA that is ranked with more disparity than ECU. Some publications pick ECU to win the East; some pick them dead last. A couple of things I know is that (i) the ECU run defense is bad; and (ii) they are still coached by a guy that had his play calling duties a S. Carolina were taken away by his dad. Wow. SMU has its first winning season since 1997. 7-1
• Oct. 31-UAB
Win. I think this is Coach Brown’s last year at UAB. Like Marshall, UAB is trending down. UAB lost its quarterback, who holds every significant passing record at the school. Their offense never gets off the ground. SMU wins 28-10 on a good solid running day by DeMyron Martin. 8-1
• Nov. 11-Houston
Win. Like last year, Houston will lose a lot of close games and continues its problems on the defensive line. Final score 21-20. 9-1
• Nov. 18-Tulsa
Loss. If you have been paying attention, SMU is undefeated in CUSA, which leads to a showdown against Tulsa. SMU plays it close but loses 33-28. 9-2
• Nov. 25-at Rice
Win. Rice will win a game or two, but not this one. In a scrimmage last weekend, they still ran the ball 70% of the time. There simply isn’t the personnel to put in Todd Graham’s offense. I expect a score much like the 2005 game. 10-2
Again, is this my prediction? No, and don’t pretend it is. This is about the best SMU can do. In reality, I don’t expect SMU to win al of these games I identified. I admit it wasn't as much fun putting this together as last year, because I have higher expectations and I found myself confusing the best that could happen with what I thought actually may happen.
A real prediction is coming soon. There is a worst case scenario coming, too.