Dogs vs ‘Stangs! Arkansas State Red Wolves Battle The SMU Mustangs
The Red Wolves look to start the season by making the Mustangs pay. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID, SMU!
In 2017, the SMU Mustangs blasted the Red Wolves 44-21 behind two TD passes from QB Ben Hicks and the relentless generalship of head coach Chad Morris. Flash forward to today: Morris is the head coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks and his starting QB is Hicks. The Hogs will play Portland State three hours left of Jonesboro at 3PM. Life is weird.
Some Things Change, Some Don’t
Hicks had a good game against the Red Wolves two seasons ago, but wide receiver James Proche was the star, hauling in three passes for 133 yards and two TDs. The 6-foot senior is back as SMU’s lead receiver.
Also back to haunt the Red Wolves is senior RB Xavier Jones, who bowled over Arkansas State for 146 yards. He’s healthy and thirsty for yards. Just seeing these two guys on the opposite sideline should either give the Red Wolves incentive to deliver cold vengeance or trigger crippling PTSD. We’ll see.
The Coaching Situation
Sonny Dykes, by way of Louisiana Tech and California, took over for Morris in 2018. He and Hicks led the Mustangs to a 5-7 record, which probably felt a little disappointing. This season, Dykes has a healthy RB in Jones and a new toy behind center, Texas Longhorns transfer Shane Buechele, who sent Hicks packing.
Meanwhile, the sad passing of Blake Anderson’s wife Wendy has first-year defensive coordinator Dave Duggan taking over the team until Anderson is ready to return. Duggan has HC experience, having lead some teams in Europe. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to Duggan’s leadership.
A Game of Quarterbacks
SMU and Arkansas State share similar offensive strengths (talented wide receivers and running backs) and questions (green quarterbacks). However, Buechele started all twelve games for the Longhorns as a Freshman, and was named honorable mention Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. Overall, he’s started 19 college football games. Buechele is both battle tested and talented.
On the other hand, Arkansas State’s Logan Bonner has started zero college football games and has bided his time behind Justice Hansen. He gained his most playing time two seasons ago – against SMU, when he subbed for an injured Hansen. Bonner has looked terrific in the off season, but we’ll know if he’s ready for primetime by halftime.
The Final Analysis
It’s tempting to say this game will come down to defense. The Red Wolves are stacked on D and Duggan will have them primed for picks and sacks. But the real key is behind center. This game will be determined by which slinger makes the fewest mistakes.
SMU Mustangs @ Arkansas State, Saturday, 6:00 PM on ESPN3 Network, the official network of the Sun Belt.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.