By Zach Walker
Well, if it was a race, college football wins. Football is back, win/loss records are going to start adding up. And for SMU, entering a new conference, the new AAC (formerly known as the Big East), starting off strong would go a long way, but that will not come easy. One of the biggest struggles of any college football team is replacing players who have left. Filling the shoes of Zach Line, however, will be the biggest task over the course of the season. Maybe at Oklahoma, you could expect to just replace a player who rushed for 4,185 yards, but at SMU the task is daunting. Perhaps his brother, Prescott, can make a push for the job. But this SMU team isn’t without returning leaders: Randall Joyner, Hayden Greenbauer, and Kenneth Acker head the defense, while on offense it’s really going to be on Garrett Gilbert. The fate of the team really rests on him, but in June Jones’ system, it’s not like he won’t have options. Der’rick Thompson and Jeremy Johnson are going to have plenty of opportunities to be truly dynamic, while Darius Joseph and Keenan Holman make room in the middle of field from the slot.
The Mustangs haven’t beaten the Red Raiders since 1986, and the last time they played was the most competitive of the losses (27-35). Before that it was pretty much a one-sided onslaught by the Red Raiders every time they matched up. But Texas Tech has a new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury and you never know how well a new coach will start a season until he actually gets underway, so I’ll take Coach Jones in a head-to-head. It’ll be a double rookie situation for the Red Raiders, rookie coach and a true freshman quarterback. Which quarterback it is, is at this point, still unknown. It’ll either be Davis Webb or Baker Mayfield, because the incumbent sophomore Michael Brewer injured his back in the offseason. But Kingsbury isn’t in unfamiliar territory with freshmen quarterbacks, last season he coached Johnny Manziel while he was the offensive coordinator with the Aggies. I am not comparing either Red Raider quarterback to Manziel; it’s just similar situations for Kingsbury. The decision about the starting quarterback will probably be made Thursday or perhaps even a game-time decision. Whoever does start for Tech, will have a dangerous weapon to target. Eric Ward coming off a 1,000 yard season, second consecutive 80+ reception season, and second consecutive double digit touchdown year.
Matchup of the Game: SMU CB Kenneth Acker/ TTU WR Eric Ward: Both are preseason threats to win their positions top accolades, both are seniors and both can take a game over. Edge: Acker. Why? Because of the freshman quarterback that Ward will be dealing with.
When/Where: August 30th; 7:00pm at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX (ESPN)
Prediction: Texas Tech 24 SMU 28. It’s really all about the quarterbacks, and the fact is the Mustangs quarterback has more turns on the odometer than the Red Raiders quarterback.