FBS bowl season is also the season of successful mid-major coaches leaving town, taking jobs at Power-5 schools and getting a pay raise. Like Chad Morris, now-former coach of the SMU Mustangs.
The effect of a “bolt-for-Benjamins” can be enormous in the short-term. Last weekend, Oregon was clobbered by Boise State (as BetFirm predicted) thanks to the distraction of former coach Willie Taggart splitting for Florida State. Replacement HC Mario Cristobal made one of the worst moves of the 2017-18 postseason, allowing star rusher Royce Freeman – who chose not to play based on his NFL prospects – to spend Saturday on the sideline yelling at the team to play harder. The fact that no Oregon player socked Freeman in the jaw was a minor victory, but Cristobal’s failed debut was a gut-punch to the Ducks.
Will it be the same for new SMU coach Sonny Dykes? He inherits a 7-5 team that lost 3 of its final 4 games against a tough AAC schedule, but did manage to end on a high note by beating Tulane.
Their opponent in the Frisco Bowl (played near Dallas, not in San Francisco) is Louisiana Tech, a more-or-less average program from an average Group-of-5 conference. But don’t be quick to write the Bulldogs off. LA Tech has won 3 postseason contests in a row.
Who: Southern Methodist Mustangs vs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
When: Wednesday, December 20th, 8 PM EST
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX
Lines: LA Tech (+5) vs SMU (-5) / O/U Total: (70)
Dykes is an experienced, if not wildly-successful head coach. His resume does not include a winning record, but he has a P5 background and has skippered nearly 100 D1 college games. Most importantly, the Mustang roster gives him a hell of a lot to work with.
The SMU passing game is special, with sophomore QB Ben Hicks having passed for nearly 3500 yards. Hicks has thrown for 12 touchdowns over the past 3 games. His favorite targets include Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton who have amassed well over 2000 receiving yards and 24 scores. The running game is averaging 5 yards per carry. The Mustangs have fielded an average defense, however, and long-range field goals are an adventure.
LA Tech will have the slightly-superior pass rush of the 2 opponents, but the Bulldog defense can’t be counted as a much-better unit overall. Quarterback J’Mar Smith has thrown only 13 touchdown passes against a modest Conference-USA schedule. Tech did play a terrific defensive game against UT-San Antonio in the finale, earning bowl-eligibility with a 20-6 win. But the Mustangs aren’t just in a different league offensively compared to the Roadrunners – they’re in a different universe.
We’re liking SMU to cover the thin point spread and prevail by as much as 21 points. Dykes is the perfect coach to steer a talented team through a tough situation due to his ample experience and steady leadership. He won’t allow his squad to lose focus as Cristobal did. The Mustangs’ hometown advantage will help negate any edge the LA Tech defense might enjoy at OLB and DE.
Take Southern Methodist to cover (-5) points.