There’s a tendency for college football to have a short memory— conferences are often only perceived as being as good as their one most recent season, teams are only perceived being as good as their most recent game.
After today’s 54-32 thrashing of UNT, the SMU Mustangs stand at 2-0 and will seem, by all accounts, to be a vastly improved team headed into next week. And after two big wins this may indeed be the case, relying on quarterback Ben Hicks who dominated the Mean Green defense, throwing for 312 yards and four touchdowns.
A more likely story? They just have UNT’s number.
A year ago SMU won the game 34-21 in week one, but the game wasn’t as close as the score, either. Two quarterbacks, including Hicks, combined for 300 yards in the air that day, and this year Hicks topped that number by himself.
In that 2016 game, UNT’s top rushing weapon, Jeffrey Wilson, was stifled for a mere 86 yards on 15 carries. This year, despite being rested and having more help behind scrimmage, Wilson topped out at a paltry 36 yards on 13 carries, assisted by Nic Smith who actually managed more with less, 31 yards on only 5 carries.
Also eerily similar to last year? Despite the final score, UNT was the dominant team in the air, as Mason Fine found eight different targets over the course of the game, finishing with 424 yards passing, and three TDs. But in the end it was all for nought, as Hicks threw for five TDs (four of them to standout Courtland Sutton) and that was the ballgame. Despite the hype of both teams beating their FCS competition a week ago, nothing had changed from last year (aside from Hicks eating his Wheaties), and SMU will remain out of the Mean Green’s reach for another year,
This was a game fought largely in the air, and while SMU didn’t do so well down the stretch last year, there’s something about UNT coach Seth Littrell that Chad Morris just has figured out. It might be that they’re both former Offensive Coordinators, or something else entirely, but UNT’s last 15 points came in the fourth quarter when SMU was already comfortably ahead.
After beating UNT last year, the Mustangs still finished 5-7, so even with today in the books, we won’t know if they’re for real until next week, when they travel the 40 miles down I-30 to take on TCU. But they’re certainly a more well-rounded team than the Green, and we can consider their QB competition officially over.
North Texas, meanwhile, has to lick those wounds and heal fast, as they head to face an Iowa Hawkeye team that just needed OT to defeat Iowa State. We wish we could see that being a good sign for the Green, but after this week, it’s just best to focus on conference play.