It is time to start circling some dates on the calendar, as the AAC has finally released conference schedules. The boring part of the off-season is over. SMU fans, here is the 2018 football schedule:
#PonyUpDallas announces 2018 football schedule. Slate features six games at Gerald J. Ford Stadium including Friday night home opener against TCU.— #PonyUp FootbaII (@SMU_Football) February 13, 2018
Release: https://t.co/dnugYuBg8F pic.twitter.com/6syNoUEaUK
They open the season with a brutal non-conference schedule, with potential to go 0-3 starting out if the team doesn’t gel quickly. Facing the runner up from the C-USA, away from home, (with a still explosive offense), plus TCU and Michigan is not an easy task. They still have to figure out answers at receiver now that Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn are gone.
After that stretch, they get a quick conference game at home with Navy. The triple option poses plenty of problems to teams that are in mid-season form, let alone early in the season. Ask Lane Kiffin and his FAU Owls what happened when they opened against Navy. This is a monumental game for reasons I will speak below.
Following this is the last non-conference home game against Houston Baptist. Nothing really else to say here other than the fact that it should be an easy win.
Now, we get to the part that we have all been waiting for: the full slate of conference games. We already talked about Navy earlier. If they were to lose that game, they would almost surely be doomed to start 0-2 in conference play. They have to travel to Orlando for their second conference game against will at the least be a solid UCF team under first-year head coach Josh Heupel. The road trip does not stop there either. They then have to head to New Orleans for a game against a Tulane they barely beat last year.
They get a “break game” by getting Cincinnati at home and have to face a tough Houston team after that for a brief two game home stand. After that they alternate road, home, road for the last three games. They first get UConn at Storrs, take Memphis on at home, and finish the year at Tulsa.
Obviously, as previously stated, the non-conference is brutal. They have the potential to win just one game against Houston Baptist. UNT is not the same team as last year, and will most likely be taking steps forward. Additionally, I just do not see anyway that SMU gets past TCU or Michigan.
The other point of discussion is the conference did not help SMU too much. It seems to me that SMU is constantly playing tough conference teams and is almost constantly traveling. The only nice thing the conference did was give SMU a bye week at the half way point before after the UCF game. Most schools prefer where SMU got their bye week, so that is at least a plus.
Another thing I noticed was easy or easier games were immediately followed by difficult games. This can be good and bad. The good is it allows you to get out to a decent size lead, and let starters rest. The bad part is the fact that you will never gain momentum after winning, unless they are to pull off an upset. Here is what I am referencing: Houston Baptist is before UCF, Cincy is before Houston, and UConn is before Memphis.
The last big thing I noticed is the home slate being super entertaining. Having TCU, Navy, Houston, and Memphis on a home slate is fantastic. Although two of those are Friday night games and will be against high school football. TCU always will draw fans and if SMU is still in a division hunt, the Memphis game will be huge.
Overall, I think SMU has a medium to high difficulty to schedule, with emphasis closer to the high side. If SMU is going to emerge as a favorite out of the west, they cannot let their brutal out-of-conference schedule get to them. They do have a chance to beat any AAC team on their schedule, but they will for sure have to earn it. So saddle up and strap in, as this season is going to be a wild ride.
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