Next up in our look at potential BCS busters out of Conference USA is SMU, a team coach June Jones believes is on the doorstep of breaking into the system the way he did with Hawaii back in 2007. Jones has the experience of taking a team to a BCS game that nobody else does in C-USA, which should give his Mustangs an advantage. Plus, he gets to recruit in Texas, a place that is overflowing with talent. If TCU can do it in the Mountain West, why not SMU in C-USA?
Why they have a shot: The Mustangs are getting closer and closer to where Jones wants them to be now that they are in Year 4 of his program. SMU made it to the C-USA title game last season, which was earlier than even Jones anticipated. Kyle Padron has shown improvement, and Jones expects him to take the next step this season. That means connecting on more big plays in the passing game. Cole Beasley emerged as a 1,000-yard receiver last season and he is going to be even more vital in 2011. Zach Line proved to be an excellent back with 1,494 yards in 2010, and the defense returns solid players in Ja'Gared Davis, Taylor Reed, Margus Hunt and Chris Banjo. Jones said Davis and Reed have put in "unbelievable work" in the offseason. "They were good last year, and they're better now," Jones said.
Why they won't make it: The Mustangs still lack depth on the offensive and defensive lines and need a big-play receiver to replace Aldrick Robinson. The lack of depth is most concerning to Jones, but he knows it takes time to rebuild there, especially when you have inherited a losing program. The nonconference schedule is tough, with games at Texas A&M and at TCU and a home game against Navy. The TCU game actually begins a difficult four-game stretch. After playing the Horned Frogs, SMU gets a week off before hosting UCF, then it travels to Southern Miss and Tulsa. SMU also has to play Houston on the road on Nov. 19. The Mustangs start on the road at Texas A&M on Sunday night, Sept. 4. A loss there and a BCS season most likely ends.