Midseason report: SMU


Record: 4-1, 2-0 CUSA

The Mustangs made it to the Conference USA championship game last season, but now coach June Jones expects to win it. His team has its hands full in the West Division, but certainly the Mustangs have shown the potential to get back into the title game again this season. They have done it with a new quarterback. J.J. McDermott replaced an ineffective Kyle Padron in the season opener and has not let go of the starting job. McDermott has played well, throwing for 1,482 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions to rank No. 2 in CUSA in passing. Darius Johnson has proven to be a go-to receiver with 39 catches for 550 yards and four touchdowns, and leads the league in receptions per game and receiving yards a game. His teammate Cole Beasley is right behind him at No. 3 in both categories. Running back Zach Line once again is dominating on the ground, with 583 yards and 11 touchdowns already this season to lead CUSA. SMU has done a nice job on defense as well, ranking No. 2 in the league in total defense, giving up an average of 296.6 yards a game. Steps are being made, and none bigger than its 40-33 overtime win over cross-town rival TCU. It was the Mustangs' first win over a ranked team since defeating No. 22 TCU 21-10 in Dallas on Sept. 10, 2005. SMU is off to a 4-1 start for the first time since going 5-1 to begin the 1986 season. But the schedule has its challenges. The Mustangs get UCF this weekend in a rematch of last year's CUSA title game. They also have to play at Southern Miss, Tulsa and Houston. But the Mustangs have proved they can play with anybody. Will that translate into an even bigger milestone for the program this season?

Offensive MVP: RB Zach Line. You are making me choose just one? It was a tough call between Line and Johnson, but I am going with the guy who leads the league in scoring with 66 points. He has been incredibly valuable and durable once again.

Defensive MVP: LB Ja'Gared Davis. Plenty of candidates for this one as well. Taylor Thompson is third in the league with five sacks, and Taylor Reed leads the team with 39 tackles. But Davis has done a little bit of everything -- he has 28 tackles, including four for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also has an interception, forced and recovered a fumble and has six passes defended.