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Opponent Preview: SMU

Taking a different tack this week, here is a Q&A with Sancho, a writer at perunaspundits, which is's SMU blogger, about Friday's DFW Duel, and SMU.

The Purple Wimple: Has Zach Line made SMU fans forget Shawnbrey McNeil?

Sancho: Who’s Shawnbrey McNeil? I think that he has, due to a couple reasons. One, SMU has not been a running team ever since June Jones showed up, which is when McNeil was his best. The focus was really on the passing game, so he was overlooked by fans a little bit. Two, Zach Line is pretty damn good.

PW: Is Kyle Padron having a sophomore slump?

Sancho: No, I just think he had a bad first game. I think this is mainly because none of the receivers have stepped up as his go-to target yet. The problem is that everyone remembers how he performed against Nevada at the end of last season, in which he threw 32 times for 460 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. In the regular season, he was good but not great. In the three game stretch last season against Rice, UTEP, and Marshall, Padron completed 18 or less passes each game for less than 250 yards, and in those three games threw 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

And those teams were bad. He actually performed better against the better teams, such as Houston (11/16 for 140 yards and 1 td in the one half that he played after the started got injured) and Nevada. The difference is that he did not perform well against the better team this year. Plus we have been running the ball more. In the games against UAB and Tulsa, he completed at least 18 passes for 145 and 280 yards respectively, with 6 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Pretty damn good, in my opinion.

Next challenge: seeing if he steps up and again performs well against the better team.

PW: I've been saying for about a year that 2011 is the first TCU-SMU game that will be really competitive. Is that fair to SMU?

Sancho: It is very generous to SMU in fact. I think it will be competitive in the first half, but that’s about it.

PW: Is [DE Margus Hunt] the Estonian stoppable?

Sancho: Only if you are 7 feet tall and awesome. I think he will lead the nation in blocks for the second year in a row.

PW: Who in the defense has stepped up as a leader in the place of Chase Kennemer?

Sancho: Ja’Gared Davis. Talent-wise, he is probably better. He already has 22 tackles through 3 games.

PW: Has SMU developed a winner's attitude? (I'm thinking of the "family and championship" routine from last season)

Sancho: Yes.

PW: What'll be the outcome of the TCU-SMU game this year?

Sancho: (unfortunately for SMU): TCU 35-21 SMU

PW: What teams do you expect SMU to beat this year?

Sancho: Now that Case is out for Houston, I can easily see SMU beating everyone except for TCU. And ECU could go either way. Last year, SMU lost a couple they shouldn’t have because of the atrocious defense. This year I see that changing.

PW: Will SMU win its division? Conference?

Sancho: Division-yes. Conference- maybe (ECU)

PW: TCU is a few years further than SMU down the "turn this program around" road, but it is abundantly clear now that SMU is catching up. When do you foresee parity arriving in the SMU-TCU rivalry?

Sancho: 2 years away. Mainly because TCU will probably be rebuilding and SMU will be at the height of experience with their current crop of talent. If SMU keeps up the winning, though, expect much more talented players to be coming to the hilltop.

PW: Do you and other SMU fans wish the Mustangs and Frogs played in the same conference?

Sancho: I do.

PW: What do you think about the rumored C-USA + MWC playoff for a BCS autobid?

Sancho: I think it is sweet. [The Mountain West champ] will now get an automatic bid for the next 10 years. But it makes both conferences more legitimate, which is good no matter who wins.