Sam Blum covers SMU for Dallas Morning News.
We talked to Blum and had him answer some questions before the University of Tulsa takes on No. 24 SMU at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Dallas.
This is a team that missed a bowl last season, but is now undefeated and already matched last year’s win total. From your perspective, what have been some of the biggest differences from last season to this season?
The biggest difference is personnel. Many of the players currently on the roster are transfers from high-major programs that had to, or chose to leave for one reason or another. As a result, the typical 2-star or 3-star players have turned into 3-star and 4-star former recruits. I'm sure there's also been a good culture shift in the second season of Sonny Dykes, but the coaching staff has done a great job of bringing transferring players from the DFW area back home, and selling SMU as Dallas' home team. Offensively, having two senior receivers and two senior running backs leading the way has also been helpful. There's a lot of experience on the roster.
TU also has a Big 12 transfer at QB in Zach Smith. What has Texas transfer Shane Buechele brought to the Mustangs this season, and how big of a difference maker has he been?
Shane Buechele is one of those big-time transfers that SMU has landed. He's one of the best QBs in the country for throwing deep balls, which has been a big part of the offense. He can also read the defense well, and has only been sacked four times, while the SMU defense has recorded 25 sacks. He just doesn't take negative plays. SMU is scoring more than 40 points a game on the road and against good competition, and Buechele is a big part of that. He's just a cool, calm and collected individual that clearly feels comfortable playing at this level.
If TU manages to pull off the upset Saturday, what would you predict was No. 24 SMU’s weakness the Hurricane capitalized on?
I would think SMU missed a few critical kicks. The Mustangs have missed six extra points and two field goals inside of 25 yards this season. They have used three kickers and it's all kind of been a mess. I do think at some point it has the ability to cost them a close game. The issue has been snaps, as well as losing the battle on the line. Then there have been a few bad misses that appear to be the fault of the kicker.
Who’s an SMU offensive and defensive player TU fans should know about before Saturday and watch for?
On offense, James Proche has some of the best hands in college football. He's up at the top of every SMU all-time category for receptions and has had two highlight-reel plays the last two weeks. On defense, cornerback Brandon Stephens has been one of the best players in the secondary. His story is cool because he spent the last three years as a running back at UCLA.