SMU 2022 Season in Review: Mustangs off to strong start under Rhett Lashlee

Photo by Dave Campbell's Texas Football

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2022 record: 7-6 (-1 win from 2021) 

Texas Power Poll ranking: 6 of 12 


Rashee Rice and the passing attack were bright spots for the Mustangs in year one under Rhett Lashlee, who was the offensive coordinator at SMU when Rice first arrived on campus. Rice was an All-Texas first-team selection and an All-American on a few lists after catching 96 passes for 1,355 yards and 10 scores. He averaged eight catches and 113 receiving yards per game in his final year on the Hilltop. He more than doubled the next leading receiver on the team in catches and yards. 

Quarterback Tanner Mordecai completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,524 passing yards and 33 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Preston Stone, who is expected to start at quarterback in 2023, was impressive in his six games before suffering a season-ending injury. True freshman Kevin Jennings also looked like a future starter in his appearances. SMU finished the season ranked 12th in scoring offense by averaging 37.2 points per game. Only TCU averaged more inside the Lone Star State. 

The Mustangs built a reputation as a team that fades late into the season in the Sonny Dykes era, but the 2022 version of SMU bucked those trends by winning four of its final five regular season games. The only regular season loss after Oct. 22 was on the road against a Tulane team that won the AAC and beat USC in a bowl game. The 77 points scored in a win over Houston at home on Nov. 5 was probably the high point of the season. Mordecai threw for nine touchdowns in the victory.  


The Mustangs struggled to build momentum early in the season with a 3-4 record following the home loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 22. SMU started out 2-0 with victories over North Texas and Lamar, but then lost to Maryland, TCU, and UCF in consecutive weeks to drop below .500 for the first time in years. The ability to play four quarters of consistent football eluded SMU during that time. They were outscored 14-0 in a 13-point loss to Maryland. Two weeks later, UCF outscored SMU 31-6 in the second half of a game the Mustangs led at halftime. They trailed 28-7 at one point in the first half to TCU. 

The running game was also a negative for SMU, especially early in the year. The Mustangs ranked seventh nationally in passing offense. They were 64th in rushing. The unit averaged 4.9 yards a rush in seven wins. That average dropped to 3.23 in the six losses. The team averaged 4.13 yards a rush on the season with only one player – Tyler Lavine – receiving more than 70 carries on the season. No other player on the roster accounted for more than two touchdowns or 370 yards rushing on the entire season. 


The defense was bad. The Mustangs’ 33.8 points per game allowed ranked 119th out of 131 FBS programs. The only other FBS team from the Lone Star State to allow more points per game was Rice. SMU allowed more than 200 yards a game rushing, which was 120th in the nation. The passing defense ranked 73rd in yards allowed per game but were 84th in yards allowed per attempt. The defense allowed touchdowns to opponents on 63.46 of their red zone trips, which was 84th-worst in the nation. The team was -2 in turnover margin on the year. 


Quarterback: B+ 
Running back: C+ 
Wide receiver/tight end: A
Offensive line: B- 
Defensive line: 
Linebacker: C- 
Cornerback: D+ 
Safety: D+ 


Is SMU a perennial favorite in the new-look AAC? 

SMU can emerge from conference realignment as one of the best G5 programs in the country and a perennial contender for the AAC and a spot in the expanded version of the College Football Playoff. Why not? The school has big money donors who can outspend most G5 programs. Dallas is a hot bed of recruiting talent, and the Mustangs should always land some big-name transfers who want to move back home after a year or two out of state or buried in the depth chart at P5 schools. They don’t have to deal with Houston or Cincinnati or UCF because all three are off to the Big 12. 


The AAC title feels like a three-team race in 2023 with SMU jockeying for position next to defending champion Tulane and two-time reigning Conference USA champions UTSA. SMU returns a quality quarterback in Stone, a solid running back room, and an always-explosive wide receiver group. If the new additions through the transfer portal live up to the hype and the youth on the roster takes a step forward in year two, especially on defense, then the Mustangs are a legit contender to become the best G5 team in college football. SMU doesn’t have to play UTSA or Tulane in the regular season. The in-conference road schedule is Rice, Memphis, East Carolina, and Temple. The Mustangs host Tulsa, North Texas, Charlotte, and Navy. Eight wins should be the floor moving forward.

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