Rich histories add to the flavor of the Armed Forces Bowl as Southern Methodist meets Army Wednesday afternoon in an extreme clash of styles. The high flying SMU Mustangs return for their second bowl bid in consecutive seasons. It is the first time this feat has been accomplished since the program was handed the “Death Penalty” by the NCAA in the mid-80’s. Army’s woes have continued for over a decade as its military brethern, Navy and Air Force, have been successful on the football field. Now, this game signals the Black Knights’ return to glory competing in their first bowl game since 1996. These two teams are growing and gaining each year after being considered legitimate National Championship contenders during differing periods of each program’s storied years. And one of the game’s largest conundrums may be answered…does running the football or passing the pigskin prove more vital to winning football?

3 Keys from the scouts

1. Aerial assault. SMU coach Junes Jones has resurrected a program once proclaimed dead. He has done it at multiple stops in his coaching career with little regard to running the football. Jones is the architect of the run and shoot offense. He has found success in the NFL and Hawai’i prior to coaching the Mustangs. Just like those previous stops, the Mustangs can sling the football all over the field effectively. The team’s overall passing attack may not be as impressive as previously seen under June Jones’ watch, but 273.8 yards per game is still noteworthy and ranks 21st in the nation. Kyle Padron is his signal caller already passing for over 3500 yards and 29 touchdowns. In a slightly ironic twist, Jones may have the best running back (Zach Line) on the roster since he has coached in the college ranks. The team’s passing effectiveness only makes Line more effective.

2. Ground and pound. Army coach Rich Ellerson brought the triple option back to West Point. After dabbling in west coast passing offenses and failing miserably, the team has returned to its roots. The team is tenth in the nation averaging 256 yards per game. Fullback Jared Hassim has been the primary ball carrier, and he should eclipse 1000 yards in this contest. Quarterback Trent Steelman has nearly 700 yards on the ground. Four other offensive weapons have registered over 200 yards or more.

3. Trench warfare. SMU will counter Army’s rushing attack with its massive three man defensive front. Margus Hunt, a native Estonian, is 6-feet-8-inches tall and 272 pounds. Taylor Thompson is 6-feet-6-inches tall and 276 pounds. Marquis Frazier is 298 pounds on the nose. Army’s offensive line averages 268.8 pounds. They will cut and stay within the legs of Mustang defenders, but SMU’s length should give the option troubles. Meanwhile, SMU possesses one of the best left tackles in the country in Kelvin Beachum Jr. The blindside protector does not possess ideal measureables, but he plays with great technique. It will serve him well against Army’s undersized end Josh McNary. McNary has posted 9.5 sacks this season to date.

Bold Predictions: Research shows both teams did much better against similar opponents than expected. Army only lost to June Jones’ previous and still pass happy squad, Hawai’i, by three points. SMU faced a single triple option team this season, Navy, and lost by a touchdown. Army is not quite Navy, and June Jones is the master run and shoot orchestrator. When one adds in the superior athletes for the Mustangs, the outcome seems obvious. SMU 28, Army 21

Pro Prospect Preview

SMU

Round Full Name Pos Num Yr Comments
3rdMargus HuntDE923SoFormer shout put/discus champion developing into a dominant football player. Possesses outstanding size and comes with a great upside. Dynamite special teams player as well.
3-4Taylor ThompsonDE83JrTall angular lineman who makes plays in every direction of the field. Must add bulk but has an upside.
6-7Kelvin Beachum Jr.G703Jr
FAJ.T. BrooksT794JrTerrific pass protector effective blocking in motion.
FAAldrick RobinsonWR244SrSmall, elusive receiver who shows strong hands, good eye/hand coordination and continually comes away with the ball.

Army

Round Full Name Pos NumYrComments
FAJosh McNaryOLB444SrTerrific college pass rushing defensive end who must make the transition to the NFL once his military commitment is complete

Game Preview: Brent Sobleski

Prospect Preview:  Tony Pauline