By Josh Orozco
Assistant Sports Director
Tomorrow marks the first-ever game for Texas State on the worldwide leader in sports’ flagship channel, ESPN. The Bobcats host the SMU Mustangs at Jim Wacker field in the first FBS game in the state of Texas this season.
As football makes its much-anticipated return in a world filled with uncertainty, here are the three things to watch for in Texas State’s season opener.
Buechele vs. McBride
The throwing ability of SMU quarterback Shane Buechele speaks for itself. The senior out of Arlington finished sixth in the country in total passing yards last season and is undoubtedly an NFL prospect heading into his final year.
Buechele earned the title of the best quarterback in the state of Texas during the preseason, beating out Kellen Mond of Texas A&M and Sam Ehlinger of the University of Texas, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
Since transferring from Texas, Buechele has catapulted the Mustangs as a legitimate threat in the American Athletic Conference under the guidance of head coach Sonny Dykes.
If his numbers last season of 219 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Bobcats are any indication, expect the SMU offense to once again look to Buechele to kickstart the game by leading the way through the air.
As for Texas State, the Bobcat family await their first-look at head coach Jake Spavital taking over the play-calling reins. It is no secret that the second-year head coach loves working with the quarterback position. This season’s shiny new addition for Texas State is Memphis transfer, Brady McBride.
Bobcat offensive coordinator Jacob Peeler is eager to see what happens with their latest “QB1” after a year-long transfer process.
“Brady [McBride] has had a tremendous fall camp,” Peeler said. “He gave the offense a little bit of juice at times. I’m excited about Brady [McBride] and seeing him play.”
Spavital and Peeler aren’t the only coaches who took notice of McBride’s arrival. Coach Dykes also praised the sophomore transfer ahead of the Mustangs’ matchup in week one against the Bobcats.
“I think he’s [McBride] going to be the perfect quarterback for what Jake Spavital wants to do,” Dykes said.
Buechele has high expectations to deliver in his final season. McBride brings new energy and hope into a revitalized offense. Translation? Two extremely talented Texas-product quarterbacks will compete for the chance at a strong start to what is shaping up to be one of the strangest seasons in college football history.
The maroon and gold had a strong recruiting campaign this offseason. However, acquisitions Jahmyl Jeter, Waydale Jones and Silas Robinson continue to stand by for approval by the NCAA to clear transfer waivers.
Sophomore tight ends Tyler Huff (torn ACL), Micah Hilts (torn pectoral muscle) and defensive back Khambrail Winters (torn ACL) are all expected to miss the Bobcats’ season opener and are all likely to miss the entire 2020 season.
The depth chart continued to dwindle later in the week as defensive back transfer Tory Spears, backup quarterback Tyler Vitt and tight ends Seth Caillouet and Jackson Lanam are confirmed to miss the first game of the season as they remain in quarantine after contact tracing, as reported by the Austin-American Statesman.
Despite Texas State starting the year off with nearly a dozen players out, wide receiver Jeremiah Haydel realizes the enormous opportunity for those taking the field.
“It gives a lot of guys a showcase [for] their skills and just show we’re a real team, we’re here and we’re going to play hard,” Haydel said.
Another TJ Takeover?
Although Dykes-led teams are known for their air-raid style of offense, SMU also has advanced the ball on the ground efficiently. Recently crowned starting running back TJ McDaniel enters his sophomore year as no stranger to facing Texas State.
McDaniel led the Mustangs’ stampede against the Bobcats in his SMU debut last season with 159 yards and three touchdowns on only eight carries en route towards a 47-17 victory in Dallas.
This time around, coach Peeler aims to find similar success on the ground but in the Bobcats favor. Peeler has a strong belief in the power that a heavy run presence provides.
“The best friend for a pass game is a good run game,” Peeler said. “Obviously, you help the defense out but you also help multiple areas of the field. That will be a huge part of what we’re trying to do.”
SMU finished last season third in the American Athletic Conference in total rushing touchdowns, only behind two schools within the top-25 in the country last season: Memphis (17) and UCF (24). Texas State placed second-to-last in rushing defense last season in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Bobcats square off against the Mustangs at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN and over the airwaves on KTSW 89.9 FM. Live tweets, updates and analysis on all things Texas State football can all be found on @KTSWSports on Twitter.
Featured image by Texas State Athletics.