The FBS is on alert.
Last weekend, eight Football Bowl Subdivision teams lost games against smaller, less-funded, seemingly weaker opponents from the Championship Subdivision.
Some upsets were bigger than others.
Eastern Washington, for instance, became just the fourth FCS team to knock off a ranked FBS opponent with a 49-46 win at Oregon State, then No. 25 in the Associated Press poll. Two-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State toppled reigning Big 12 champion Kansas State 24-21, utilizing a powerful and workmanlike 80-yard drive that ate up the last half of the fourth quarter.
Turns out little brother isn’t so little after all.
Should No. 3-ranked Montana State be licking its chops heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Southern Methodist? Can the Bobcats add to the count of FCS upsets?
“It might actually put us at a disadvantage,” said seventh-year MSU coach Rob Ash. “There’s no doubt (SMU’s) coaches will be talking about what happened with those FCS/FBS matchups last week. It could make our job more difficult.”
The Bobcats’ task in Dallas wasn’t easy to begin with. Under head coach June Jones and first-year pass-game coordinator Hal Mumme, SMU is a throw-first (if not a throw-all-the-time) outfit, meaning Montana State’s secondary will be under assault.
Last week the Mustangs put the ball up 62 times in a 41-23 home loss to Texas Tech. This isn’t the old Pony Express of the early 1980s. There aren’t any Eric Dickersons to worry about.
“It’s two of the greatest passing minds in the country working together,” Ash said of Jones and Mumme. “They like to crank it up, air it out, and challenge you with a multi-look passing game.”
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Jones, formerly the coach at Hawaii and the Atlanta Falcons prior to that, is in his sixth year at SMU. He is a student of the run-and-shoot offense. Mumme is an innovator of the “Air Raid” offense, a scheme that typically relies on four wide receiver sets and a quarterback in the shotgun formation constantly.
In the loss to Texas Tech, SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert finished 41 of 62 for 388 yards and no interceptions.
“All you have to do is just turn on the projector and let them watch,” Ash said of his team. “They see the speed and the route combinations. Technique will be a huge key for us. You have to play with proper technique against a fast opponent.
“And you have to be able to play tired. Our guys are going to be running around a lot, so we have to get lined up quickly and have great stamina.”
SMU’s offensive stats will probably look pretty good by game’s end. But the Bobcats and quarterback DeNarius McGhee will have opportunities to make plays, too – if last week is any indication.
Against Texas Tech, SMU’s defense gave up 413 passing yards and surrendered first downs on 10 of 18 third-down plays.