The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Mustangs fill dance card, slate high competition

Upon the release of SMU’s 2003 football schedule, Pony fans across the region took notice of one thing. The Mustangs are prepared to challenge themselves and will have every opportunity to do so.

SMU will face five bowl teams from a year ago. Four of the games will be played at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

The Mustangs will face a high level of competition right out of the stable. They open the season Aug. 30 against Texas Tech.

SMU played Tech tough last season in the Mustangs’ only home sell-out. Their first game is a chance to avenge one of the games that got away.

The Red Raiders went on to win the Tangerine Bowl in 2002. They won 55-15 over Clemson.

SMU and Texas Tech have a four-year contract and the 2003 game will mark the second of that series. The two teams will meet in Dallas again in 2004 and in Lubbock in 2006.

Athletic Director Jim Copeland thinks that the finalized schedule is one that the department and university should be excited about.

“Our schedule is very attractive and very competitive,” Copeland said. “We have a tough non-conference schedule, playing three bowl teams from last year. We want to bring teams from the region into Ford Stadium, and we do just that, hosting Oklahoma State and TCU.”

Last season, the Mustangs were in several games that they just could not finish. That deficiency, combined with subpar attendance and an ever-lingering perception that the death penalty still affects the program, have led some to question whether or not SMU can or will be able to compete at a high level.

“We’ve got to go out and prove we can play,” head coach Phil Bennett said. “There are three Big XII teams in that schedule. This is our opportunity to show that we can compete at that level.”

The Mustangs also host Oklahoma State (Sept. 20), the only game the Mustangs played last season in which they were unarguably outplayed.

In addition to the non-conference games against Big XII teams, SMU will again have the chance to reclaim the Iron Skillet from rival TCU. The Horned Frogs are SMU’s last game, wrapping up a formidable itinerary for the 2003 Mustangs.

TCU handled No. 21 Colorado State in the Liberty Bowl in 2002, winning 17-3.

The challenges come from within the conference, as well. Boise State comes to Dallas on Oct. 18. The Broncos finished No. 15 in the nation and destroyed Iowa State 34-16 in the Humanitarian Bowl.

“The best team [that we play] may be that Boise State team,” Bennett said. “The Iowa State game was real. [Boise State is] a good football team.”

Fresno State won the Silicon Valley Classic 31-20 over Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs are SMU’s Nov. 1 homecoming opponent.

SMU’s spring session begins March 20. Spring football is the first step to being a successful program. The off-season work will set the tone for a season that could show just how serious SMU is about returning to national football prominence.

When Bennett took the SMU job last year, he made it clear that his goal was to win championships. The strength of the 2003 schedule will provide a good gauge as to how far SMU has to go to claim a Bowl Championship Series nod. But the step will not be without struggle.

“[Calling this schedule] challenging would be an understatement,” Bennett said.

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