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Fenway Bowl Preview: SMU Offense and Defense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Navy at SMU Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our soon to be ACC compatriots arrive to Boston ahead of schedule for the Fenway Bowl.

#24 SMU is surely a bit disappointed they didn’t make a more marquee bowl in a warmer location, but this will be a fun precursor for things to come. The Mustangs don’t have any major transfer notes, but BC does have a few folks having had to declare their intentions already. Here’s what to expect from Rhett Lashlee’s team looking for its 12th win of the season:

Pony Express

Kevin Jennings, 37/57, 427 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 91 yards rushing, 1 TD run

Preston Stone was the quarterback for much of SMU’s championship season but broke his leg in the regular season finale. So it’s redshirt freshman Kevin Jennings who will get the nod. Jennings started and won the AAC championship game, finishing with a stat line of 203 yards, 1 TD, and 2 interceptions. He also ran 15 times for 63 yards. He may have fumbled the first play of his first start, but he hung in and beat an excellent top-25 Tulane team. Jennings has seen action in a few games primarily because of some blowout victories. The fifth rank scoring offense is a bit different with him leading the way.

  • TE RJ Maryland: 34 rec., 518 yds, 7 TDs
  • Slot WR Jake Bailey: 36 rec., 474 yds
  • WR Romello Brinson: 26 rec., 417 yds, 2 TDs
  • WR Kelvontay Dixon: 24 rec., 420 yds, 4 TDs
  • WR Jordan Hudson: 28 rec., 412 yards, 7 TDs
  • WR Key’Shawn Smith: 23 catches, 380 yds, 3 TDs

It’s a very versatile group of receivers at his disposal. Maryland has been the leading receiving threat and was Jennings’s top target this past game. He has the size speed for mismatches, and is tied for a team-leading 7 touchdowns. He is a first team all conference selection along with three members of the offensive line. The senior slot Bailey was a favorite target for Stone, but his short area quickness can cause trouble. Brinson is a big 6-2 receiver on the outside while fellow junior Moochie Dixon plays a similar role. Hudson and Smith occupy the other receiving role. Smith caught the only touchdown Jennings through in the championship game.

  • RB Jaylan Knighton: 128 carries, 720 yds, 7 TDs
  • RB LT Johnson Jr.: 100 carries, 544 yds, 3 TDs
  • RB Camar Wheaton: 82 carries, 410 yards , 5 TDs

Along with Jennings on the ground, this bevy of backs is led by Knighton. The senior is a former Miami hurricane with over 1000 yards at the school. He scored the team’s opening touchdown and finished with 75 yards against the Green Wave. It’s not the strongest rushing attack, but with Jennings leading the way, they’ll likely lean on the run. They’re not so much home-run hitters (except the BC defense can sort of make anyone at any time just that), but they all churn over 5 yards a carry. It’s a strong offensive line that is also top 20 in fewest sacks allowed too, only surrendering one with Jennings a few weeks ago. All have a handful of catches but aren’t targeted all too much as well.

Mustang Mayhem

  • DE Elijah Roberts: 10 sacks
  • DT Elijah Chatman: 4.5 sacks
  • NT Jordan Miller: 4 TFLs, 24 tackles
  • Bandit Nelson Paul: 4.5 sacks, 24 tackles
  • WLB Ahmad Walker: 59 tackles, 1 sack,
  • MLB Kobe Wilson: 74 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF

The headline of this matchup is the SMU defensive front vs the BC offensive line. SMU is second in the country with 47 sacks. With the loss of their quarterback, the defense might be stepping it up even more. The defense is #3 in the country in third down defense and 12th in scoring and total defense. It’s been nothing short of near dominant. The junior Wilson is the tackling machine paired with Liberty transfer Walker. Then there’s Chatman whose disruptive presence inside earned him an all conference first team nod. It’s an overall veteran group who has been battle tested and taken massive strides while bringing in a few new faces. They avenged a 2022 conference championship loss, and held Tulane to 31 yards rushing and produced seven sacks. A pair of Miami transfers has helped the cause, with a potent pass rusher in Roberts and a run stuffer in Miller.

  • CB Charles Woods: 25 tackles, 11 passes defended
  • CB Christ Megginson: 21 tackles, 6 passes defended
  • Nickel: CJ Sanders 1 INT, 27 tackles, 7 passes defended
  • FS Jonathan McGill: 1 INT, 1 sack, 51 tackles, 3 TFL
  • SS Isaiah Nwokobia: 4 INTs, 1 sack, 58 tackles, 4.5 TFLs

With 11 interceptions in total, the secondary has taken four to the house. They in fact lead the country in defensive touchdowns. Sophomore Nwokobia has been an absolute ball hawk. A handful of transfers are in this secondary as well. Megginson and Woods hold the outside corner spots by way of Liberty and West Virginia. McGill was a strong performer at Stanford. With Ryan O’Keefe officially medically retiring from the game, and Jaden Williams entering the transfer portal, BC will have a little less depth to work with. Dino Tomlin and Jaden Skeete figure to get much more involved.

Special

K Collin Rogers

Rogers was very busy in the championship game, scoring the final 12 points of the game. He hit from 48, 45, and 32 twice in the game, but also missed once from 40. Conditions were mucky in that one so the currently projected rainy forecast will be slightly less of an issue. On the season he has missed 1 XP and 6 field goals