Barely in Top 25 of Preseason FPI, SMU's Ranking Above Most of ACC

Being in Top 25 nice, but Rhett Lashlee knows how it stacks up among others in league will be first hill to take
SMU Mustangs coach Rhett Lashlee looks a the scoreboard during the second half against the UCF Knights at FBC Mortgage Stadium.
SMU Mustangs coach Rhett Lashlee looks a the scoreboard during the second half against the UCF Knights at FBC Mortgage Stadium. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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DALLAS — While all of these preseason polls will mean absolutely nothing in November, it does provide us at least some insight and entertainment, as everyone at SMU gets ready for the celebrations in a few weeks to move back into a big-boy conference, joining the ACC.

They will also do it with a preseason ESPN FPI in the Top 25 ... barely. Maybe even more importantly, the Mustangs are ranked No. 5 among ACC teams in that ranking and they only have to play two of those teams. Only one is a road game.

That's a positive way to look at it. Neither Florida State at home Sept. 28 or going to Louisville the next week (Oct. 5) are unbeatable, or at least that's what we think in June. Ponies coach Rhett Lashlee knows full well those are the biggest games, but he also wants to avoid the land mines in the other games.

That FPI is full of teams from the SEC and Big Ten. No surprise there with Georgia No. 1 and Oregon second. It's merely a measure of a team's strength in the preseason. It's all part of the tracking we look back on months down the road and see when trends — good and bad — started. Throw in the polls during the season and you have a pretty good set of ranking data.

The other two teams ahead of the Mustangs in the preseason FPI are Clemson and Miami. Neither one of those are on the schedule this year, so it's not a mountain to take. The hill in front of them with consistently better opposition is big enough to keep Lashlee and his staff busy for the first year.

Projected in there are records of 8-4 or 9-3. That would position SMU for a good bowl game, but probably not enough to get them into even the expanded playoffs. The guess with that many spots available, dropping a game in September or early October will not doom your chances, but the margin of error for a lightly-regarded ACC in the preseason probably gets thinner after one loss.

After SMU in the league FPI, are North Carolina State and North Carolina who aren't the schedule, either. That's either a stroke of good luck or the ACC didn't want to give them an impossible situation. Facing the Seminoles in September may be bad enough.

Florida State is embroiled in lawsuits against the ACC and still mad at the entire College Football Playoff committee over getting snubbed in the biggest four teams. The Mustangs have their own gripes about the overall ranking last year, too, getting jumped by Liberty in the final rankings and left out, but that's in the rearview mirror.

If the rest of the ACC can't hear the stampede headed to the league, they will in the next few weeks. The schedule has it's obvious potential problems, but none of them are too big for this team, which will be ranked higher in the early wire service and coaches' polls. For now it's just another sign folks are expecting them to rise to the challenge.


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Andy Hodges


Sports columnist, writer, former radio host and television host who has been expressing an opinion on sports in the media for over four decades. He has been at numerous media stops in Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi. Follow on Twitter and Facebook