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Herman’s horrors: “SMU 38 Houston 16” is a national thunderbolt

George Walker/Icon Sportswire

The SMU Pony Express belongs to Eric Dickerson and the man who (not really) killed the five hookers.

The Pony Stampede of Chad Morris rolled over the Houston Cougars Saturday night in University Park, Texas.

In an instant, thanks to a large dose of Mustang horsepower in a stadium named Ford, the 2016 college football season and the larger college football industry changed on dozens of different levels.

Analysis of this game is not complicated at all: On the same night that Urban Meyer and Ohio State watched J.T. Barrett get sacked six times, Meyer’s prized protege, Tom Herman, also witnessed a horror show by his offensive line. Greg Ward Jr. watched his Heisman Trophy candidacy take a huge hit, but that paled in comparison to the hits he received from SMU’s front seven, which repeatedly bothered him and shut off running lanes which didn’t allow him to affect the game in a different way.

It’s instructive that after Houston’s two touchdowns, the Cougars didn’t score on their next possessions. SMU — strong on defense in September but then wobbly on defense in a loss to Tulsa (more on the Golden Hurricane in a bit) — put together the quintessential complete game. The Ponies flourished on both sides of the ball at the same time, the elusive problem so many college football teams face as a matter of course. Solving this problem points the way forward in the Chad Morris era. A boatload of recruits attended this game; it’s the first true breakthrough moment for the Mustangs, a chance to make the Morris years everything Dallas-area fans hoped they’d be.

That, and the harm done to Ward’s Heisman hopes, represent but a fraction of the total number of story lines created by this 22-point pounding produced by the poppin’ Ponies.

October 22, 2016: Southern Methodist Mustangs running back Ke'Mon Freeman (13) during the game between SMU and Houston at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

October 22, 2016: Southern Methodist Mustangs running back Ke’Mon Freeman (13) during the game between SMU and Houston at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

The biggest national story to emerge from this game is simply that Houston is now out of the race for major college football prizes.

If the College Football Playoff was still a possibility to any slight extent, it’s now a fully dead dream, shattered and unable to be reconstructed in any form. The New Year’s Six bowl berth Houston gained last season? That’s done, barring an earthquake of uncommonly large proportions. Boise State and Western Michigan and Navy would all need to lose at least twice. The game with Louisville, which seemed in September to be a centerpiece of the whole season? It’s now merely a game which could be entertaining.

Speaking of Louisville: The Cardinals must be frustrated with this result. Any push for a playoff spot — giving the ACC two playoff tickets — depended on Houston being as good as possible going into that Thursday fight. Now Louisville lacks that shiny poker chip. The Cardinals must have Clemson lose twice in ACC play in order to pass the Tigers on the playoff ladder. That’s a big news item in the wake of SMU’s drubbing of Houston.

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More stories of considerable significance:

This result makes Tulsa the team with the second-best path to the AAC West Division title.

Yes, Tulsa.

Navy’s win over Memphis on Saturday gives the Midshipmen tiebreakers over the Tigers and Houston. Tulsa hasn’t yet played Navy. A win over the Mids and a strong finish would enable the Golden Hurricane, believe it or not, to swipe the West.

Believe it: Navy, Temple and Tulsa are the three teams which control the two division races in the AAC. Houston and South Florida need varying levels of help at this point… and it’s not even November yet.

Finally — but hardly last in a measurement of relative importance — this SMU knockout punch has to make Texas sweat bullets.

The Longhorns are almost certain to fire Charlie Strong at this point. Herman would (to say the least) be highly interested in the UT job. It has long been presumed it is his job if he wants it.

Does that change after Saturday’s blowout loss? Probably not… but the absolute certainty surrounding “Herman to Austin” is no longer in evidence. There’s now legitimate cause for Texas to doubt — maybe not enough to sway any decisions, but enough to make the Longhorns wait and see.

Let’s now make the following point: Though it might not be likely, a Louisville blowout of Houston next month certainly has the potential to deal Herman a staggering blow in his pursuit of the Texas job. The coaching carousel stands on a less solid foundation today, all because Chad Morris scored the first big win of his SMU career.

We’ll see if bigger conquests await.

For now, the question in Austin is: “Are we SURE we want to Pony Up all that dough to Tom Herman?”

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