DXL Frisco Bowl (inaugural)
SMU (7-5) vs. Louisiana Tech (6-6)
December 20, 7 p.m., Toyota Stadium, Frisco
National Radio Network: GameDay Radio Network
Satellite: Sirius/XM Channel 81
Local Affiliate: KLIF-570AM
By Troy Phillips
As the third new college football bowl game to drop stakes in 15 years in Dallas-Fort Worth, the inaugural DXL Frisco Bowl went local, went regional and went offense.
Bowl officials reached just 30 miles south to University Park to make SMU half of its debut matchup. The Mustangs (7-5) are set to face Louisiana Tech (6-6) – a frequent-as-of-late bowl visitor to the area – for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Toyota Stadium in Frisco on December 20.
SMU is back bowling for the first time since 2012, when it played in the Hawaii Bowl under former coach June Jones. Louisiana Tech won its last two games to get to a fourth consecutive bowl game. The Bulldogs are back in D-FW for a third different bowl after defeating Illinois in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2014 and Navy in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in 2016.
Since 2009, SMU has made two bowl trips to Hawaii – the first ending a 25-year bowl drought – but is again saving travel miles. In 2010, SMU fans packed the Armed Forces Bowl at Ford Stadium when that event relocated for a year during TCU’s reconstruction of Amon Carter Stadium. The Mustangs fell to Army on their home field but set a venue attendance record of nearly 37,000.
In the way TCU helped launch the Armed Forces Bowl in 2003 by hosting Boise State in a top-20 matchup, SMU is the DXL Frisco Bowl’s first leap. Another local team, North Texas, has appeared in two Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowls at the historic Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. Those appearances helped give a newer event attendance bumps with UNT’s local fan base.
“This could not have worked out better,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said of his team’s timely fortune in getting to six victories. “We have been in the Dallas Metroplex area three of the last four years and have a huge alumni base in that area. The matchup is a great opportunity.”
SMU finished the regular season 13th in total offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision at 493.8 yards per game. Louisiana Tech was outside the top 50 but rushed for 2,100 yards and threw for 2,700.
Representing the American Athletic Conference, SMU’s signature result might actually have been a defeat. The Mustangs put a scare into No. 10 and undefeated Central Florida before falling 31-24. SMU fell to Houston and Navy in league play by a combined 10 points.
SMU wideouts Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn (combined 168 catches in 2017) are alternating headaches with quarterback Ben Hicks (3,442 yards, 32 TDs passing) running the offense. Sutton is expected to be a high NFL draft pick this spring.
SMU can fling it, but Louisiana Tech ranks 12th in red-zone (inside its 20) defense and has allowed only two passing TDs from that part of the field. Tech and Mississippi State are tied for first in that category among the top 50.
Like SMU, the Bulldogs put a scare into a favored opponent. South Carolina needed a late field goal to hold off Tech 17-16. Representing Conference USA, Tech knocked off Texas-El Paso and Texas-San Antonio in consecutive weeks to reach six victories.
First-year starter and sophomore J’Mar Smith took over at quarterback this season, throwing for 13 TDs and just five interceptions. Smith ran for five more scores.
For the DXL Frisco Bowl’s unveiling, the pieces for an entertaining matchup. Toyota Stadium, also soccer home to FC Dallas of MLS, also regularly hosts college football’s FCS championship. The well-respected venue could be exposed to one of its larger TV audiences.
As bowl debuts go, SMU and La-Tech figure to make it one worth remembering.
Troy Phillips is a Fort Worth-based freelance writer and former reporter and copy editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.