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College football is a little more than a month from kicking off and the excitement and anticipation of hundreds of thousands of college football fans is almost palpable. And for the SMU football team, the expectations haven't been this high in over 25 years. If the Mustangs hope to make it through a brutal conference schedule and claim their third straight bowl game, they'll need to lean heavily on their 18 returning starters, four of whom were named to the Preseason All-Conference USA team.

Despite head coach June Jones' high-powered passing offense - the Run n' Shoot - the two offensive players to be honored are neither the quarterback, wide receivers or tight ends. Instead, junior running back Zach Line and senior offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum represent SMU on the offensive side of the ball.

Line is also on the Watch Lists for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award, which is awarded to the nation's top running back. Meanwhile, Beachum is on two Watch Lists as well: the Outland Award and the Lombardi Award. The Outland Award is given annually to college football's top interior lineman.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Ja'Gared Davis and senior defensive end Taylor Thompson are manning the fort for the Mustangs. These two players were a big reason SMU's defense was ranked second in Conference USA last season.

Davis is on the Watch List for the Lombardi Award, which is awarded to college football's best lineman, regardless of whether it's on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. Taylor is on two Watch Lists: the Lombardi Award and the Nagurski Award, which is given to the best defensive player in college football.

SMU kicks off the 2011 season in College Station against the Texas A&M Aggies on September 4. They play their first home game on September 10 against Conference USA rival UTEP.

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