Preston Stone injury: SMU QB out for rest of 2023 season, hindering hopes for AAC title, New Year's Six berth

SMU starting quarterback Preston Stone suffered a broken leg during the Mustangs’ regular-season finale against Navy and will miss the remainder of the 2023 season, coach Rhett Lashlee revealed Monday. Stone’s injury occurred in the second quarter of the team’s 59-14 rout of the Midshipmen. Redshirt freshman Kevin Jennings, one of several quarterbacks to see action after Stone left the game, will start for the Mustangs in the upcoming AAC Championship Game at Tulane on Saturday, Dec. 2. 

Stone was on pace for a career day against Navy, passing for 322 yards and three touchdowns in less than a half of football before suffering the injury. He was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week for the performance against the Mids despite the early exit. Jennings, who initially replaced Stone, was just 2 of 4 passing for 26 yards. Iowa transfer Alex Padilla and freshman Keldric Luster also saw action.  

Stone’s injury not only comes at an inopportune time for a Mustangs team that has won eight straight games — SMU went a perfect 8-0 in AAC play, and its only losses this season came on the road against Oklahoma and TCU in the nonconference — but also ends a prolific year for Stone in his first season as QB1. The Dallas, Texas, native finishes 2023 with 3,197 yards passing and 28 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Stone passed for a season-high 371 yards with three touchdowns during the Mustangs’ 69-10 win against Tulsa in late October. 

SMU’s goals get tougher without Stone

Prior to Stone’s injury, SMU looked like a team capable of putting Tulane on serious notice in the AAC title game. Now without its star signal-caller available, the Mustangs will have to dig deep in order to clinch an 11-win season for the first time since 1982 and their first conference championship since winning the now-defunct Southwest Conference in 1984. Both feats predated the infamous NCAA death penalty handed down to the Mustangs in 1987. 

The injury is also a blow for SMU’s New Year’s Six hopes as the Mustangs wrap up their last season in the AAC before making their way to ACC in 2024. The highest-ranked Group of Five team in the College Football Playoff Rankings is guaranteed a spot in the New Year’s Six, and SMU stands an upset of Tulane away from giving itself a great shot at earning that title. The Green Wave are currently on pace to receive that bid with the latest College Football Playoff Rankings set for release on Tuesday. 

In the event Liberty drops the Conference USA Championship Game to New Mexico State and SMU then beats Tulane, the Mustangs would likely be the in clear favorite. Without Stone, however, it’s a tall task. 

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