SMU Keys to Victory

The Mustangs, coming off a solid all-around performance last week vs. Marshall, should be sky-high heading into this afternoon's game with two-time defending Conference USA champion East Carolina. What are the keys to victory for SMU? For starters, Richard Crawford (two interceptions last week) and the secondary will need to play well against one of the best passing attacks in the nation.

1. "LINE" HIM UP -- Sophomore Zach Line has captured the hearts of SMU fans this year with his bruising, yet quick, running style. Line just keeps on getting better as the season progresses, having recorded a couple of career-bests recently, including a scintillating 202-yard effort last week vs. Marshall. With East Carolina dinged up along its defensive front, this could be another monumental day for Line, who has 1,174 yards rushing on the year.

2. EYES ON THE PRIZE -- SMU can take another step in the right direction as a program with a win over East Carolina. If the Mustangs prevail, they'll likely face Central Florida in next month's Conference USA championship game.

Head coach June Jones and his staff are making all the right moves in building a consistent winner, and a C-USA title game berth would be yet another notch in the Ponies' belt. In addition, East Carolina is the two-time defending C-USA champion, so it's a perfect time to show the rest of the conference that there's been a changing of the guard.

3. SECONDARY CONTINUES TO STEP UP -- Last week, cornerback Richard Crawford picked off two passes and safety Chris Banjo also came up with an interception. CB Sterling Moore returned from injury vs. Marshall and made his presence felt immediately by batting down a pass and, in the process, snuffing out an early drive. Safety Ryan Smith (36 tackles, 2 INT) has put together a a strong year.

This unit will get ample opportunities to defend the pass today against East Carolina's aerial assault, which is led by QB Dominique Davis (the nation's leader in TD passes with 34). The Pirates have four terrific wide receivers and a RB (Jonathan Williams) with great hands out of the backfield.

4. TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS -- An East Carolina beat writer predicted that SMU will score close to 60 points, so it's clear that the Pirates don't have the confidence of the local media, and SMU should seize the momentum early in a stadium that will likely have plenty of empty seats.

While ECU can chunk it in the air as good as anybody, their defense is not nearly as good as SMU's defense, so the Mustangs can and should take charge early - just as they did last week.

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