Big tests await SMU in coming weeks

After TCU this coming weekend, SMU has a bye-week, then they'll host defending C-USA champion UCF, and then it's back-to-back conference road trips at Southern Miss and Tulsa. The Mustangs' have been good this first third of the season, but how will they respond in this next third? There's a lot this team can be proud of, but they also have a lot to work on. Like turnovers.

Take the Texas A&M game out of the picture and SMU has looked pretty good so far this season.

In the last two games against Northwestern State and Memphis, the Mustangs have won by a combined score of 82-7. That's a whole lot of offense and a stout job from the defense.

But the road gets tricky now. SMU has the Battle for the Iron Skillet this weekend as they head to Fort Worth to play their DFW rival, No. 20 TCU. The Mustangs have lost 11 of the last 13 games against the Horned Frogs, including last year's 41-24 loss at Ford Stadium.

After that, SMU will have a bye week before playing defending C-USA champion UCF at home and then they'll go on back-to-back road trips at Southern Miss and Tulsa.

"We're right where we need to be as we have a tough stretch coming up," junior linebacker Taylor Reed said after SMU's 42-0 win over Memphis Saturday. "TCU is going to see a much improved team than this week."

The Horned Frogs will be without one of the nation's best linebackers in Tanner Brock, who has not recovered from an ankle injury that he reaggravated in TCU's opening-week loss to Baylor.

But despite that hole in TCU's starting lineup, in order for SMU to win this coming weekend, they'll have to be better than they've been.

Turnovers will be key. SMU currently ranks 117th out of 118 teams in the nation with a -8 turnover margin; they've lost 12 and forced just four this season. The defense only forced and recovered one fumble in the blowout win at Memphis.

"We're not doing good enough things to beat good teams," June Jones said. "We're minus in give-away/take-away and we're 3-1. So that gives you an idea of the potential this team has."

Offensively, the team might be without starting receiver Cole Beasley, who hurt his right knee in the second quarter Saturday when he planted wrong on a move after a catch. He was reportedly scheduled to have an MRI Monday, but the severity hasn't been released yet.

If he can't play this weekend against TCU, that will be a blow to an offense that Jones says "isn't where it should be at this point in the season."

Beasley leads the team with 31 receptions for 376 yards.

Bright spots offensively this past weekend that will have to maintain that consistency this week were Zach Line, who rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns with a separated shoulder, and then Der'rikk Thompson, who played for an injured Keenan Holman. Thompson had six receptions for 104 yards and a 44-yard touchdown catch.

J.J. McDermott will have to play his best game of the season Saturday and cannot turn the ball over. He has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4:3.

"If you turn it over against a team who knows what to do with it, you're really at a disadvantage," Jones said.

SMU has been solid this first third of the season, but their true colors will show in these next few weeks.

For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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