Game Preview: SMU vs. Texas A&M

SMU will host Texas A&M on Saturday in a pivotal clash that could set the tone for the rest of the season

In a matchup of old Southwest Conference foes, Texas A&M will visit SMU on Saturday after the Mustangs first home shutout since 1983 against Stephen F. Austin. The Aggies are coming off a disappointing loss to new SEC foe Florida 20-17 and will be out for blood after they lost a 17-7 halftime lead.

The Mustangs enter the game 1-1 on the season while the Aggies are 0-1 after their season opener against Louisiana Tech was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac.

Texas A&M will look to improve upon the impressive performance of redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, but the Mustangs defense is coming off a 10 turnover performance against SFA and will be looking to continue their opportunistic ways against the young gunslinger from Kerrville (TX).

"He can run and he makes a lot of plays. We're going to have to contain him. He can really go," said SMU head coach June Jones.

Manziel will be operating new Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin's ‘air raid' offense that he ran at Houston and had tremendous success with. Sumlin is 4-0 against Jones from his time at Houston so the Mustangs will be looking to change those numbers and avenge at 46-16 loss to the Aggies in last season's opening game.

One bright spot from last season's game against Texas A&M was running back Zach Line's performance, which was impressive considering the lopsided defeat. Line ran for 128 yards on 28 carries and had a touchdown.

"Zach is a guy we can count on each and every week to do a good job and be an effective runner and get those tough yards for us," said SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

Line will be looked to take the pressure off of Gilbert, who has some room to improve on his first two games as the SMU quarterback. Gilbert, a Texas transfer grew up a Longhorns fan and is looking forward to going up against his former rivals.

"I grew up watching Texas-Texas A&M. It's going to be a lot of fun. The atmosphere is going to be great so we are looking forward to it," Gilbert said.

In last year's matchup, the Aggies sacked the SMU quarterbacks eight times and forced two early interceptions. The Aggies also had eight sacks in their season opening loss against Florida and looked every bit as impressive at controlling the line of scrimmage for a lot of the game.

"They're physical, they're big, and they're fast. They look like an SEC team," Jones said.

Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore is going to have to be contained for the Mustangs to have a chance at moving the ball. Moore had three sacks and 10 total tackles against the Gators and is a force along the line.

On the SMU defense, junior cornerback Kenneth Acker had a career day against SFA with two interceptions, one for a touchdown and scored another touchdown on a blocked field goal. His performance earned him the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week award, and he will be counted on to contain the Texas A&M receivers.

The Mustangs go into the big matchup ranked 116th in the country in total defense. Improvement in all facets on the defensive side of the ball is a must for SMU, which must rebound from two inconsistent games to start the season.

SMU recently installed 3,500 additional seats in Ford Stadium in anticipation of a record crowd and a large contingent of Aggies fans are expected so players are excited for a game of this magnitude coming to SMU's campus. The Aggies hold a 42-29-7 edge against the Mustangs in their series dating back to the days of the SWC.

For the Mustangs, forcing turnovers and controlling the clock are keys to getting above .500 and making a statement with a huge win at home.

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