1. Contain Johnny Football: On Saturday, the Mustangs will face arguably the best offense in the nation. The Aggies are led by none other than reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel who not only thrashed the Mustangs' defense last season but also put up 42 points against the best defense in the nation just last week vs. Alabama. In order for SMU to have any shot at keeping this game close, the Mustangs cannot let Manziel beat them with his feet. Although Manziel's passing game has improved from last season, his best weapons are still his speed and ability to extend broken plays by running for first downs. Manziel will make throwing errors (as seen by his two interceptions last week), so if SMU can keep Manziel from running all over them at Kyle Field, the score may be closer than most people think.
2. Secondary Play: Thus far, SMU's secondary has been below average, which seems uncharacteristic of a team that led the nation just a year ago in interceptions returned for touchdowns. Now, the secondary must face a quarterback who just threw for 464 yards and a receiver who had 279 of those yards, all against the No. 1 team in the nation. If the Mustangs can shut down Mike Evans, that will take a big chunk of A&M's offense out of the picture (the Aggies' next leading receiver only had 66 yards). The physical play of the defensive backs will be pivotal this week if the Mustangs want to have any shot at pulling the upset.
3. Defensive front seven play: Obviously part of the defensive front seven's job will be to limit Manziel's rushing attempts, but they'll also be trying to put pressure on him, possibly forcing him to make bad throws. Manziel looked very polished as a quarterback against Alabama, but if the d-line can get early sacks and get into his head, the sophomore could lose his composure. The Aggies also have a running back that the Mustangs will have to worry about in Ben Malena. The Mustangs have done a decent job of limiting rushers so far this season, but Malena is currently averaging six yards a carry and will be running behind a very solid offensive line.
4. Offensive Line Play: The Mustangs' young and inexperienced offensive line has already given up nine sacks through just two games, which is not what you want to see when you're throwing the ball between 50-60 times a game. SMU will need Gilbert to have a career-game if they want to beat Texas A&M, and it starts with the offensive line play. The O-line has done an OK job thus far, but OK isn't good enough when playing against the Aggies. Gilbert will need his time to be able to step up into the pocket and make strong, accurate throws.
5. Turnover battle: In the end, not many people think this will be a close game, but if SMU can force four or five turnovers, maybe the football program can ‘shock the world' this time around. The more turnovers SMU forces, the less time Manziel has with the ball in his hands, and that is exactly what the Mustangs need.
5 Keys To Victory
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