SMU: "Whether you like it or not the SMU offense is better this year than last year," Pony Stampede Editor Billy Embody said. And I can't disagree. That is mostly due to Garret Gilbert, whose one touchdown pass is still more than his interceptions. As frustrating as he can be sometimes when he holds on to the football for too long or over sails his receiver, he is ranked in the top five in the country for completed passes as well as passing yards per game. He also put together an encouraging game winning drive at Montana State capped off by a touchdown to his new favorite target Darius Joseph. Because SMU has failed to put up the points expected for a high-flying offense, Gilbert isn't getting as much love as he could. If he can get more touchdowns and continue to play turnover free football, he might be in the win column of this segment more often. Unfortunately, there aren't too many QB's in the NCAA that can defeat the guy below.
Texas A&M: Dazzling. Johnny Manziel is such a joy to watch for any semi-sports fan. I remember when he took a trip to Ford Stadium last year and EJ told me that he was one of the best high school players in the state of Texas. My response: the little guy? In the second half of that game, he made me a believer. I don't really need to say too much about this guy because I'm sure he has been all over your television set. He's quick, elusive, an incredible playmaker, can make throws in and outside of the pocket, he can shake, shimmy, turn on the jets, stop on a dime and reverse field, anything you can think of the guy can make it happen. Despite all of the allegations and riff-raff this offseason, he may be voted the best college football player in the nation again. And SMU might contribute to his highlight reel, again.
SMU: The SMU backfield has been in flux since the injury to lead back Traylon Shead. Prescott Line initially got the nod, finishing the Texas Tech game and starting in the Montana State game. He was challenged by veteran K.C. Nlemchi who has sat on the SMU bench behind Zach Line since he arrived to SMU. Nlemchi took full advantage of his opportunity to see playing time, making some very nice runs in the Montana State game and most importantly, not messing up on blocking assignments. Nlemchi, who scored a touchdown on his very first carry of the season, will look to build upon a good start and should earn the bulk of the carries for the Mustangs even though Line may get the start. Nlemchi is more of an every down back and can be a threat in the passing game where Line is more of a bruiser without the shiftiness of his older brother. The coming weeks should be interesting to watch.
A&M: Led by Ben Malena, the A&M backfield is set up as a compliment to Manziel. Malena is a nice change of pace back that can slash his way to some decent yardage and occasionally pop off the big play. He has earned a touchdown in each of his first three outings and could give SMU some trouble if they aren't careful. Malena will obviously be splitting carries with Manziel and together they make for a very effective combination. Throw in a splash of Tra Carson who actually leads all A&M rushers with four touchdowns and the Aggies may not need to throw the football as much as expected.
SMU: SMU holds two of the most productive wide receivers in the NCAA thus far. Darius Joseph and Jeremy Johnson have combined for 42 receptions for 459 yards in just two appearances and honestly should have more catches and yards than that as they have each dropped a number of catchable balls. The two slot receivers have caught early and often from Gilbert and will look to improve their stats in a game where SMU will most likely be throwing the ball for the great majority of the contest. Behind those two receivers production falls off big time with Holman and Thompson averaging about five catches a game. The big question for this group is whether or not the freshmen Jeremiah Gaines and JaBryce Taylor will get to contribute more than they have in the first two contests. Only time will tell.
A&M: The A&M wide receivers are led by monster Mike Evans, who lit up the Alabama defense last week. Evans alone has 518 yards receiving, many of them coming from a 95-yard bomb caught on the Crimson Tide secondary. Evans is a big receiver with great hands, great physicality and good-not-great speed. He will be more than a handful for the porous SMU secondary to handle and they will undoubtedly go back to the tape of last year to see how to correct their mistakes. Aside from Evans the Aggies have Malcome Kennedy and Derel Walker who will also provide 6-foot targets for Manziel to throw to.
SMU - Inconsistent is the best word to describe the SMU offensive line. Sometimes Gilbert will have too much time to throw, so much that he doesn't know what to do with the football. And other times he will be get sacked twice in a row. Unfortunately the SMU offensive line has not faced an SEC defense so it will be interesting to see if veterans Taylor Lasecki and Ben Gottschalk can anchor a wall for Gilbert to operate behind. So far SMU's quarterback has been sacked nine times and SMU's running backs have been swallowed up at the line of scrimmage on countless occasions. The offensive line needs to do a better job and will be a key factor in whether or not SMU can give A&M a fight down in hostile Kyle Field this week.
A&M – The A&M O-Line is again one of the best the Mustangs will face. Led by senior Jake Matthews, likely to go first round in next year's draft, the Aggies offensive line are the unsung heroes behind Manziel's success. They have been the benefactors for the Aggies 53 points per game and Manziel's 1,137 yards of total offense in three games. Their task this week should be light work in comparison to what they faced a week ago.
SMU: Going into the season, the SMU defensive line was one of the biggest question marks on the team after they graduated all three starters. Two games into the season, they still have a question mark looming over their helmets. Zach Wood and Beau Barnes have at times looked much better than expected, but they have not consistently been able to make plays. The Mustangs once were praised for their ability to stop the run but were somewhat exposed by Montana State, which rushed for 160 yards. It doesn't look as if freshman Zelt Minor will have anything close to the season he was expected to have but on the flip side Elie Nabushosi and Cameron Smith have made a few plays. Overall, the defensive line has registered two sacks and four tackles for loss. Defensive coordinator Tom Mason thinks he will have the toughest job in America this week, but I beg to differ. The three men on the Mustang defensive front will have a long night going against that A&M offensive line and if the defensive ends can't contain and set the edges, Manziel will run rampant.
A&M: Surprisingly the A&M defensive line hasn't been much better. Last year Damontre Moore was unstoppable vs. SMU registering four sacks on his own, but this year they don't have that dominant presence up front. They got little to no pressure on A.J. McCarron at home last week and the entire defense has three sacks all from their linebackers. But the SMU offensive line isn't Alabama's so it will be interesting to see who wins this battle up front. If the SMU offensive line can keep A&M off Garret Gilbert that could make a world of difference in how competitive the Mustangs can be.
SMU: The linebackers have been a strong suit for the Mustangs for years thanks to defensive coordinator Tom Mason. But after an injury to their supreme leader Randall Joyner, the linebackers have found themselves in tough situations these first two games especially in the passing game. They all possess excellent speed and athleticism for the position but will face the toughest matchup of the year in Manziel and the A&M offense. So much of what the linebackers do is based on the defensive line's ability to control gaps but this week they face another animal entirely. They will have to play with incredible discipline and tackle at an incredibly high level in order to stop Manziel. Last year Taylor Reed was shot from a cannon on one play and it looked like Johnny Football was going down for sure, only for Manziel to get out of the arm tackle and throw to a wide open receiver for a touchdown. The linebackers do not lack the talent necessary to make plays on defense but can they be consistent and play with discipline? No room for mental errors or boneheaded penalties this week.
A&M: The Aggies really miss Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter at linebacker this season. So far, the backers have been ran around, ran through and ran over. All three opponents they have faced had 100 yard rushers and two of their opponents were Rice and Sam Houston State. (Not bad teams but imagine what could happen when they really get into their SEC schedule.) Luckily for the linebackers, they won't be facing a team so keen on running the ball this week. Senior Steven Jenkins is the veteran of the crew and is the best overall player at the position. Jenkins, who was suspended for the first two games of the season, had 13 tackles against Alabama including a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. The Mustangs will have their hands full trying to contain the 6-foot-2, 220-pound athlete and he could be a true game changer on the A&M defense.
SMU: The biggest surprise of 2013 has to be the awful play of the SMU secondary. They have looked timid and lifeless on the backend and have given no signs of playmaking ability. Kenneth Acker, who is looked at as one of the best cornerbacks in the conference, has yet to 'shut down' an opposing wide receiver and will have his toughest test yet vs. Mike Evans. J.R. Richardson has been disappointing so far as well performing poorly after gaining an optimal opportunity to play a full game with Parks being injured. Jay Scott and Hayden Greenbauer have been serviceable but they aren't making plays on or around the ball like expected. Not a single interception or turnover has been caused by the SMU defense and much of that falls on the secondary. This week, they have nothing to lose. Everybody is watching and everybody is expecting them to be burnt toast with no jam. They say they have the swag but now it's time to put it on the field.
A&M – The Aggies' secondary has been in a state of flux sense last year especially with off the field issues taking their toll. Both Deshazor Everett and Da'Vante Harris faced suspensions for off-the-field incidents, but both should start against the Mustangs. The Aggies didn't give up much in their first two games through the air but were torched by McCarron for 335 and four touchdowns. The Aggies play in the secondary will be determined by the pressure their lineman up front can get on the quarterback. So far Garret Gilbert has done incredibly well keeping the football out of the defenses hands but with Johnny Manziel putting points on the board, these DB's will be free to play loosely and expect them to make jumps on the ball early and often. The A&M safeties are suspect in pass coverage and are susceptible to the deep ball. So if Gilbert will let it fly downfield he could be rewarded with a few big plays assuming the receivers can hold on to the football.
Overall Advantage: A&M 5-1
SMU vs. Texas A&M Position Breakdown
Pony Stampede Top Stories
Five Players to Watch: SMU vs. TempleDemo breaks down five players to watch for SMU against Temple on Saturday.
Pony Stampede2:24 PM
Pony Stampede Podcast Sept. 28Come inside another edition of the Pony Stampede Podcast for the latest on the SMU hoops team and a TCU game breakdown.
Pony StampedeYesterday at 10:59 PM
2018 offensive lineman has SMU near the topBilly talked with 2018 Highland Park (Tex.) offensive lineman Thomas Shelmire about his recent SMU visit and recruitment.
Pony StampedeYesterday at 9:00 AM
FREE Pony Stampede Hilltop Review: Sept. 23Come inside this free edition of the Pony Stampede Hilltop Review with the latest on SMU commits and visitors from last week's win over Liberty.
Pony StampedeFriday at 6:00 AM