1. Stop the penalties: Although the game probably still would've been out of the Mustangs' reach, SMU's 11 penalties for 116 yards set them back in a big way. From false starts to pass interferences and holding calls, the Mustangs did everything possible to hurt themselves and with TCU this weekend, they will have to perform much better mentally. TCU has a stingy defense, led by senior Jason Verrett and sophomore Chris Hackett, to go along with a couple of playmakers on offense, so if SMU wants to make the Battle for the Iron Skillet competitive, they will have to cut back dramatically on their mental errors.
2. Turnovers: It's plain and simple- SMU needs to do a better job of taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers. If a team can win the turnover battle, 9 out of 10 times they will have a shot at winning the game. From the beginning of spring ball, coaches consistently emphasize ball security and SMU's players need to take that to heart if they want to have a chance at pulling another upset in Fort Worth like they did two years ago. TCU will also running back-turnt-quarterback Trevone Boykin and SMU's veteran defensive backfield, with only one interception on the season, needs to take advantage of that. If the Mustangs can come away with 3-4 turnovers while also limiting their own turnovers, they will have a good shot at defeating the Horned Frogs.
3. Running game: At this point, three games into the season, SMU is a one-dimensional team. The loss of Zach Line has proven to be a big blow to the balance of SMU's offense, even with another Line in the backfield this season. Garrett Gilbert has shown he can pass the ball consistently, and his game would benefit greatly from increased production from Prescott Line and K.C. Nlemchi. Traylon Shead is close to returning and his size, agility and ball-catching ability could help the Mustangs finally get some production out of the backfield. Having an inexperienced offensive line doesn't help, but if the Mustangs can establish a running game early, it could spell well for the passing game.
4. Special teams: In SMU's 2011 upset victory over TCU, special teams played an important role. Without the Mustangs' fumble recovery in the end zone, the Mustangs may have never made it to overtime. If SMU wants to have a legitimate shot at winning back the Iron Skillet, solid special teams plays will be a key factor. From Chase Hover's field goals to possibly some trick plays called from the coaching staff, the Mustangs will have no room for error.
5. Coaching staff: Last weekend against A&M wasn't pretty. Although the players didn't play very well, a lot of last week could be put on the coaches. SMU's offense, although marred by penalties, was stagnate and had no life. SMU's defense finally came away with its first interception, but was still unimpressive. Play-calling on both sides of the ball needs to be shaken up and improved in a big way. TCU's hard-hitting defense and athletic offense will rip apart SMU on both sides of the ball if they do not come in with a different game plan. June Jones and the coaching staff should refer back to the film of their victory in 2011 over the Horned Frogs for a game plan that could expose TCU's weaknesses.
5 Keys To Victory
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