1. Improved running game: The Mustangs had 16 rushing yard against the Horned Frogs. Yes, 16. SMU made a decent effort trying to establish the run with Prescott Line and K.C. Nlemchi, but the inconsistent play of the offensive line continues to haunt the entire offense. Switching up the offensive line isn't a true option either because of the poor depth across the board. With the return of Traylon Shead, the Mustangs should be able to add a little more life to the running attack, which in return could help give Garrett Gilbert and the passing game a little breathing room. Establishing the run early will be key if the Mustangs want to put up points.
2. The Offensive Line: As stated, SMU had 16 rushing yards, which is just unacceptable no matter what team you play against. After giving up seven sacks to go along with the horrible rushing performance, it's safe to say the offensive line needs a complete makeover, but that just isn't possible with the lack of depth on the team. The best thing the coaching staff can do now is find the best combination of offensive linemen and stick with it. The more a unit plays together, the better they will perform because of familiarity with each other. The coaching staff may even need to consider putting a running back in the backfield purely for pass protection purposes. The only thing the Mustangs have going for them right now is Garret Gilbert, so giving him time to throw is vital.
3. Turnovers: Overall, SMU did a better job of forcing its opponent to make mistakes against the Horned Frogs. While the Mustangs were able to recover two TCU fumbles, they themselves had five turnovers, four of which were interceptions. SMU finally reduced their mental errors in regards to penalties, but physical errors were still a main reason the Ponies were not able to stick with the Horned Frogs as the game progressed. 9 times out of 10. the team who wins the turnover battle wins the game. If the Mustangs want to avoid their first loss in the AAC, they should focus on taking care of the ball and avoiding their own turnovers.
4. Defensive Backs: The DBs did a decent job against TCU even after they were put in tough positions because of field position, but things won't get easier this week. Just two weeks ago, the Scarlet Knights' Gary Nova passed for 350 yards against a formidable Arkansas defense, and with all of the errors the defensive backs have made this season, Nova will look to exploit those weaknesses. The Scarlet Knights' running game has had some troubles, so if Rutgers cannot get the running game going, they will look to pass and pass often. There will be a lot of pressure on the defensive backfield to shut down the long ball, and they will have to step up if SMU wants to win.
5. Red Zone Scoring: This season, SMU has had a trouble getting into the end zone once they're in the red zone. Settling for field goals will not help the Mustangs' chances this weekend so players will have to step up when it counts. With Shead back, play action plays could be effective as long as the offensive line can give Gilbert the time he needs. Either way, the Mustangs will need to put up points to win, and that starts with red zone productivity.
5 Keys To Victory
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