1. Garrett Gilbert- Lets be honest, Gilbert has been the lone bright spot for the Mustangs this season. Gilbert has done a great job of limiting his mistakes and keeping SMU in games with his arm. Especially after last week's comeback, Gilbert is no question the most valuable player on this team. This week, the Mustangs are favored to win on the road in Memphis, but if Gilbert has a sub-par game, or commits more turnovers than usual, the Mustangs could be out of luck. Because the rest of the Mustangs have been so inconsistent all season long, SMU doesn't have any room for Gilbert to have a poor game. If Gilbert is able to perform the way he has all season, SMU should come away with the win.
2. Balanced offensive attack- SMU's pass game ranks seventh in the nation at over 360 yards per game, but its run game ranks just 116th in the country at 85 yards per game. With the return of running back Traylon Shead, although SMU only ran the ball 15 times, the Mustangs were able to average right around five yards per carry, which is a major improvement from previous weeks. In a perfect world, SMU would be able to throw the ball 70 times a game and defenses wouldn't catch on, but that just isn't realistic. Gilbert has done a fine job this season, but it's almost desperation time and if the Mustangs want to have a shot at making it to 6-6 this season, it's time for the offensive line and running backs to step up and help their quarterback.
3. Defensive line play- Although the defensive line was able to get after Rutgers' Gary Nova two weekends ago -three sacks- the big guys up front, and the rest of the defense, gave up over 450 yards of total offense and 191 yards on the ground alone. Yes, it was a 3OT game, but it's never good when a defense gives up that many yards and that many points. Defensive end Beau Barnes and linebacker Jonathan Yenga played well and put pressure on the quarterback, but they can't do everything. Senior and vocal leader of the defense Randall Joyner needs to have a solid game against the run in order for the Mustangs to improve on their run defense.
4. Limit penalties and turnovers- SMU has done a better job of limiting its penalties the past two weeks, so the Ponies will have to keep that up this weekend against the Tigers. But SMU will also have to limit their turnovers. With the exception of the TCU game, Gilbert has not had trouble being smart with the football, so that has to continue. Also, despite being down by 21 entering the fourth quarter, the Mustangs were able to battle back and force overtime due to Gilbert's passing and the team's ability to not turn the ball over in crunch time. The last thing SMU wants to do is shoot themselves in the foot by committing penalties and turning the ball over, especially against a team they're supposed to beat.
5. Forcing Turnovers- Last week, undefeated Houston was outperformed by Memphis in every offensive aspect, yet Houston still came away with the victory. Memphis gave the game to Houston in part because of its four turnovers. Although Memphis is just 1-4, SMU will have their hands full this weekend when they travel to Tennessee, and forcing Memphis mistakes will help SMU secure its first AAC win.
5 Keys To Victory
Pony Stampede Top Stories
Gameday Central: SMU vs. TempleCome inside Pony Stampede' Gameday Central for the latest on SMU's road AAC matchup against Temple at 11 am CT on ESPNews.
Pony Stampede8:00 AM
Game Preview: SMU vs. TempleScott previews SMU's road matchup against Temple to open AAC play on Saturday on ESPNews.
Pony StampedeThursday at 9:35 AM
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 StampedeTuesday 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 StampedeTuesday at 9:00 AM