1. A Healthy Garret Gilbert: Neal Burcham may be the Mustangs' quarterback of the future, but after last week's performance, it's clear that Burcham is not ready yet. The Mustangs will face UCF on Saturday and to have any shot at defeating arguably the best team in the AAC, SMU will need to have Garrett Gilbert back in the lineup. Gilbert, who led the nation in total offense before injuring his knee against USF, needs to return and play like he has all season. It's safe to say Gilbert will do everything in his power to suit up on Saturday, but the question is how effective can he be with a hobbled knee? Gilbert has done it with his feet and his arm all year long, but he may have to rely on his arm more than ever. If Gilbert can come back and make the throws he is capable of, SMU will have a better chance at taking down the Knights.
2. Force turnovers: The UCF Knights (10-1, 7-0) are at the top of the AAC, but they have had to fight to get there. Just last week they almost lost to USF, who the Mustangs took down just two weeks ago. The Bulls were able to hang with UCF last week in part because of their ability to force five Knight-turnovers. SMU struggled early on in the season to force turnovers, but it has done a better job of late and they will have to force some more this weekend. The more turnovers the Mustangs can force, the more opportunities Gilbert (permitting he plays) will have to put the ball in the end zone.
3. Play mistake-free: Against Houston, the Mustangs did not play focused. Wide receivers had uncharacteristic dropped balls and defensive backs let receivers get behind them with little trouble, to go along with a number of other key mistakes. If SMU wants to keep this game competitive, it will have to play extremely sound football and eliminate most, if not all, of their mistakes from last week. SMU cannot afford to give up any big plays like it did last week and the Ponies certainly cannot let UCF receiver Breshad Perriman get behind the secondary. The Knights have playmakers, and if SMU can't match up and play physical against them, it could be a long day for fans.
4. Capitalize on UCF mistakes: On paper, UCF is a better team then SMU. The Knights do not usually make a lot of mistakes, but they had a lot of them against USF last weekend. If the Knights do make mistakes this weekend, the Mustangs will need to take advantage of the opportunities given to them. Scoring and capitalizing off of UCF's mistakes will be key if the Mustangs want to get to their fifth consecutive bowl game.
5. Get to the quarterback: SMU is going to have to really jump on UCF early and often on Saturday if they want to pull off the upset. Turnovers will be a key part of the game this weekend and SMU's defensive front seven can help out by putting pressure on Blake Bortles. Bortles has played solid all season but had some troubles last week. If Beau Barnes, Darrian Wright and Zach Wood can put some pressure on Bortles, they could force the quarterback into making some of the same mistakes. SMU, as a team, will need to play its best game of the season, so why not have the defensive line contribute to that?
5 Keys To Victory
Pony Stampede Top Stories
New Pony Stampede members get great perk!Another great partnership from the folks at Scout.com brings a big benefit to new Pony Stampede/Scout members!
Pony Stampede7:40 AM
Pony Stampede Gameday Central: SMU vs HoustonHatts has Pony Stampede's coverage of SMU vs. Houston from Ford Stadium on Saturday at 6 pm CT.
Pony Stampede7:00 AM
Pony Stampede Hilltop Review: Oct. 21Come inside another edition of the Pony Stampede Hilltop Review with the latest news on SMU commits, targets and team news.
Pony StampedeYesterday at 4:00 AM
Game Preview: SMU vs. HoustonScott previews SMU's home matchup against in-state rival Houston on Saturday at 6 pm CT on ESPN2.
Pony StampedeThursday at 9:00 AM