5 Questions: SMU

TCU will host SMU on Saturday in the Battle For The Iron Skillet. The Frogs and Mustangs enter the game with identical 1-2 records. What should TCU fans be looking for from SMU? We visited with PonyStampede.com publisher E.J. Holland to get those answers.

1. Garrett Gilbert is averaging 338 passing yards per game. What's been his biggest improvement from a year ago?

Not turning the ball over. Gilbert threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns last year, which really drew all the criticism he faced last season. This year, Gilbert throwing it away when he needs to, taking sacks and most importantly is making better reads. The latter can be attributed to new passing game coordinator Hal Mumme, who is known as the father of the Air Raid offense. He's been calling plays this year, and his offense features more horizontal routes while June Jones' Run N' Shoot was based more on vertical routes. This has allowed Gilbert to have a higher completion percentage. Most of the time he's just throwing short and letting his receivers make plays. But the bottom line is Gilbert is still an average college quarterback at best and has only passed for two touchdowns this season.

2. SMU lost many starters from a year ago on defense, who are the guys that have been the brightest spots for the Mustangs defense this year?

SMU's defense has really struggled through the first three games this year. They've pretty much been terrible especially without linebacker Randall Joyner. He was the leader of this unit before suffering an injury during the first half against Texas Tech in the season opener. TCU will be his first game back so he's definitely a guy to keep an eye on. As far as guys that have been playing, that's tough. The new front three is still jelling together. The linebackers have been subpar as have the defensive backs. But cornerback Kenneth Acker has plenty of experience and has the speed to match up with faster wide outs. Other than Joyner, he's probably the best player on SMU's defense.

3. The Mustangs running game has been ineffective all year...is that a result of a young offensive line or runningbacks or maybe both?

A little of both. The offensive line has opened up very many holes and at times have been dominated by opposing defensive lines. But to be fair, SMU hasn't shown a commitment to the run. With Mumme in the picture, it's been pass, pass and more pass. Starting running back Traylon Shead suffered an injury during the Tech game and will not play vs. TCU. He was expected to come in and rush for 1,000 yards after being named a JUCO All-American last year. With Shead out, Zach Line's little brother, Prescott, has been carrying the load, but he's simply not a dynamic back. Prescott will get some yards on draw plays and is a good short-yardage back. But don't expect to see him juke anybody out or break off a long run.

4. SMU won in Ft. Worth two years ago, how confident are the players and coaches heading into this week's game against the Frogs?

It's a rivalry game so they know anything can happen. But they're still having a hard time getting over the whopping they took at Kyle Field last week. June Jones doesn't show much emotion so it's tough to really gauge his confidence level, but I have to believe it's somewhat shaken. Two offensive gurus have equated to two passing touchdowns in three games. That has to be getting to him.

5. What are your keys for SMU to win and a prediction if you have one?

SMU has to force turnovers. The Mustangs were one of the top defense last season in terms of turnovers last season, but they haven't been too lucky this year. It is imperative for them to cause a few fumbles and force Boykin to make some errant throws. If not, it's going to be a long day for SMU. Penalties are another factor. SMU was penalized 11 times in the first half alone at Texas A&M. The Mustangs can't afford to shoot themselves in the foot. And ultimately, Gilbert needs to flawless against this quality TCU defense. Prediction: TCU 30, SMU 17.

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