On Saturday, Texas A&M (0-1) hopes to rebound from last week's tough loss to Florida as it visits SMU (1-1). Ford Stadium should be rocking, and SMU actually has been forced to install 3,500 new seats to meet the ticket demand.
This is an important early season matchup for the Aggies. Although SMU has dramatically improved under head coach June Jones, A&M remains heavily favored and needs a win before it reenters its brutal SEC schedule.
Here are five keys to the Aggies coming out of Dallas with a victory this weekend.
This may seem obvious, but avoiding turnovers was a huge reason the Aggies were able to keep it close last week—especially while their offense stalled in the second half.
They will need to continue that trend Saturday and not give SMU free possessions or momentum with which to work.
Head coach June Jones is known for his run-and-shoot style of offense. With the addition of Texas transfer Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, he arguably has the most talented quarterback during his tenure at SMU to execute his pass-heavy style.
Gilbert, a highly sought-after recruit in high school, showed at Texas that he can be mistake-prone under pressure and already has thrown three interceptions this season. It's important for the A&M defense to keep him from getting into any sort of rhythm.
A&M came out aggressive against Florida last week, averaging 5.8 yards per play in the first half. The Aggies kept the Gator defense on its heels with a surprisingly uptempo offense and even went no-huddle at times.
In the second half, the pace significantly slowed and so did the offense, which gained only 2.8 yards per play. Against a SMU defense that surrendered 613 yards to Baylor already this year, the Aggies have a great chance to find that first-half magic again.
Johnny Manziel had an impressive debut, but much of that can be attributed to the protection given to him by highly touted offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.
As Manziel continues to develop, the protection of his offensive line will be critical.
Johnny Manziel showed flashes of brilliance last week and finished at an efficient 23-of-30 for 173 yards. Most of his passing was limited to short routes and screen passes, and the Aggies only managed one play of more than 10 yards in the second half.
This was understandable for the young freshman's nationally televised debut, but it will need to improve as the season goes on.
With receivers such as talented freshman Mike Evans and seniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu to go along with three talented running backs, Manziel has the tools around him to spread the field a little more. Look for him to do so this week against an SMU offense that has been vulnerable to the pass.