- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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With the Alabama showdown in the rearview mirror, Texas A&M looks ahead to its next challenge, a nonconference matchup against SMU on Saturday at Kyle Field.
The No. 10 Aggies (2-1), are coming off their first loss of the year, so let's take a look at a few keys to them getting back on the winning track:
1. Get some stops: Texas A&M ranks 112th in the country in total defense (allowing 489 yards per game), the rushing defense is 115th (260 yards allowed per game), and the unit struggled mightily against Alabama. Granted, the Crimson Tide are the nation's No. 1 team but the unit had its share of struggles against Rice and Sam Houston State while missing personnel due to suspensions. This will be the second straight week that most of the starters are available, so there should be some improvement. If there isn't, it's a serious concern.
2. No turnovers: The Aggies had two last week and that was critical at the end when they came within just seven points of Alabama. The Crimson Tide turned those turnovers into 14 points, one of which was an interception return for a touchdown. Taking care of the ball is critical.
3. Keep it rolling on O: The Aggies' offense seemingly has no problem putting up points. Quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans were brilliant against Alabama. Look for them to continue to connect. Other receivers are emerging as well, like Malcome Kennedy. Manziel ran the ball a lot last week, but look for the running backs to get more involved again this week -- Ben Malena and Tra Carson in particular were effective in the Aggies' first two wins against Rice and Sam Houston State.
4. Avoid the letdown: Replicating the enthusiasm for a game like last week's against Alabama is hard, especially when you play a nonconference game. But the Aggies pride themselves on being able to keep things consistent and not let their emotions get too far up and down. SMU is a team the Aggies beat convincingly last year in its home stadium, 48-3, so if the Aggies are better than they were a year ago, logic says they should be able to take care of business at Kyle Field on Saturday.
5. Put it away early: Depth is always something teams want to develop, and it's critical for the Aggies to do so in order to rely on younger players to contribute later should injuries occur. This week's game is a chance for the Aggies to do that by building a big lead and allowing second-teamers to play significant minutes in the second half. If they can do that, it will help the Aggies' depth.
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