DALLAS (AP) Coach Kevin Sumlin likes the timing for sixth-ranked Texas A&M’s consecutive games in the Dallas area.
The Aggies (3-0) start their North Texas stretch Saturday at former Southwest Conference rival SMU (0-2), whose home opener is its first game since coach June Jones’ unexpected resignation. Texas A&M then has a neutral-site SEC game in the NFL stadium where every college team would like to be in January. Both games have the same mid-afternoon kickoff time, despite being on different national TV networks.
”We talked about the preparation this week should duplicate next week,” Sumlin said. ”What we’re looking for is the same type of preparation, approach Monday through Saturday, and the same type of performance and effort these next two weeks. Because very rarely in college football, if you’re winning, do you get to duplicate the same situation from a travel and game-time standpoint. So I think we caught a break there.”
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Texas A&M, going for its first 4-0 start since 2006, is a nearly five-touchdown favorite against the Mustangs. SMU was outscored 88-6 its first two games before Jones left, with the only touchdown a 33-yard pass on the final play at North Texas in their last game.
”I don’t know if we’re good enough for them to come in here and us to beat them,” said SMU interim coach Tom Mason, also the defensive coordinator. ”We can’t get any lower than we were out of that North Texas game. Let’s just get better, and I want to see us improve. I want to see us compete, I want to see the football team that I think we can become start to emerge.”
SMU had an open date and made plenty of changes since its last game, from the coach to a new starting quarterback, but Sumlin said his team can’t be distracted by all that.
”There’s a lot of things happening there. … We worry about us,” Sumlin said. ”If you truly look within and try to fix the problems you had a week ago and the things that are going on right now, focus on the things you have to do every week to be successful regardless of opponent, then you have a chance to win. Our guys, over the course of time, understand that.”
Here are few things to know when Texas A&M plays at SMU, before taking on Arkansas the following week in the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium where the national championship game will be played.
THRILLING START: Kenny Hill, the son of a former major league pitcher, is the first Texas A&M quarterback to throw for 1,000 yards in the first three games of a season, and the sophomore has thrown 139 career passes (117 this year) without an interception. The Aggies are only 37 points shy of 200 by the fourth game of the season for the first time since 1917.
CASSEL’S CHANCE: Redshirt freshman Kolney Cassel takes over as SMU’s starting quarterback after Neal Burcham’s season-ending right elbow injury. Cassel completed 14 of 29 passes for 154 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions while playing in both games so far.
BEEN SUCH A LONG TIME: SMU hasn’t won in the series against Texas A&M since 1984. The Aggies are 12-0-1 since then, including four games that Texas A&M has won by an average margin of 41 points since the SWC disbanded and they were no longer conference rivals.
MYLES BEYOND HIS AGE: True freshman defensive end Myles Garrett has played only three games for the Aggies, and already matched the freshman season sacks record with 5 1/2. ”If you weren’t at practice, you’d probably be surprised. If you watched him practice, we’ve got two pretty good tackles … Our line is pretty good,” Sumlin said. ”He’s had his moments with every guy on that offensive line. That’s when you start getting respect from your teammates and people start whispering.”
SPEED BUMP: Texas A&M freshman receiver Speedy Noil, who has 12 catches for 197 yards already and is their top punt returner, is not expected to play Saturday. He had his first career touchdown catch early last week’s win over Rice before limping off the field in the third quarter.