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SMU vs. TCU: Preview & Prediction

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SMU travels to (25) TCU in an intriguing 2019 iteration of the Battle for The Iron Skillet

SEP 14 Texas State at SMU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kickoff: Saturday, SEP 21 2:30PM CST

Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth Texas

TV: FS1

Betting: SMU +9.5, O/U 55.0

All-Time Series: TCU leads 51-40-7


BACKGROUND

On Saturday afternoon, SMU travels 40 miles west to take on the newly ranked TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. Both teams carry momentum into week 4. Last week, SMU defeated Texas State 47-17 to move to 3-0 on the season. TCU handled BIG 10 foe Purdue on the road 34-13 to go to 2-0.

“The Battle for The Iron Skillet” is probably one of the lesser known rivalries in college football. SMU and TCU have played each other almost every year dating back to 1915. Saturday’s game will be the 99th all time meeting between the two teams.

Lore has it that the Iron Skillet trophy came about in 1946 after an SMU fan was caught frying frog legs at a tailgate before the game in an iron skillet. The two fans decided that the winner would be awarded the skillet following the game and the tradition stuck.

Texas Christian at Southern Methodist
SMU has only beaten TCU 2 times since 1999 in the Battle for The Iron Skillet
Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

ANALYSIS

Hot off a 30 point win against Texas State, SMU will try and pull the upset this weekend at TCU before they start AAC conference play at USF next week. SMU is carrying a considerable amount of momentum under second year head coach Sonny Dykes into this game and will need to score early and often to have a legitimate shot at the upset.

SMU will need a big day from Shane Buechele and his two favorite targets James Proche and Reggie Roberson Jr., who is currently ranked 9th in receiving yards in the country, to have a chance to come away with a win. Through 3 games, Shane Buechele has a QBR rating of 70.8 putting him 39th in the country. That’s good but not great. Buechele will have to play lights out against the TCU secondary that’s only allowing 147.5 yards allowed per game. (I know I know it’s only a two game sample size)

Shane Buechele’s efficiency will be paramount on Saturday, but the critical match-up for the Mustangs this week is Xavier Jones and the SMU offensive line vs. the TCU front 7. Xavier Jones is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and has totaled 7 touchdowns thus far in 2019. Xavier Jones is off to a smokin’ hot start this season currently tied with Oklahoma State standout Chuba Hubbard for most rushing touchdowns through 3 weeks.

North Texas v SMU
Xavier Jones co-leads the nation in rushing TDs with 7 through 3 games
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

TJ McDaniel exploded for 159 yards and 3 TDs against Texas State last week on only 8 carries. (!!!!!) If SMU can get this kind of explosive production from their backfield again this week they will be tough to stop. SMU totaled 390 yards rushing last week which is pretty impressive no matter what team you’re playing.

TCU has only allowed 124 rushing yards through 2 games which is good for 6th in the country in rushing defense.

SMU must affect the game early on the ground Saturday to open up the passing game. SMU is very balanced on offense so Sonny Dykes will be counting on Xavier Jones and company to sustain their production to allow play calling to stay balanced throughout the game.

SMU’s defensive line will be relied on the stop an equally impressive TCU rushing attack averaging 273 yards per game on the ground. With that being said, SMU has only allowed an average of 105.7 rushing yards per game. TCU’s leading rusher Darius Anderson ran for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns on only 16 carries last week at Purdue. TCU actually had two backs with over 100 yards last week as well, with Sewo Olonilua totaling 106 yards on 18 carries, meaning they will be able to have fresh legs deep into the game Saturday which could tire out SMU’s defense if TCU executes long drives. SMU can’t allow that kind of efficiency this week if they want to come away with the win.

TCU has not had great production from the quarterback position thus far which obviously bodes well for the SMU defense. Last week against Purdue, TCU QB Max Duggan went 7/18 for 70 yards and 1 TD ending the game with a QBR of 20.2. (Big Yikes!!!)

I would expect Max Duggan to improve through the air this week. TCU head coach Gary Patterson is one of the better coaches in all of college football so expect to see a better performance from Duggan in week 4 and the TCU defense will certainly be motivated on their home turf.

PREDICTION

Though TCU is a 9.5 point favorite here I think people are sleeping on SMU. Put simply, the team whose defensive line plays the best will win. SMU has a legitimate chance at an upset this weekend if they can manage the TCU rushing attack and not fall behind forcing Shane Buechele to throw a ton. With that being said, I think it will be a close game until the 4th quarter where TCU wins it late.

SMU covers. TCU wins 38-35.

EXTRA POINTS

  • At the beginning of the season a realistic goal for this Mustangs team was to win 6 games and make a bowl appearance. At this point, they’ve shown enough for me to believe that they could be much more competitive in the AAC as they’re ahead of schedule under second year head coach Sonny Dykes. Unfortunately, they have Houston, Memphis, and a tough Tulane team in their division which will make it difficult to compete for an AAC West title this year. With that being said, after a 3-0 start this SMU team will be shooting higher than just 6 wins this season.
  • SMU may have the most absurd turnover gimmick in all of college football with “ClubTakeAway.” Instead of getting a chain or a backpack or a sledgehammer or something to carry around, the player responsible for the turnover pops a fake bottle of champagne under a shower of confetti on the sideline. Is it absurd? Yes. Do I hate it? No.
  • SMU has the best uniforms in the AAC and it’s not even close.
  • As I’m writing this on Thursday night watching the Houston / Tulane game, Pat McAfee in the booth is appointment TV in my opinion. If you’ve never heard him call a game you should check it out. Electric.