SMU CW, TCU 360 staff predict Battle for Iron Skillet

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(Courtesy of Jacquelyn Elias) Photo credit: Jacquelyn Elias

 

Brian O’Donnell, SMU CW Sports Editor:

When the SMU Mustangs take the field against the TCU Horned Frogs this Saturday night in Fort Worth, the two teams will begin the 95th chapter in this historic rivalry.

TCU manhandled SMU last year, beating them 56-0 and putting up over 600 yards of offense. Then again, SMU was manhandled by a lot of their opponents last year, including a UNT team that they defeated handily Saturday night.

It’s no secret that the Mustangs are a significantly improved team under Chad Morris. The offense is moving the chains, using the clock, and putting up points. Quarterback Matt Davis is looking comfortable, playing freely, and making good decisions. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton is shaping up to be a valuable deep threat and scorer. Running back Xavier Jones is making the running game better with his speed and ability to catch and run. The defense is showing character and fight and was able to hold Baylor scoreless for almost two quarters in the opener.

That being said, the Horned Frogs haven’t changed much since last year. They still have one of the nation’s best offenses and are deserving favorites to make the college football playoff this year. TCU’s defense has some gaps that the Mustangs might be able to take advantage of, but Trevone Boykin and company are almost impossible to stop. SMU’s offense, despite its improvement, can’t keep up in a shootout.

The Battle for the Iron Skillet has produced some great games and some surprising upsets in its storied history. Though SMU fans are trying to be positive and an upset would be one of the biggest stories of the year, it is just not going to happen.

Against Baylor, SMU had the element of surprise. This week, that is not the case. TCU sees SMU coming and they will be ready. It won’t be a shutout this year but TCU will win in dominant fashion, emerging unfazed on their quest for a national championship. SMU will head back to the Hilltop looking forward to American Athletic Conference play and happy to have two top-five teams behind them.

PREDICTION: TCU 63 – SMU 17

Dean Straka, TCU 360 Sports Editor:

Only days remain before the TCU Football engages in its annual battle against its crosstown foes.

When the Horned Frogs take on the Southern Methodist University Mustangs under the lights in Fort Worth Saturday night, a historic rivalry will be once again renewed. Combine a night game, an expected sellout crowd, and the Frogs sitting at No. 3 in the rankings, and Amon G. Carter Stadium will be quite the scene.

TCU’s offense is hot, having put up 70 points against Stephen F. Austin last weekend. With leadership from quarterback Trevone Boykin, wide receivers Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee, and co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, the Frogs will be eager to replicate their 56-0 blowout of SMU in 2014.

The Frogs won’t be playing the same Mustang team that they utterly demolished in Dallas last September however. The Mustangs have come out revamped under the leadership of head coach Chad Morris in his first season with the team.

SMU’s offense has noticeably taken a leap this season under Morris. His experience as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Clemson has paid off for the Mustangs thus far. Their 52 points in their first two games are more than they scored in their first seven games last season, and their fight against No. 5 Baylor early on was impressive.

The Mustang’s defense is still sub-par, but the Frogs will have their fair share of work cut out for them defensively too. Plagued by injuries and undisclosed absences to starters such as LBs Sammy Douglas and Mike Freeze, new faces will have to get the job done again, and that can be unnerving.

When these two teams take the field with the rivalry they have though, anything can happen. We’ve seen blowouts, we’ve seen close ones, and we’ve seen upsets. I don’t see a shutout in this game with the offensive development of both teams. With a record setting offense and the crowd on their side though, I still expect the Frogs to come out on top, by a lot.

PREDICTION: TCU 55 – SMU 21

Patrick Engel, SMU CW Sports Staff Writer

Last year, we saw TCU run SMU out of the stadium and show the astounding gap between the two programs in athletic ability and speed. In the year since that 56-0 loss, SMU has gotten bigger, faster and more athletic, thanks to Strength and Conditioning Coach Trumain Carroll. But that’s not to say SMU is as fast or athletic as TCU.

TCU still has a track team of skill position players and an athletic quarterback who makes plays with his arm and his legs. SMU has already faced a fast-paced offense in Baylor this season, but TCU and Baylor aren’t exactly alike.

Both are fast, but Baylor features a lot of run/pass reads while TCU features zone-read runs and spreads the offense out to throw. This forces the defense to make tackles in space against its athletic wide receivers and running backs. How will SMU try to stop it? Defensive coordinator Van Malone said he wants to see the defensive line chase the ball and play with a lot
of effort.

The Horned Frogs are fast and athletic on defense as well. Defensive-minded head coach Gary Patterson has a strong history of recruiting speedy offensive players and turning them into defensive playmakers.

TCU’s defense lost two important seniors from 2014, linebacker Paul Dawson and cornerback Kevin White, four starters to injury, (at least two for the season) and one more for personal reasons. SMU will try to wear down a thinner TCU defense with its tempo.

Even if SMU cuts out the mistakes it made against North Texas, I’m curious if quarterback Matt Davis can pick through TCU’s secondary. The Horned Frogs mix up a lot of man and zone coverage and make great coverage calls because Patterson thinks like an offense.

I think SMU will give TCU a fight, but the Horned Frogs will prove too fast once again. This time, it will be a testament to TCU’s strength and not a national exposure of SMU’s weaknesses.

PREDICTION: TCU 48 – SMU 24

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