Might it be remembered as the night the Dallas/Arlington metroplex truly became divided when the TCU Horned Frogs (1-0) travel crosstown to take on the SMU Mustangs (0-1) in the latest "Battle for the Iron Skillet."
The Texas Christian vs. Southern Methodist rivalry dates to 1916, with long winning streaks had by both teams against their neighbor. New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes is thrust into the middle of the longstanding heated rivalry faced with ending a six-game losing streak to TCU. Dykes' return to the sideline as head coach after his four-year stint with Cal (2013-16) did not go as planned in Week 1. The Mustangs could not stop North Texas quarterback Mason Fine, surrendering 444 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 46-23 loss.
The Horned Frogs opened the season in style downing FCS member Southern 55-7 using their suffocating defense to keep the Jaguars' offense off the field. Sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson nearly surpassed his 2017 season totals as a backup, finishing the game with 182 passing yards and three touchdowns while rushing for two more scores.
TCU at SMU
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: TCU -22
Three Things to Watch
1. TCU’s rushing attack
The Horned Frogs' stable of backs should be fresh for the Mustangs. Emari Demercado led TCU with eight carries for 57 yards against Southern but returning leading rusher Darius Anderson was able to get some work in, toting the pigskin eight times for 36 yards. Another back to watch for is Sewo Olonilua. Olonilua was explosive against the overmatched Jaguars, gaining 43 yards on just five carries.
A win over SMU is needed, but the most important thing is for the offense to punish Southern on the ground, especially with Ohio State on tap for next week's matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. A delicate balance between gelling the offense and getting the backs off the field is to be had.
2. SMU’s secondary
The Mustangs' lack of effectiveness against the pass in Week 1 was somewhat surprising with four starters back in the secondary. North Texas starts the 2018 season off as the second-leading passing squad in the FBS ranks meaning SMU statistically has the second-worst pass defense. If Robinson can maintain his 71 percent completion rate, the Mustangs are in big trouble.
On the bright side for SMU, the Mustangs only allowed 68 rushing yards against the Mean Green. Stopping TCU’s rushing attack and Robinson’s ability to pick up yards on broken plays will be a big challenge.
3. The Dykes and Ohio State effect
It is worth noting that SMU head coach Sonny Dykes spent the 2017 season as the offensive analyst for the Frogs. With his years in the game as a coach and his first-hand knowledge of the team, there is no other coach in the country better suited to beat TCU from a knowledge base... but can he? One thing that might help Dykes, is TCU looking ahead to the Buckeyes? No. 4 Ohio State hosts Rutgers in Week 2 and is perhaps looking ahead to the non-conference showdown against TCU. Dykes may have to keep his guys focused as well with a Week 3 road trip to No. 21 Michigan (0-1) looming.
Former SMU head coach Chad Morris did not leave the shelves bare of talent, but the Mustangs are still in transition in a new philosophy. If they got caught sleeping on North Texas, maybe a more competitive game is to be expected on Friday?
Over the last five meetings, TCU has kept SMU at arm’s reach with the closest margin of victory being 19 points in 2015. Look for TCU to push the overall series to a 50-39-7 mark notching a seventh consecutive win in this series.
Prediction: TCU 45, SMU 25
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.