Saturday will mark the 101st meeting between the TCU Horned Frogs and SMU Mustangs in the Battle for the Iron Skillet, dating back all the way to 1915. TCU leads the all-time series 51-42-7 but has lost the last two meetings, both occurring in Fort Worth.
While TCU (2-0) was on a bye, the Mustangs (2-1) suffered their first loss of the season in a painful 34-27 defeat in College Park to Maryland. Offense wasn't the issue as SMU rolled up 520 total yards, but some untimely turnovers led to a 14-point, fourth-quarter rally by the Terrapins to secure the win. Now the Mustangs will try and rebound against their former head coach with Sonny Dykes returning to Dallas after being hired away by the Horned Frogs this offseason. There is plenty of familiarity on both sides in this matchup.
TCU at SMU
When TCU Has the Ball
Dykes' calling card is obviously his offensive scheme, and that's shown through two games as the Horned Frogs are No. 1 in the Big 12, averaging more than 521 yards per game. Last time out against FCS Tarleton, TCU rolled up 630 total yards of offense with backup quarterback Max Duggan leading the charge, throwing five passing touchdowns in the win. Duggan was forced into action following the injury in the opening week to starter Chandler Morris and set career highs against Tarleton, completing 23 of 29 passes for 390 yards and five scores. Dykes commented last week that Morris is still recovering, which means Duggan will likely get the starting nod again.
The biggest surprise is the success of the TCU passing game without significant contributions from preseason All-Big 12 candidate Quentin Johnston, who has been limited to just five receptions on nine targets. Fellow starter Quincy Brown was the primary target in Week 2, catching two touchdowns from Duggan, but he will be out for an extended period due to an ankle injury. That'll lead to increased playing time for 4-star true freshman Jordan Hudson, who caught five passes with a touchdown against Tarleton.
Despite allowing more than 500 yards to Maryland last Saturday, SMU's pass defense has been fairly solid. The Mustangs are giving up a respectable 194 passing yards per game. On the flip side, they are ranked 103rd nationally against the run, surrendering 200-plus rushing yards to both North Texas and the Terrapins. This could be something the Horned Frogs will be able to exploit with Kendre Miller (5.1 ypc, 2 TDs) and others running behind a veteran offensive line.
When SMU Has the Ball
When the Mustangs have the ball, we know exactly where it's going. Senior wide receiver Rashee Rice is off to a blazing start in 2022, topping 130 yards in all three games this season. Rice is now second in the country with 45 targets (28 rec.) behind only UTEP's Tyrin Smith, who has played one more game. To further exemplify Rice's importance to the offense, his 39 percent target share is one of the highest marks in the country, with no other SMU receiver totaling more than 14 targets.
The quarterback getting Rice the football hasn't been half bad either as Tanner Mordecai is completing better than 61 percent of his passes and has already surpassed 1,000 yards through the air. And despite not having a solidified starter at running back, the Mustangs are averaging just under five yards a carry to start the year, getting contributions from Tre Siggers, TJ McDaniel, and Velton Gardner. Each has run for at least 80 yards in a game this season. Credit to the SMU offensive line, which ranks 15th in line yards and ninth in stuff rate (per CollegeFootballData).
It's tough to make out any strong observations for or against the TCU defense considering they've played Colorado and Tarleton. The latter is an FCS program while the former is one that should probably be relegated to the FCS level given the way the Buffaloes have performed this season and last. The Horned Frogs are allowing just 15 points per game, with linebacker Jamoni Hodge (10 tackles) leading the way.
It's tough not to think there will be plenty of fireworks on Saturday in Dallas with a pair of teams averaging more than 500 total yards through three weeks. There is also plenty of motivation on both sides with SMU facing its former head coach and TCU looking to atone for two straight losses in this series. We'll side with the Mustangs in a close bout that will likely go back and forth throughout.
Prediction: SMU 34, TCU 31
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— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.
*Price as of publication.