Welcome back to another week of Three Reasons Why: The Battle for the Iron Skillet edition.
The Horned Frogs (2-1) host SMU (2-1) on Saturday (11 a.m., FS1) in what could be one of the final times we see these two Metroplex rivals battle. TCU announced it would pause the rivalry after 2025. With SMU joining the ACC, the fans in University Park may not have an appetite for rescheduling the series either.
Then you have the fact that it’ll be Sonny Dykes second time facing the program he helped revive. And oh yeah, SMU has two former TCU players, including likely starter Jordan Hudson at receiver.
There should be plenty of fireworks at The Carter on Saturday between two teams that are looking to build momentum before jumping into conference play.
Here are three reasons why TCU will continue its Iron Skillet dominance or stumble to their cross-city rival:
Three reasons why TCU will roll SMU
1. Powerful run game: The Mustangs defense has held well a quarter of the way through the season. SMU’s overall defensive numbers are impressive, but inflated due to inferior competition. The Mustangs were kept Oklahoma’s passing game in check, but the Sooners were still able to get the ground game going.
Tawee Walker rushed for more than 115 yards and Marcus Majors averaged 4.9 yards per carry on eight touches. The Horned Frogs have a better stable of running backs, thus Emani Bailey and Trey Sanders and should have similar success.
2. Surging defense? The TCU defense should play with confidence after keeping a second straight opponent out of the endzone. SMU has a better offense than Houston and Nicholls State, so that streak will probably end on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean the defense still can’t give SMU problems.
TCU has one of the best run defenses in country and should be able to make the Mustangs one dimensional. When that happens the Horned Frogs should be able to capitalize.
3. Morris outduels Stone: If the defense is unable to keep this from becoming a shootout then it’ll be on TCU quarterback Chandler Morris to perform better than SMU quarterback Preston Stone. Both are in their first year of starting and have had some growing pains, but Morris’ ability to extend plays with his feet will be able to keep drives alive and will end up being the difference against the former blue chip recruit.
Three reasons why TCU will be upset
1. Turnover struggles: Ball security may be the one thing that’s holding TCU’s offense back from being of the country’s best. The Horned Frogs had two more turnovers against Houston including a redzone interception that took points off the board. We know about the miscues against Colorado.
It’s really simple. Under Dykes when TCU wins the turnover battle, the team is undefeated. When the Horned Frogs lose it, their winning percentage drops dramatically. TCU can’t give SMU life with costly turnovers.
2. Defensive improvement was a mirage: SMU will be a true litmus test of whether or not the defense has really turned the corner. TCU’s defensive numbers are still near the bottom of the Big 12 and the third-down defense still remains a concern with opponents converting 42% of the time. That number dropped nearly 8% after the Houston game.
Oklahoma was able to shut down SMU with great third down defense, but can TCU do the same? It feels like if the Horned Frogs can keep the Mustangs to 24 points or below, then this game should be a victory. Above that and we’re getting into shootout territory and that game will be up for grabs.
3. SMU’s defensive line: Elijah Chatman and Elijah Roberts will be the biggest test the TCU offensive line has faced so far. Houston had one good edge rusher, but the Mustangs are deeper up front. TCU’s offensive line has been good so far, but we’re about to learn a lot more about the unit on Saturday.
If TCU is unable to establish dominance in the trenches then expect the Horned Frogs to be on upset watch.