A rivalry that’s often overlooked on a national scale is finally working its way towards the spotlight.
With TCU’s rise to national prominence over the last decade and SMU’s return from the dead to be a Conference USA contender, both teams have a lot to gain by winning this game.
Both teams come into this game at 3-1. Both teams have lost to a Big 12 opponent this year TCU to Baylor 50-48, SMU to Texas A&M 46-14), and both have had less than impressive victories over some of the worse college football has to offer.
TCU struggled in the first quarter against Louisiana Monroe before pulling away to win 38-17.
Likewise, SMU left the door wide open for UTEP to make a late charge before finally putting them away 28-17.
Now though, everything goes out the window. I’ve seen firsthand for years now how these teams play each other. Take last year for example. The Frogs, then ranked #4 in the country, went into Gerald J. Ford Stadium expecting the Mustangs to roll over.
SMU had different ideas, and they took a lead into the third quarter before TCU finally pulled away to keep their undefeated season, and a shot at the BCS.
Or what about in 2005, my freshman year at TCU. I had just witnessed the Frogs upset victory over Oklahoma in Norman (which, I’d like to note, is still the last time the Sooners lost at home), and it was clear the win was still in the heads of the players.
SMU came out and shut the Frogs down for a 21-10 win.
These teams want to beat each other more than anything. Their fans want it more than anything. It’s for a year of metroplex bragging rights, and while it may fall behind Cowboys-Redskins, Mavericks-Spurs or Rangers-Angels on the list of important DFW rivalries for most people, it’s clearly front and center for those on both campuses.
It’s Cowtown vs. Big D at it’s finest.
Casey Pachall has played outstanding football in his first four games as a starter. He’s throwing at a 69% clip, for 875 yards and 10 touchdowns to this point. He’s thrown only two interceptions, one at the end of the Baylor game, where a receiver was bumped off his route, and one against Portland State where the ball was tipped up in the air. He’ll be facing a relatively soft defense in the Mustangs, and should be able to get passes off without a problem.
He clearly favors throwing to Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson over any of his other receivers, but I have a hunch either David Porter or Brandon Carter will have a huge impact on this game. Keep an eye out for them.
Pachall has also shown that he has the ability to make good reads under pressure, so if SMU does blitz, look for a quick pass to James or Tucker out of the backfield, or maybe even a quick pass to Boyce like we saw last week against Portland State.
Meanwhile on the ground, the Frogs have a two headed threat that doesn’t include Ed Wesley.
Wesley has been sidelined by a variety of injuries so far this season, and in his absence Waymon James has become the (semi) feature back. James has 344 yards rushing on 40 carries with two touchdowns. His backfield counterpart Matthew Tucker has 266 yards rushing with five touchdowns.
Aundre Dean has solidified himself as the third back while Wesley is out, but most of his time has come in mop up duty at the end of games, and his time has been limited.
The TCU running game has been front and center so far this season in an attempt to ease Pachall into games, but they may need to change up that strategy against SMU, especially if the TCU defense comes out flat for a third consecutive game.
The biggest question with TCU still lies within it’s secondary, as well as it’s ability to wrap up and tackle. If Patterson hasn’t found a way to remedy this, it could be a long day for the Frogs.
After getting whupped by Texas A&M to kick off the season, SMU now has all offensive cylinders cranking on full. However, while TCU’s offense has not been good this year, the teams SMU has played have been worse.
Regardless, we can probably expect J.J. McDermott to have a good day throwing the ball, despite the fact that wide receiver Cole Beasley could to miss the game due to an injured right knee. Beasley hasn’t been ruled out yet for the game, but he’s been limited in practices this week. If Beasley is unable to go, McDermott’s main target Darius Johnson will need to have a huge game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see TCU double Johnson some, and force other receivers like Terrance Wilkerson and Der’rikk Thompson to step up and make plays.
When the Mustangs aren’t throwing the ball, their handing it off to Zach Line. Line gave the Horned Frogs fits last year, rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He gained the majority of his yards on runs up the gut, so expect TCU to try and clog the middle to force Line to the outside. If they can do that, the Frogs may be able to negate Line’s strength with their speed. Line can also come out of the backfield to receive the ball, so the TCU linebackers are going to have to be focused on him the majority of the night.
I expect this game to be a back and forth shootout, until Gary Patterson is able to make the necessary adjustments on defense. The Frogs will win this one, but SMU is inching closer to taking back the Skillet.
Prediction: TCU-42, SMU-31