The Horned Frogs and the Mustangs will face off for the 94th time in 100 years on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Last year, TCU finished its season with an impressive Peach Bowl victory while SMU was lucky that it ever won a game. The 2014 SMU football season was a “dumpster fire” in every aspect of the term that college football fans like to use when describing the utter futility of a rival program.
SMU went 1-11 in 2014, with its lone win coming in its last game of the season against UConn. The Mustangs ranked 127th out of 128 teams in total offense as they gained just 3,228 yards through out the season. They actually had the lowest points per game average in the country as the Ponies averaged just 11.1 points per contest last year.
The Mustang’s defense wasn’t much better as they ranked 121st in the FBS in total defense. On average, SMU surrendered the second most points per game (41.3) in 2014.
To make matters worse, former SMU head coach June Jones after the Mustangs were blown out in their second game of the season by North Texas.
After SMU had one of, if not the worst season of any college football team in 2014, they hired former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to replace Jones.
With two games under his belt, Morris looks like he has SMU headed in the right direction. The Mustangs were able to keep their matchup with No. 5 Baylor close in their 56-21 loss against the Bears.
Then last Saturday, the Mustangs were able to avenge their 43-6 loss to North Texas with a dominant 31-13 win against the Mean Green.
The most notable difference between this year’s and last year’s SMU teams is the new up-tempo offense that Morris brought with him from Clemson. Leading that offense is Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis, who is in his first year as the Mustang’s starting quarterback.
Davis is a dual threat QB. He’s averaging 120 yards on the ground but he has yet to throw for over 200 yards this season. If SMU ends up keeping this game close as they did against Baylor, it most likely will be because of Davis, and TCU head coach Gary Patterson knows that. The Frogs, who have nine new starters on defense, have centered their practice around keeping Davis from hurting them on the ground. Patterson, who compared Davis to Trevone Boykin earlier in the week, said freshman defensive back Tony James was taking snaps in practice in order to prepare for Davis’ speed.
But the Frogs’ young secondary will also have to keen in on Davis’ favorite target, wide receiver Courtland Sutton. Three of Davis four touchdown passes were caught by the freshman from Brenham, Texas. Sutton is dangerous because he is both fast and lengthy, as he stands 6-foot-four inches tall. That size came in handy last week against UNT where he had five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Though it looks as though Davis and Sutton have the offense imporving over the watch over their new head coach, the SMU defense will have their hands full against the very speedy TCU offense. But, if the Mustangs’ defense can build off their defensive performance last week, this Saturday’s game could be interesting. SMU forced UNT to fumble four times and were able to recover two of them.
However, though the defense seems like it has improved some (how could it not?) the Mustangs have a very young secondary that’s susceptible to making big mistakes, as they did in the fourth quarter against Baylor. The Horned Frogs should be able to exploit SMU’s defense for a lot of big plays, no matter how many safeties they decide to drop. But, if the Ponies can get lucky with a few Horned Frog mistakes and can find ways to move the ball with their athletic quarterback, the “Battle for the Iron Skillet” could be an interesting one.