Date: Saturday, September 19
Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
SMU in 2014
To say the Ponies struggled in 2014 would be an understatement. SMU opened the season on the wrong end of a 45-0 beatdown by Baylor, and followed with a 43-6 loss at UNT. Two days later, coach June Jones resigned, and the Ponies seemed to hit rock bottom. But, that wouldn't actually happen for another two weeks, when the Frogs dropped the 56-0 a week after they gave up 56 points to the Aggies - both at home.
SMU would finish the season with a single win, in the last game of the season against UConn, for a 1-11 record. The Mustangs were "led" at QB by two different players - junior Garrett Krstich and sophomore Matt Davis each passed for 855 yards on 54% passing, throwing a combined five touchdowns and 12 interceptions. That is... not good. The running game didn't fare much better; Davis ruled the ground game with 613 yards and four scores, and Prescott Line was the leading rushing of the running back with 256 yards. That is also... not good. To put those numbers in to perspective, SMU's entire running back position was out-gained by Aaron Green - who started only five games on the year.
Defensively, the story doesn't have any happier of an ending - SMU allowed over 41 points per game (they scored a total of 133 in 12 games), allowing 235 yards per game on the ground and another 264 through the air. Opponents scored on 83% of red zone opportunities, finding the end zone 62% of the time. Leading tackler Hayden Greenbauer has graduated, along with his 48 tackles, one INT, and two fumble recoveries. Zach Wood is back, after having led the team with four sacks in 2014. Horace Richardson had two INTs as a junior, and Shakiel Randolph had eight PBUs.
The Last Time They Played TCU
The Battle for the Iron Skillet has been played annually since 2007, and 104 times total since 1915. The Frogs and Ponies played in Dallas on September 27th, with TCU walking out of Gerald Ford Stadium with a 56-0 win. The Frogs started slow in the game, as Boykin seemed to be out of rhythm early passing - but did score on a 27 yard run to put TCU's first points on the board. After two straight drives stalled, and this happened, Boykin and the Frogs got rolling, and things got out of hand quickly. TCU had 14 drives on the day, scoring touchdowns on eight of them - and things could have been worse were it not for three missed Jaden Oberkrom field goals. Boykin finished 23/36 for 280 yards passing, four TDs, and another 62 yards and two scores on the ground. B.J. Catalon rushed for over 100 yards, and Deante' Gray had 96 yards and two receiving touchdowns. For SMU, their two QB's mustered 156 yards passing on 16 completions, while the run game never got going behind them - 2.0 yards per carry on 45 touches. But hey, they averaged almost 44 yards per punt!
The Mustangs in 2015
This is truly a new era for SMU: with the hire of offensive guru Chad Morris out of Clemson, a Texas High School football coach for 16 years, there is positive momentum in the program for the first time since... well, the June Jones hire. But this should work out differently; Morris is well liked and well respected by the Texas High School football coaches he worked with for years, and they have no problem encouraging their players to see what's happening in University Park. But when you inherit what was quite possibly the worst team in Division I football a year ago, no amount of goodwill is going to make your program better - you need players, and he doesn't have enough (yet). A strong signing class bodes well for their future in the AAC - led by 4* QB Ben Hicks out of Waco Midway, an early enrollee and has a decent shot to be the starter out of fall camp - but may not translate in to wins in 2015. Leading rushers Davis and Line return, but watch out for redshirt freshman Daniel Gresham (Fort Worth All Saints); the one time Louisville recruit was spurned when Bobby Petrino was hired and is an absolute steal for SMU, having rushed for nearly 1,000 yards a piece in both his junior and senior seasons. Gresham was good enough to attract attention from Alabama, Texas, FSU, and many other top flight programs, but chose the Cardinals (flipping from Texas), only to have his offer withdrawn when Petrino replaced Charlie Strong (who went to Texas). Several freshmen wide receivers have a chance to make a significant impact - including TCU target James Proche - and returning wideouts Deion Sanders, Jr and Darius Joseph.
With non conference games against Baylor and TCU, as well as a rematch with the ever improving UNT, the Mustangs will be hard pressed to have a stronger start to 2015 than they did a season ago. But, I also don't anticipate them going 1-11 again, and they have an outside shot to get bowl eligible coming out of the AAC.
Seasoning the Iron Skillet
This is one of the longest rivalries in College Football, and despite the disparity recently, one of the closest. TCU leads the overall series 47-40-7, has won three straight contests, and 12 of 14 match-ups in the Gary Patterson era. SMU's only wins? 2011 in OT at Amon G Carter, 40-33, when Brandon Carter couldn't get his hands under a Casey Pachall pass on fourth down that would have kept the game tying drive alive; and most painfully in 2005, when TCU was upset by the Ponies on the road 21-10, fresh off their improbable victory over #7 OU in Norman. That loss, the only blemish on the Frog's record, kept them from a chance to make their first BCS appearance. Otherwise, it has been a very one sided affair recently, and a very streaky series in general - the Frogs have had win streaks stretching as long as five games, while SMU has a 15 game run that stretched from 1972 through 1986. My personal favorite victory was in 1997; TCU was a dismal 0-10 heading in to the final game of the season against their cross-town rivals, and hadn't been closer than a touchdown in any contest up to that point. The Ponies were on a five game winning streak, and had certainly overlooked Pat Sullivan's squad - he was already all but fired by that point. The 21-18 victory my freshman year was field rush worthy, brought down the goalposts, and ushered in the future of Frog football.
To prepare you for 2015 (and give you something to pass away the summer sports doldrums), you can watch last year's matchup: