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Previewing the Ponies: SMU Looks for Big Upset Once Again

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Can the Frogs avoid a big upset one week after a big win?

TCU v SMU Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Is SMU the Frogs’ greatest rival, now that Baylor is plummeting (back) into football oblivion? It’s not unlikely that the Ponies have a far more talented roster than the Bears, and Chad Morris, in his third year at the helm in Dallas, has made consistent strides. He recruits the state well and is creating the kind of depth that takes teams to the post-season, and while fans of SMU shouldn’t be pricing out playoff tickets by any stretch, it’s clear they will be Bowl Game Bound in 2017.

But... they aren’t the Horned Frogs, and they haven’t been in quite sometime. The Mustangs haven’t beaten the Frogs since 2011, and don’t have a truly meaningful victory since 2005.

Screenshot via Winsipedia.
http://www.winsipedia.com/tcu/vs/smu

That 2005 victory, in Dallas, came a week after Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs had announced themselves to the world by stunning #7 Oklahoma in Norman, the first home loss for the Sooners since 2001 and Bob Stoops first ever home defeat in September. But, the lone defeat on the year for TCU would come at the hands of the Ponies, eliminating them from what could have been their first ever BCS Bowl Game and leaving them with a painfully blemished 11-1 record.

Gary Patterson hasn’t forgotten 2005, and his players, many of whom were in kindergarten that year, don’t have the luxury of forgetting it, either. But, this year, it’s an especially poignant point, with the Frogs coming off a nearly as big win in Fayetteville a week prior. Just as we will all strive to “Remember the Five”, the Frogs will Remember ‘05. And make sure that they end the preseason 3-0 and are fully ready to face a loaded Big 12 schedule.

Offense:

The SMU offense doesn’t start and end with Courtland Sutton, but it might as well. Not only is the senior junior wide receiver (wait, seriously? he has another season of eligibility left? Courtland, buddy, better leave early for the NFL. Maximize your value and all that) the best player on the Mustangs roster, he’s one of the best in in the country, period. With great size, speed, hands, the ability to high point the ball, and propensity for picking up RAC in bunches, Sutton is, as Gary Patterson put it, a problem.

But, he’s not the only problem that GP and the rest of the Frog defense will face Saturday - Chad Morris has more talent around Sutton than ever before, as James Proche and Trey Quinn are talented pass-catchers in their own right. Quarterback Ben Hicks might not have the sizzle of Matt Davis, but he’s a better passer, and while his numbers don’t jump off the page after two games, he didn’t need to be perfect in either of their first two games to lead his team to big wins. A solid running attack behind him, led by Xavier Jones, Ke’Mon Freeman, and Braeden West - who average 4.9, 3.4, and 14.3 yards per carry respectively, makes the Pony O all-around dangerous.

The offensive line has looked a little shaky early, allowing seven sacks through two games against sub-par competition, and that could be the key matchup on Saturday, as the TCU defensive line looks downright nasty early on.

They are 6-6 in red zone scoring attempts, including five touchdowns.

Defense:

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Special Teams:

Junior Josh Williams doesn’t have the biggest leg in college football, with a career long of 44 yards. He was 17-22 a season ago after converting to FG duty from punting, and is 2-2 so far this year. He’s serviceable.

Jamie Sackville - for one, should be playing on the defensive line, what an oversight - averages over 40 yards a punt and has five inside the 20 yard line with zero touchbacks. He’s really good, and that could be the difference against a TCU team that relies on KaVontae Turpin and Desmon White to flip the field. Opponents are cresting the 26 yard mark on kick returns though.

Defense:

Okay, for real now. The SMU defense surrendered a pair of touchdowns to SFA before letting UNT go for 32 a week ago. The game was actually tied at ten after one quarter before the ‘stangs pulled away, and the Eagles added some garbage time scores late. But, the fact of the matter is, the Ponies aren’t great on defense and haven’t been in quite some time.

Opponents are completing 62% of their passes against them, and that’s without facing a marquee QB (though Foster Sawyer was 3-4). The run defense has been pretty solid - just 2.3 yards per attempt and 72 yards per game. Of course, both opponents were down big early and mostly playing pass-happy catchup. Plus, neither have a backfield that can remotely compare to the three-headed monster of Anderson/Hicks/Sewo.

With seven sacks and three interceptions, they do seem to be more aggressive in their scheme and willing to take chances, but Kenny Hill’s mobility could give them fits. Safety Onu Mikial is a valuable tool in run defense as a good tackling safety (also a former George Ranch teammate of Darius Anderson), while defensive end Justin Lawler and linebacker Kyran Mitchell have multiple sacks on the season. But after the performance Saturday against Arkansas, the offensive line should give Hill time and open up some nice holes for the running backs.

Prediction:

Weird things always seem to happen in this game - sans a handful of blowouts, the last ten years or so have been back and forth affairs until late. Last year’s game in Dallas was at a stalemate until John Diarse broke things open in the third, and hopefully that terrible first half - as well as the warnings of 2005 - keep the Frogs focused and stepping on the gas peddle. I think TCU jumps out to a big lead early, Hicks and Sutton rally the Ponies into the third, before the Frogs put things away. Give me 41-24 home team.