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Previewing the Ponies: Frogs look to make it seven straight

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TCU wants to keep the Iron Skillet. SMU wants to win their Super Bowl. Who will prevail?

NCAA Football: SMU at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The last time SMU beat TCU in football, in 2011, June Jones was one of the hottest names in coaching and the Horned Frogs were coming off of a Rose Bowl win. A lot has changed in the seven years since, most notably, the direction of the programs. The Horned Frogs are trending upward - including accepting an invitation to a Power Five conference, while the Ponies haven’t finished above .500 just twice since 2012. It looked like SMU was trending upward with the hiring of Chad Morris, but he high-tailed it to Fayetteville after just three years in Highland Park.

Here we sit, in 2018, with the Frogs favored by three plus scores at Gerald Ford Stadium. Yikes.

How will Friday night go for the Horned Frogs? Let’s find out.

When TCU is on defense:

SMU has a competent quarterback in Ben Hicks, though his 50% completion rate in 2018 (on 24 attempts) doesn’t inspire much confidence after completing just 58% of his attempts a season ago. With Courtland Sutton off the NFL, Hicks has lost his top target, and while James Proche and Braeden West are capable players, they totaled 58 catches a season ago. Proche has elite speed and averaged over 20 per catch in 2017, and nearly doubled that against UNT in week one. But the bulk of his yards came on a 59 yard score with the game well in hand for the Mean Green. Hicks looked for Roberson (4 catches for 67 yards) and West (3 for 86) most often against UNT.

But the real issue is the run game, where the Ponies managed just four positive yards against North Texas. Now, most of that game in the form of Ben Hicks’ drops, as the QB managed -34 yards due to sacks (of which he suffered four). But running backs West, Ke’Mon Freeman, and Xavier Jones managed just 32 yards on 13 carries on the evenings themselves, with a long of five. If TCU is able to tee off on the passing game without being threatened by what’s happening on the ground, it could be a very good night for Ty Summers, Ben Banogu, and the rest of the defensive front.

SMU converted on just two of ten third down attempts, had just nine first downs (one through three quarters), and looked generally inept until the final 10 minutes. There is certainly a learning curve as Sonny Dykes attempts to install his O, but the early returns are... that the curve is very, very steep.

When TCU is on offense:

Well... the Mason Fine-led Mean Green racked up over 500 yards of offense, including nearly 450 through the air - where he completed a stunning 80% of his 51 attempts. The Mustangs have... no pass defense to speak of. SMU was much more stout against the run, allowing less than two yards per carry, an impressive 68 yards of 43 attempts.

Yes, UNT ran 94 plays against SMU’s defense.

94.

They held the ball for 44 minutes and 13 seconds.

This was a total beatdown.

SMU was led in tackling by defensive back Rodney Clemons (11) and safety Patrick Nelson and linebacker Delano Robinson with 10 each. Nelson and Delonte Scott combined for two sacks, and the defense forced one fumble.

TCU should have more success than UNT on the ground behind Darius Anderson, Sewo Olonilua, and Emari Demercado. The offensive line should have another week to gel against a Pony pass rush that is more ehh that express, and Shawn Robinson should be able to work on his timing and consistency with his receivers against a porous pass D.

That’s a lot of shoulds.

SMU is far from the level of TCU when it comes to talent on the field, but they are a well-coached unit that seemed to turn a corner in the fourth corner. That, along with the fact that Sonny will certainly be pulling a Gary and motivating his troops by asking “how many of them received an offer from TCU”, will certainly make this game more interesting than it should be on paper.

Give me TCU 44, SMU 17 - but the Frogs don’t pull away until the third quarter.