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Opponent Preview Series: SMU Mustangs

A look ahead to what should be a high tension Battle for the Iron Skillet

Tanner Mordecai and the Mustangs will look to take down their former coach and keep the Iron Skillet in Dallas
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The next team in our preseason opponent preview series is the SMU Mustangs. The Frogs will travel across the metroplex to Gerald Ford Stadium on September 24th to battle for the Iron Skillet in a game that will have some extra tension this year following Sonny Dykes’ move to Fort Worth.

2022 Outlook

  • Projected Win Total: 7 wins
  • Odds to Win the American Athletic Conference (AAC): +1600
  • Odds to win the National Championship: +50000
  • Overall Preseason SP+ Ranking: 33rd (Offense: 17; Defense: 62)

To replace Sonny Dykes, the Mustangs hired Rhett Lashlee back from his offensive coordinator position at Miami as he had previously been the OC for SMU for two seasons from 2018-2019. Tanner Mordecai returns at quarterback for the Mustangs after a very productive 2021 season where he threw 39 touchdowns to 12 interceptions with over 3500 yards and a completion percentage at 67.5%. The former Oklahoma Sooner led the Mustangs to an 8-4 season in his first campaign as a starter. Returning receiver Rashee Rice projects to be Mordecai’s top target next season as he finished with 64 receptions for 670 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2021. Rice lined up in the slot last season and demonstrated immense run-after-catch ability as well as solid route running prowess in all three levels of the field. Rice will be joined in the receiving corps by North Carolina transfer Beau Corrales who showed a ton of promise in 2019 but had his 2020 and 2021 seasons cut short due to injury. Corrales and Rice will have to make up for the production lost from the departure of receivers Danny Gray and Reggie Roberson as well as tight end Grant Calcaterra to the NFL. The Mustangs also lost a very productive running back to the transfer portal in Ulysses Bentley IV who averaged a staggering 6.4 yards per carry last season. The offensive line lost second team all AAC center Alan Ali to TCU as well as guard Hayden Howerton who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Titans. The offense returns enough weapons to still be explosive in 2022 with another year of experience in the system under Tanner Mordecai’s belt. The front seven projects to be the clear strength of the defense as it returns a very good pass rusher in Turner Coxe at defensive end as well as DT DeVere Levelston and second team all AAC NT Elijah Chatman. SMU also picked up graduate transfer Shanon Reid from Tennessee to join an already very experienced position group. A lot of freshmen saw action in the secondary last year as the unit struggled letting up 278 yards a game through the air. Although the secondary should be a bit more experienced than last year, there will be pressure on the front 7 to get to the passer at a high level otherwise the defense will struggle.

History vs. TCU

This will be the 101st meeting between these two rivals as TCU leads the all time series 51-42-7 in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. SMU has won the past two meetings in 2019 and 2021 both in Fort Worth since the 2020 meeting was canceled due to COVID complications. Tensions have risen in this rivalry recently with pointed comments in interviews and a post game skirmish in 2021 after SMU attempted to plant their flag at midfield in Fort Worth. This offseason has only served to heighten the stakes of the upcoming matchup between these two teams as TCU poached Sonny Dykes to replace Gary Patterson as the head coach for the Frogs. Dykes took with him almost all of the top recruits that were committed to SMU to Fort Worth along with Alan Ali. Bad blood between the two teams looks to be at an all time high in this year’s edition of the Battle for the Iron Skillet.

Key Departure:

Danny Gray, WR

The former TCU commit from James Madison High School in Dallas was picked in the third round pick of the 2022 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers and will leave a hole on the outside for the Mustangs to fill. Gray was a big play threat at receiver averaging over 16 yards per reception his senior year. He finished as the leading receiver yards wise for SMU with over 804 yards on 49 receptions. Gray torched the Horned Frogs secondary in 2021 with 4 receptions for over 100 yards and a touchdown. The Mustangs will have to find a replacement for his explosive presence at receiver to maintain their offensive output from last year.

Key Newcomer:

Camar Wheaton, RB

SMU picked up the former 5 star transfer from Alabama to join Tre Siggers in the backfield who lead the Mustangs in rushing yards in 2021. Wheaton is originally from Garland, Texas and was ranked as the number 6 overall player in Texas in the class of 2021. He has tremendous top end speed and is explosive as a runner and should serve to complement Siggers more contact heavy running style. Wheaton did not see much action in Alabama’s loaded backfield last year but should be a featured player in SMU’s offense next season.

Matchup vs. TCU

The game in Dallas will be much anticipated by both sides as the Frogs look to take back the Iron Skillet after two straight disappointing losses and SMU looks to get revenge on their old head coach. The key matchup when the Frogs offense takes the field will be upfront. The TCU offensive line has been praised by the coaches constantly through this point in fall practices and should be much improved in 2022. If TCU can win the battle upfront, they should be able to score in bunches as the secondary for the Mustangs will be over matched against a more experienced and talented group of skill position players for the Frogs. The defense for the Frogs needs to be able to stop the run against the Mustangs to have success. Tre Tomlinson and Noah Daniels along with an improved safeties group with transfer Mark Perry should be able to have success against a receiving corps that has to replace 3 starters that are now in the NFL. A year ago, SMU had a ton of success on the ground against TCU and will need a similar performance in 2022 to keep up with TCU’s offense. This will be a key game for Sonny Dykes to demonstrate he can win the big game against a rival that has had the Frogs number in recent years.