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2023 TCU Football Opponent Preview: SMU Mustangs

Another CFB season means another battle for the Iron Skillet as the Horned Frogs will host rival SMU in 2023.

Preston Stone takes over at QB for SMU as the Mustangs look to re-take the Iron Skillet
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With fall camps underway, the excitement around the air is brewing in college football. A new season is approaching. Every year teams come out with new and recurring expectations. For the Horned Frogs of TCU, it’s easier said than done, but the program is hoping to stay on top and dominate the Big-12 as well as have another shot at a national title.

While much of the talk within the Big 12 will be about the conference realignment, the Horned Frogs will still have to handle business outside of the conference. This means another year, another matchup against the cross-town rival SMU Mustangs on Sept. 23 at Amon G Carter Stadium.

Last season SMU hosted TCU for, as usual, the rights to win the Iron Skillet. The Horned Frogs offense, led by All-American Max Duggan, would come out firing on all cylinders. TCU would put up 487 total yards and 21 first downs. The Mustangs fought hard to try and overcome multiple scoring deficits, but in the end, the Iron Skillet made its way to funky town as TCU defeated SMU 42-34.

Going into 2023, TCU hopes to build off what was a shocking but exciting 2022 season. As for the Mustangs, they hope to improve from their 7-6 season under now second-year head coach Rhett Lashlee. Let’s dive into the preview for this cross-town matchup.

TCU leads the series over SMU 52-42-7

TCU has won eight of the last ten contests

Most recent matchup: Sept. 24, 2022 - TCU won 42-34

One big change for the Horned Frogs this season will be at quarterback, as last year’s starter and Big-12 offensive player of the year, Max Duggan, is now a Los Angles Charger. This means a new signal caller will try and help the Horned Frogs retain the Iron Skillet.

The favorite to lead TCU in 2023 is quarterback Chandler Morris who was TCU’s previous starter before an injury made way for Duggan to take command. Aside from the quarterback change, much of the offense will also look different from the 2022 Fiesta Bowl Champion Frogs. Leading rushers Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado are with the Saints and Ram, respectively. Also, leading receivers Quentin Johnston, Derius Davis, and Taye Barber will all be absent in this year’s Battle for the Iron Skillet.

Last year’s matchup was all about explosive offense, but this season’s iteration of the game may look different. SMU’s star duo of Quarterback Tanner Mordecai and Wide Receiver Rashee Rice are gone from the Mustangs roster. Mordecai transferred to Wisconsin, and Rice took his talents to the NFL, now a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization.

SMU’s Offensive Outlook

As previously mentioned, like TCU, SMU’s offense will look different from last year. Redshirt Sophomore Preston Stone is taking over for Mordecai. Stone is a former four-star recruit with the intangibles and potential to create a breakout campaign. As for the running game, Tyler Lavine returns, who rushed for 642 yards and ten touchdowns. However, a new face will be featured in the backfield. That is Jaylan Knighton, a transfer from the University of Miami. He has more than 1100 yards in his career and 14 total touchdowns.

As for the receiving corps, replacing Rice will be difficult, but the Mustangs have an inspiring core. Jake Bailey returns, who went for eight catches, 163 yards, and a touchdown against the Horned Frogs last season. A noteworthy name came to Dallas this past season, Jordan Hudson. Frogs fans know Hudson well, as he committed to TCU in 2022 as a four-star recruit from Garland. And finally, Jordan Kerley rounds out the trio. He recorded 37 receptions, 588 yards, and six touchdowns last season.

Perhaps most importantly, the offensive line is full of veteran talent. Only two starters remain, both seniors, while the rest of the line is filled with upperclassmen and graduate students.

SMU’s Defensive Outlook

Last season, SMU boasted a bottom-12 defense. The Mustangs allowed 33.9 points and 446 yards per game. SMU was poor against the pass and even worse against the run. They allowed over 200 yards per game on the ground. This off-season, SMU made an effort to improve their lousy defense. The Mustangs added multiple transfers, many of which should start. Like Knighton on offense, SMU brought in a few more transfers from Miami. Those transfers, Jordan Miller and Elijah Roberts bring size and strength to the defensive line, which lacked a season ago. Additionally, Nelson Paul returns as potentially SMU’s best pass rusher, he recorded five sacks a year ago.

The linebacking core is unsettled in Dallas. Newcomers will fill all positions for the Mustangs. SMU tends to run a 4-2-5, so only two linebackers will be consistently used. Those two linebackers are shaping up to be Ahmad Walker from Liberty and returnee JaQwondis Burns, who played in every game last season for the Mustangs.

The Mustangs’ secondary is the best position group on defense. SMU returns three players Bryan Massey, Brandon Crossley, and Kevaris Hall. Both Massey and Crossley recorded more than 40 tackles this past season. In addition to the holdovers, transfers Charles Woods, Jonathan McGill, and Chris Megginson add to a stout secondary.

Matchup vs TCU

Similar to a season ago, this matchup will be an intriguing one. TCU came to Dallas unranked, with two wins against subpar opponents. Against the Mustangs is when the Horned Frogs first flexed their dominant offense to the tune of 42 points. This season, TCU faces SMU in their fourth game after playing Colorado, Nichols State, and Houston. The young Frogs squad will be tested with the Houston matchup, so fans will better understand what TCU will look like. However, this game against the Mustangs could be pivotal. If the Frogs fall to their crosstown rival, the season could spiral out of control.

Facing SMU will be difficult, as it always seems to be. But the Frogs have the talent to overcome a reconfigured SMU squad. Both teams have question marks at Quarterback, but Chandler Morris has more in-game experience than SMU’s Stone. This season’s Mustangs won’t be as explosive as this past season unless Stone plays above and beyond. With the loss of multiple key components, TCU’s offense obviously won’t be the same as last season’s. But TCU’s offense doesn’t need to be as good this early in the season to beat the Mustangs.

This game might not be the most exciting on the Horned Frog’s slate of games, especially with four new teams playing in the Big-12 and the two powerhouses playing their final season, but it will be an interesting affair between two squads ripe for talent. Let the Sonny Dykes bowl, I mean Battle for the Iron Skillet, kick-off!