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Frogs O’ War Roundtable: SMU Mustangs

Our thoughts on the 2023 Battle for the Iron Skillet

Sonny Dykes is looking to capture his fourth straight Iron Skillet
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With SMU becoming a member of the ACC next season, where do you see the Mustangs’ long-term trajectory and where will it stack up in its new league?

  • Miles: They’ll be a middle of the road team for now. I’m very interested to see how things play out for SMU. Sounds like a couple of very wealthy boosters are going to run the show long term.
  • Austin: If anything, I believe the move to the ACC will help most in basketball. However, on the gridiron, I’m not sure how much this move helps SMU in the short term. The Mustangs have looked a lot better in recent years, and it’s not like the AAC has been a cakewalk. However, now in the ACC, the Mustangs will get to prove their worth as a Power Five squad. If I were to guess, I’d say every now and then the Mustangs will have successful seasons.
  • Russ: I’d imagine SMU will start near the bottom of the conference, but with SMU’s boosters and the mounds of money their fanbase claims they have, we’ll see if the Mustangs can capitalize on NIL and become a threat on the recruiting trail.
  • Anthony: How much better is Boston College & Virginia (or Stanford & Cal) than Tulane & Memphis? SMU will likely jump right into the ACC as a mid-tier performer, even right from day 1. And when Clemson and FSU and UNC & Miami & Virginia Tech & Louisville & Pitt & NC State leave the ACC for greener pastures, SMU will likely have some solid battles with Wake Forest & Georgia Tech to compete for conference supremacy. With the hundreds of millions allegedly pouring in to supplement SMU as it foregoes TV revenue for a decade, perhaps that will become a boost to NIL opportunities and more top recruits will remain in Dallas.
  • Drew: I’m not entirely convinced the ACC is going to still be together in two years as some of the bigger schools in the conference have to be eyeing a step up especially after their travel budgets had to expand with the inclusion of the California schools. If the ACC hangs around for the nine years that SMU is paying its way, then I think it will start to pay off but I just don’t see the conference holding on to all its members for much longer.

Expectations are sky high for the Mustangs in its last season in a depleted American Athletic Conference, now co-favorites with Tulane to win the league. Do you see the Ponies as the G5 New Year’s Six Bowl representative this year?

  • Miles: Are they capable of doing it? Sure. Do I think they will? No.
  • Austin: No, although SMU could finish the year 8-1 or 7-2, Tulane will ultimately finish the regular season 9-0 and 8-1. I believe the Green Wave are the better team. Furthermore, Memphis may surprise everyone and finish with the best record in the AAC.
  • Russ: No. I think Tulane is the best team in the conference, as they took Ole Miss to the wire despite playing with a backup quarterback. I think SMU could challenge UTSA for the No. 2 spot in the conference this season, but I believe the AAC is the Green Wave’s to lose.
  • Anthony: No. In order to do so, SMU would need to win Saturday and I refuse to project that outcome (even as possible as it may be). Even if the Mustangs run through the American undefeated, there won’t be many good wins other than perhaps the conference title, as SMU avoids Tulane & UTSA in the regular season. SMU is still a top candidate, but would likely need some chaos across the other G5 conferences, especially at the top of the Mountain West.
  • Drew: No, I am still very high on Tulane even after their loss last week to Ole Miss and I think they earn another New Year’s Six invite.

TCU’s defense has not allowed a touchdown in consecutive games after getting torched in the opener vs. Colorado. Which version of the defense will more likely be on display on Saturday?

  • Miles: I think it’ll be a combination of the two. Rivalry games like this are rarely low scoring. Both teams will have stuff schemed up. I expect quite a few big plays.
  • Austin: I had high hopes for the Horned Frogs' defense before the season, especially the secondary, which majorly disappointed in week one. I foresee another solid outing this week, but I do expect the Mustangs offense to score a touchdown whether it be on the ground or through the air. The pass rush has been better than expected, I’d love to see a continued dominant showing from the defensive front.
  • Russ: SMU has found a lot of success on the offensive side of the football against TCU over the last few seasons. I’m predicting a high-scoring game, but the Mustangs have failed to muster much defense against the Horned Frogs either.
  • Anthony: SMU QB Preston Stone is off to a hot start and has spread the ball around to his stable of receivers; the TCU secondary will need to hold up across the board as Stone is capable of picking it apart if that unit comes out sleepy on Saturday morning like it did vs. Colorado. Oklahoma needed five QB hurries and two turnovers to escape with a win in Week 2; while the Horned Frogs have been able to force turnovers the last two games, TCU will certainly have its hands full with this offense.
  • Drew: I think the defense for TCU will be a determining factor in this game. Preston Stone is a much better quarterback than Donovan Smith and that worries me since Houston missed some opportunities last week due to a few missed throws. That being said, I think TCU has better athletes and the pass rush showed serious promise against the Cougars. The Frog defense withstands some trick plays to hold SMU at around 24 points.

In its two Power 5 games this season, TCU has amassed over 500 yards, but hasn’t scored more than 42 points. Will the Frogs find the endzone more often vs. SMU?

  • Miles: I don’t see this SMU defense giving up more than 40 points on Saturday. They went in to Norman and held the Sooners to 28. OU put up 73 and 66 in their other 2 games they’ve played.
  • Austin: Yes, some things must change though. Morris needs to find his red-zone target. Perhaps JP Richardson, Jared Wiley, or Savion Williams. All three receiving targets have traits that tend to become more apparent when the field shrinks. Also, the Frogs' offense must not get too cute, Emani Bailey is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, give him the ball.
  • Russ: With the full Big 12 schedule around the corner, this is the game that I believe the TCU offense starts to put the puzzle together. TCU needs to run the football and utilize its big targets in the red zone, whether it’s Jared Wiley, Chase Curtis or Savion Williams on the outside.
  • Anthony: TCU finally showed ability for explosive plays last week, hitting two long TD passes, but the offense continues to tighten up when it moves inside the 30 yard line. The frequency with which TCU has surrendered penalties, turnovers, and missed field goals in this zone has been concerning. TCU has not yet shown a favorite play type or favorite player in this zone, with some pretty terrible attempts in there. However, when TCU has run the ball both Emani Bailey & Trey Sanders have had a nose for the endzone.
  • Drew: I think this is the week we see the offense put it all together. Chandler Morris looked very comfortable and confident against Houston, having answers for whatever they threw at him. The run game showed flashes of creativity against Houston and I think we see more of it in a rivalry game. I think the coaches cleaned up some of the issues around the edges in practice, hopefully limiting drops on hot routes, and the Frog offense goes turnover free in the red zone and puts up a bunch of points.

Offensive MVP vs. SMU

  • Miles: It has to be Chandler Morris this week. SMU has been fantastic on defense, and it took a couple of great reads/throws from Dillon Gabriel to lift the Sooners.
  • Austin: SMU has surprisingly been stout on defense this season. After a bottom-12 defensive unit against the rush last season, the Mustangs have looked improved. However, dissecting their matchup against fellow Big-12 squad, Oklahoma, the Sooners were able to do damage on the ground. Therefore, I’m going with Emani Bailey. Last season, Kendre Miller rushed for 142 yards on the Mustangs, let’s see if Bailey can top that total.
  • Russ: The consensus here seems to be Chandler Morris and I’ll echo those sentiments. In a rivalry environment, Morris has a chance to make a statement after a pair of good outings against Nicholls State and Houston. Morris should have his full arsenal of weapons including Williams, JP Richardson and hopefully Dylan Wright.
  • Anthony: This is the Chandler Morris Game. Against Houston, he showed a big step forward in confidence, decision making, and execution; I think he builds on that vs. SMU and leads the offense with great success. The SMU defense is well improved, holding Dillon Gabriel to just 176 yards passing is crazy, but think it’ll focus its attention on stopping Bailey & the TCU run game, leaving space for Morris to cook.
  • Drew: I want to say Chandler Morris with the great game he had last week but since he seems to be a popular answer I’ll take JP Richardson. SMU is will have watched the Houston film and seen some issues with communication in pass protection from the Frogs. I think the Mustangs send a ton of blitzes on Saturday and JPR takes advantage, catching a bunch of quick passes underneath and putting up massive numbers in the YAC department.

Defensive MVP vs. SMU

  • Miles: The Frogs need Damonic Williams go have a big game on Saturday. A sack or 2, and causing havoc in the run game will go a long way.
  • Austin: Freshman Paul Oyewale. The defensive end has made a name for himself through the first three games this season. Oyewale recorded a sack against the Buffaloes and two last week against the Cougars. Pressuring quarterback Preston Stone will be key, thus Oyewale’s pass-rushing acumen is crucial.
  • Russ: Paul Oyewale. I recently wrote about his strong start to the season, as he has three sacks in three games and appears primed to take on the Dylan Horton role on defense this season. TCU has been stout against the run, but Oyewale will lead the charge to create pressure against Preston Stone.
  • Anthony: I’m ready for the Josh Newton Game. He allowed four receptions on five targets vs. Houston, albeit only for 43 yards allowed, but let’s see him lock down a side of the field on Saturday. Stone will not be afraid of testing Newton; the pre-season All American needs to make him pay for those chances and make life miserable for the Jordans Hudson & Kerley.
  • Drew: Johnny Hodges. Hodges has turned into a much more versatile linebacker this year for TCU taking on a heavier duty in rushing the passer. Hodges has two sacks on the year already and I think he gets two more against the Mustangs on Saturday along with being great in run defense.

Final Score

  • Miles: TCU 34, SMU 31
  • Austin: TCU 38, SMU 31
  • Russ: TCU 48, SMU 24
  • Anthony: TCU 31, SMU 21
  • Drew: TCU 38, SMU 24