SMU and TCU will renew their rivalry on the football field with the Battle for the Iron Skillet in Fort Worth on Saturday.
The series has been played annually since 1922, and although the results have favored TCU, SMU knows it has a chance to gain some believers against an excellent opponent and possibly the best team it will face all season.
“It’s a big game,” SMU head coach Rhett Lashlee told the media on Wednesday. “It’s important to us because they’re a great opponent, it’s a game we want to win, and it’s also the next one. If we prepared harder or different[ly] for this one, that would mean we’re not always giving our best, but you can’t be naive and use coachspeak and say, ‘It’s just another game.’ It’s not. It’s a rivalry game, and I think we know, all around the country, that’s what makes college football great.”
TCU leads the all-time series 48-41-7 and had won seven in a row before back-to-back losses in 2019 and 2021 (nonconference games were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic) before earning a win during its run to the national championship game last season. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, Lashlee believes his team faces an even stronger opponent this year.
“I think their roster’s better this year than it was last year,” Lashlee remarked. “They’ve got some really good returners on both sides of the ball back, and then the areas where they lost players, they brought in some transfers and some guys that are arguably more talented.”
While both teams have been known for explosive plays in the passing game, Lashlee points out that it only works with an efficient running game to balance the attack.
“I think the team in this game that can have good balance and not turn the ball over is going to have the most success on offense,” he noted. “We know they can be explosive, but it all hinges on them running the football.”
Saturday’s matchup will be the first since the schools announced the halting of their rivalry after the 2025 season. Those circumstances can often add fuel to the fire, but SMU is not allowing that to become a distraction.
“That’s something that’s going to get addressed down the road,” Lashlee explained. “We’re really focused on playing them this week. Rivalries are great for college football. Unfortunately, with a lot of the things going on, a lot of them are discontinuing for a lot of various reasons. … I think just doing the best we can to stay present and focus on the 2023 Skillet Game [is the best approach].”
Both defenses will also command attention for various reasons throughout this game. TCU has been stout defending the run but has given up plays through the air. Meanwhile, SMU has its best defense in years and is looking forward to seeing how it stacks up against an elite offense.
“I think they’ve got the best back and running game we’ve played thus far, and the quarterback can run around and extend plays, and they’ve got skill players,” Lashlee said. “I think they’ve got the most balance we’ve seen and the most explosiveness we’ve seen. … It’ll take a complete game and a complete effort.”
The Horned Frogs and the Mustangs will kick off at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday.