Every college football season, a few games on the schedule are must-watch events. The TCU vs. SMU rivalry is one such game that has drawn fans almost every season since 1915.
On Saturday, the Horned Frogs will travel to University Park to take on the Mustangs in the 101st Iron Skillet game. TCU leads the series overall with a record of 51-42-7.
In the offseason, TCU poached head coach Sonny Dykes from SMU after Dykes spent four years guiding the Mustangs back to winning games. Dykes was 30-17 while at SMU, the first head coach to post an overall winning record since Bobby Collins went 43-14-1 between 1982 and 1986. It will be the first meeting between Dykes and his former team, currently led by his former offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
Lashlee inherited a handful of players when Dykes left, including quarterback Tanner Mordecai. Mordecai is an OU transfer who backed up Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, and Spencer Rattler before transferring in 2021.
In just three games this season, Mordecai has already completed 70 passes for 1,013 yards with 10 touchdowns against three interceptions in three games this season.
Mordecai will have to contend with TCU’s outstanding defensive back, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. Hodges-Tomlinson elected to stay at TCU for his senior season after posting a career-high 41 total tackles, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles last season. Hodges-Tomlinson is the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Ladanian Tomlinson, who also was a star at TCU before being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2001.
The Horned Frogs started the season with Chandler Morris under center, but the newly recruited QB suffered a sprained knee in the season opener, handing the keys back to Max Duggan. Duggan has been QB1 at TCU since 2019. After throwing only two completions on three attempts in Week 1 off the bench, Duggan lit up the scoreboard against Tarleton State to the tune of 390 yards passing, going 23-of-29 with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Dykes and Lashlee run a similar offense commonly called an air raid scheme. In air raid offenses, the majority of plays are passing plays, with the quarterback having the option to audible from any play. The scheme demands a lot of defenses that must adapt to numerous passing routes while ensuring that running lanes are blocked.
For SMU, the weight of shutting down Duggan and the TCU offense will fall on linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia. The Oregon transfer has 22 total tackles in three games of creating havoc in the backfield for opposing quarterbacks.
In order for Duggan to have the time necessary for plays to develop downfield, the offensive line will need to bottle up Slade-Matautia from the first snap.
The game gets its unique name from the skillet awarded to the victor of the annual contest. As the story goes, the skillet originated when an SMU fan fried frog legs during a pregame tailgate party. A TCU fan made a wager that the winner of the game would keep the skillet.
While the story is a fun nod to the tradition, it is also likely nothing more than a story that helps continue the traditional rivalry. The Iron Skillet game has been around since at least 1946, when the student councils of both SMU and TCU met to select a trophy to help publicize the game.
Though TCU has held the skillet more often than naught, betting websites currently give the Mustangs a slight edge over the Horned Frogs.
Kickoff for the Iron Skillet game is at 11 a.m. CDT from Gerald J. Ford Field in University Park.