SMU and TCU renew hostilities once more in the Iron Skillet game, this time in Cowtown. A few thoughts on both teams before the showdown.
When SMU has the ball…
The Ponies bring a dynamic offense to Amon G. Carter on Saturday afternoon. Shane Buechele has ignited SMU’s passing game with James Proche and Reggie Roberson as a lethal one-two punch. The key to me is SMU’s running game which performed at a peak level through three games.
Xavier Jones is back to the form that made him a 1,000-yard rusher in 2017. Ke’Mon Freeman is putting together a decent senior season as well. Last week the world met T.J. McDaniel, the true freshman from Southlake Carroll who lit up Texas State for 158 yards and a 19-yard average. I don’t think McDaniel averages nearly 20 yards a tote against the Frogs, but TCU has to account for him.
The Mustang rushing game is a difference-maker, especially compared with last season’s efforts. If SMU can run the ball, they can keep this game close, especially as TCU is working out its offensive issues.
On defense, TCU isn’t working out many issues. Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis will give SMU all they handle in coverage and linebacker Garret Wallow is a ball magnet. The interior of the Horned Frog defense is back to business thanks to the return of Ross Blacklock who missed all of last season with an injury. He and Corey Bethley are formidable inside.
A lot of folks, including myself, expected Purdue to give the Frogs more stress last week, but we easily forget that Gary Patterson is a genius, especially when he has two weeks to prepare. We expect he’ll be pretty good on a week’s prep as well.
When TCU has the ball…
TCU search to find a quarterback continues, though I think most of us know the answer is true freshman Max Duggan. Duggan possesses a big-time arm, and he’s avoided the dreaded turnover bug that tends to earn you a seat next to Patterson on the bench. Alex Delton earned that seat last week.
Duggan should cause some growing pains, but long-term, he gives TCU the better option.
In the meantime, TCU’s receivers can help the cause by not dropping the ball as often as they did last week. Jalen Reagor is a real problem for defenses and is quickly becoming one of the elite receivers in college football.
Last week Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua churned ground all over northwestern Indiana. I expect the Frogs will challenge SMU’s defense to stop the run and give whoever their quarterback is a chance to make some plays.
SMU’s defense is playing aggressively in Kevin Kane’s second season. Their front, led by Delontae Scott is playing well, even if players like Turner Coxe are undersized. Richard Moore and Patrick Nelson lead the Pony linebacking corps and create a lot of havoc. Nelson baffled Texas State last week, making three sacks to add to his five on the season. I’m interested to see if TCU attacks safety Trevor Denbow who hasn’t convinced me he can cover pass-catchers the likes of TCU’s.