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Fourth-Ranked TCU Visits SMU In Battle For Iron Skillet

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: The Battle for the Iron Skillet is set for Ford Stadium in Dallas on Friday night, as the fourth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs drop in to face the SMU Mustangs in a non-conference showdown.

TCU, which has a 17-game regular-season win streak working at the moment, at one time was a member of the Southwest Conference with SMU, which is one of the reasons why the Texas-based programs have squared off against each other so much, not to mention the close proximity of the two schools. The Horned Frogs are off to a tremendous start to the 2010 campaign, defeating their first three opponents by a combined score of 137-38.

The Frogs had their toughest test in the opener when they took down Oregon State, 30-21, but have since cruised with a 62-7 romp over Tennessee Tech and a 45-10 thumping of Baylor last weekend at home. TCU is set to kick off its Mountain West Conference schedule next weekend when it clashes with Colorado State in Fort Collins.

As for the Mustangs, now under the direction of former Hawaii head man June Jones, they've rebounded from their season-opening loss to Texas Tech on the road, 35-27, by topping both UAB (28-7) and most recently Washington State (35-21).

TCU ripped through the Mustangs last year with a 39-14 final and now owns a 43-39-7 advantage in the all-time series with the Ponies. The series, which began in 1915 in Fort Worth, is the third-most played series for the Horned Frogs behind those with Baylor and Texas A&M. TCU head coach Gary Patterson has a record of 7-1 versus the Ponies in his career.

"We knew going into the game that we could just worry about what we could control and to go execute," said quarterback Andy Dalton of TCU's meeting with Baylor last weekend. "That is what we were able to do. We came out fired up and ready to go and we played really well today."

Dalton was unstoppable in the pocket as he converted 21-of-23 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns, but again the main focus for the offense was moving the ball on the ground, which they did to the tune of 291 yards. Ed Wesley recorded a game-high 165 yards and two TDs on 19 attempts for the Frogs, while Jeremy Kerley made himself into a valued receiver with six catches for 69 yards and two scores as well.

The defense for the Frogs limited the visitors to a mere 56 offensive plays and 263 yards, pretty much par for the course when you square off against a TCU program that has everything clicking on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the only knock on the team was that it failed to register a fumble or interception, something that will certainly be a focal point as it prepares for SMU.

It is almost unfair how the Horned Frogs have not only one of the best defenses in the country, ranked fourth in yards allowed (222.7 ypg) and ninth in points allowed (12.7 ppg), and combine that with an offense that is ninth in rushing (279.7 ypg) and sixth in scoring (45.7 ppg) in the nation entering play this week, yet somehow coach Patterson is able to put all the right parts together to make that happen.

On offense everything revolves around Dalton who is not only the active NCAA leader in wins, he is also now second on TCU's all-time TD passes list with 48 and needs just one more to match Max Knake who had 49 TD strikes for the school between 1992-95. As accurate as any passer in the MWC, Dalton began the meeting with the Bears by completing 11 consecutive pass attempts and has now converted a ridiculous 74.6 percent of his throws here in 2010. But more than just a passer, Dalton is also third on the team in rushing with 113 yards and three touchdowns, so defenses can never take a play off when he has the ball in his hands.

"Offensively, as a June Jones team, they throw the ball around," coach Patterson said of playing the Mustangs. "They play well on special teams. SMU is a good football team and they play hard. It's always a war when we play at Ford Stadium. We're just trying to win a ball game."

Against Washington State last weekend, the June Jones team leaned heavily on quarterback Kyle Pardon who converted 19-of-34 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns, although the signal-caller was also taken down for four sacks. In addition to his efforts through the air, Padron accounted for 32 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well. Even though he caught just four passes, Aldrick Robinson erupted for 111 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, SMU limited the Cougars to just 66 yards on the ground, which means the Mustangs are now second in Conference USA and 17th in the country with only 82.0 ypg permitted on the ground. The pass defense surrendered 284 yards and a two touchdowns to Jeff Tuel, but the Ponies also got enough pressure on the passer to notch four sacks.

Through three games this season the pass defense for the Mustangs has been a bit suspect, giving up 265.3 ypg to rank seventh in the conference and 100th in the country, which is reason enough for Dalton to try and remain between the tackles for as long as he can on Friday night versus SMU. The Ponies have been getting a strong push at the line of scrimmage and are not only third in the league and tied for 29th nationally with 7.2 TFLs per game, the group is also second in CUSA and tied for 14th in the nation with 3.3 sacks per outing.

"Our kids are going to be excited," coach Patterson says of playing nearby in Dallas. "We love playing in the Metroplex. We love playing over in Dallas. We have a lot of kids from that direction. We understand what's on the line. We understand it's an emotional game, so we're going to get ready to play."

In what has the potential to be a wild one, the Mustangs will only be as good as TCU allows them on offense. Given how tough the Frogs have been in that area in this and the last several seasons, expect to see SMU frustrated by a lack of quality opportunities as they again leave TCU in possession of the Iron Skillet.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.