The records might be identical, but on paper, the Frogs look to have a clear-cut advantage heading into Saturday’s homecoming game against SMU. Here’s a breakdown of the match-ups between probable starters for TCU and SMU.
TCU: Andy Dalton, redshirt freshman
SMU: Justin Willis, sophomore
Without any kind of a running threat in the backfield, Dalton has had to grow up in a hurry. Throwing 45 times might not be the most ideal thing you would want from a freshman quarterback, the Air Force game showed that Dalton has the goods. Willis remains a dual threat for a Mustangs offense that lives and dies on his playmaking ability.
TCU: Justin Watts, junior
SMU: DeMyron Martin, junior
The rushing totals improved from the Texas game, but the running game sorely misses Aaron Brown. Watts and Ryan Christian need to give Dalton some relief by showing they can break a long run or two against a weak SMU rush defense. Martin has been nonexistent through the first three games and figures to be a non-factor against a Frogs defense with something to prove.
WIDE RECEIVERS and TIGHT END
TCU: Marcus Brock, Ervin Dickerson, Donald Massey, Walter Bryant, Shae Reagan (TE)
SMU: Emmanuel Sanders, Devin Lowery, Zack Sledge, Columbus Givens, Vincent Chase (TE)
Sanders, Lowery and Sledge have benefited greatly from Willis’ maturation process in head coach Phil Bennett’s offense. Expect them to challenge a secondary that has broken down in the second half of the past two games. The Frogs seem to have had a different go-to receiver through the first three games, but no receiver has made this offense his own yet. Increasing Reagan’s role in the offense needs to be priority No. 1.
TCU: Matty Lindner, Blake Schlueter, Marshall Newhouse, Giles Montgomery, Nic Richmond
SMU: Ben Poynter, Lucky DeLay, Caleb Peveto, Sean Lobo, Mitch Enright
The line is starting to gel as a whole, which can only mean good things for Dalton during the rest of the season. The rest of the offensive line outside of Lindner and Schlueter came on strong against a much-improved Air Force defense, and should have its way against a questionable Mustangs defensive line. Poynter and DeLay are an underrated force at the tackle positions, but going against Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz should be fun match-ups to watch.
TCU: Tommy Blake, Chase Ortiz, Cody Moore, Kelly Griffin
SMU: Cory Muse, Patrick Handy, Charlie Berry, Chris Parham
Blake returned to form against Air Force, registering five tackles and a sack. He will have to do much of the same going against a scrambling quarterback such as Willis. The Frogs’ offensive tackles need to be prepared for the speed and height of Muse, who is averaging a sack a game this season.
TCU: Jason Phillips, David Hawthorne
SMU: Tony Hawkins, Wilton McCray, Damon Hurst
Although Hawthorne was a menace in Colorado Springs, Robert Henson was a non-factor. The defense is going to need Henson’s intensity and attitude if it hopes to regain its swagger. The SMU linebackers bring a ton of experience, but could be exposed in the vertical passing game as mediocre coverage defenders.
TCU: Brian Bonner, David Roach, Steven Coleman, Nick Sanders, Rafael Priest
SMU: Jonathan Lindley, Bryan McCann, Bryce Hudman, David Haynes
Giving up the big play has plagued this unit the last two weeks. When Roach is the leading tackler, it is a clear sign the group needs to avoid mental lapses and play a full game. While TCU has had some success with its secondary, the same cannot be said of SMU’s group as they have allowed 447 yards a game through the air this season.
TCU: Chris Manfredini, Derek Wash, Brian Bonner, Donald Massey
SMU: Thomas Morstead, Jessie Henderson, Emmanuel Sanders
It should be interesting to see whether Manfredini can bounce back from having his confidence shaken last Thursday. After not being called upon in the last minute of the fourth quarter against Air Force and missing the field goal attempt in overtime, Manfredini needs to do what kickers do best: move on. Morstead is one of the best kickers/punters the Frogs will face this season. He has not been tested on a long field goal attempt this season, but challenges Wash in punting consistency with a 47-yard punt average.
TCU: Gary Patterson, seventh year (55-22, 34-16 in conference)
SMU: Phil Bennett, sixth year (18-43, 14-25 in conference)
Patterson responded well to back-to-back losses last season by winning out and collecting another double-digit win season. He’s 4-1 against the Mustangs and has not had a losing streak longer than two games during his tenure. Bennett has improved the SMU program with .500 records the past two seasons, but losing by three scores to Arkansas State was admittedly a step back for the team. Not exactly a confidence booster for Mustangs fans.