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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU and SMU have been playing regularly for nearly a century, even after going their separate ways.
There is even a disputed national championship between the two schools — back in 1935, when both claim national titles that are recognized in the NCAA record book. SMU did win the head-to-head game that season.
And there is the unique trophy up for grabs Saturday when the two FBS teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth market play for the Iron Skillet.
For most players these days, though, it’s just the next game on the schedule instead of a huge rivalry going into its 93rd meeting. It is the last non-conference game for both teams trying to avoid 1-3 starts.
“Play them just like we play everybody else,” TCU running back B.J. Catalon said. “After this game, the next opponent will be the most important opponent.”
Both teams went to the WAC in 1996 after the breakup of the Southwest Conference. But TCU jumped in 2001 to Conference USA, the league SMU went to in 2005 at the same time the Frogs joined the Mountain West Conference.
“I think it was more (of a rivalry) when we were all in the same league,” said Gary Patterson, in his 13th season as TCU’s head coach. “It carried a lot more balance then when you were playing. You’re not in the same league, so you think about each other early in the year and then you don’t think about it anymore.”
SMU, whose only win this season was a last-minute 31-30 victory at home against FCS team Montana State, next makes its American Athletic Conference debut at home against Rutgers.
TCU is playing for first time in 16 days after losing its Big 12 opener at 24th-ranked Texas Tech. The Frogs follow SMU with a trip to No. 14 Oklahoma for the first of seven consecutive weekends of conference games.
Here are five things to know for the latest Frog and Pony show:
GOING FOR TWO: Each team needs a victory. TCU hasn’t been 1-3 since 1999, when Patterson was still the defensive coordinator. The Frogs overcame that to go 8-4, and had more than two losses in a whole season only four times in Patterson’s first 12 years. SMU started 1-3 last season, but recovered to go 6-6 in the regular season and get to its school-record fourth bowl game in a row.
NOT ALONE: Sophomore quarterback Trevone Boykin, back in the starting lineup after Casey Pachall broke his arm, completed 23 of 36 passes for 194 yards and ran 20 times for 101 yards in the loss at Texas Tech. “The biggest thing Trevone has got to understand, he’s got to use everybody else,” Patterson said. “‘We’ve got some good players at the running back and wide receiver positions. He can’t try to do it all by himself.”
MAKING THEM COUNT: While SMU has won only twice in the 11 games in the series since TCU was no longer a conference rival, both wins had significance. After the Horned Frogs opened the 2005 season with a win at seventh-ranked Oklahoma, they lost 21-10 at SMU the following week — their only loss that season. When they last played in Fort Worth two years ago, TCU scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime before the Mustangs pulled out the win. The Frogs then won their last eight games, clinching an undefeated MWC title and winning a bowl game.
HEALTHY MUSTANGS?: SMU could get back two key players who haven’t played since the season opener, but loses another. Linebacker Randall Joyner and running back Traylon Shead both got hurt against Texas Tech. Joyner injured his knee, and former Texas transfer Shead injured his knee after a horse-collar tackle. But Der’rikk Thompson, one of their starting receivers, is out 5-6 weeks with a leg injury.
WINNING IS THE CURE: TCU isn’t used to having two losses this early in the season. “What people don’t understand, whether it’s in football or anything in life, losing is a disease … if you let it go, it spreads,” Patterson said. “Losing can’t be tolerated, no matter what’s happening.”
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