The Iron Skillet will be sizzling come Saturday.
Texas Christian and Southern Methodist meet this weekend at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Not only will this weekend’s game be another installation of one of the best rivalry names in all of college football- but it might be the most anticipated iteration in recent seasons.
Saturday’s meeting will be the 100th between the two geographical rivals. TCU owns a 51-41-7 edge all time, aided by victories in seven of the last eight meetings. The Horned Frogs have also been ranked in six of those victories.
Neither school is ranked this week- but both come in undefeated. TCU is earning votes in the AP Poll after topping Duquesne 45-0 in week one, and followed up with a victory in another head-to-head classic with California in a 34-32 win.
SMU, on the other hand, looked well on its way to loss No. 1 of the season until this miracle finish in Ruston against Louisiana Tech Saturday:
Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai is thriving in Sonny Dykes’ pass-happy system- he’s thrown a nation-leading 16 touchdowns and is among FBS leaders in passer rating.
Max Duggan and a talented running back group core will be a clash of styles come Saturday- and stops will likely come at a premium. 2021’s Battle for the Iron Skillet will likely be one for the ages- but the performance of both teams also begs the question- where do they stack up nationally among the nation’s undefeated teams? Here’s how I stack them up in reverse order.
33. South Alabama (3-0)– Good for Jake Bentley. The former Utah quarterback by way of South Carolina has given punch to the Jaguars offense- but the wins have come against Southern Miss, Bowling Green and Alcorn State- with only the season opening win being convincing.
32. Utah State (3-0)- Head coach Blake Anderson has proven to be the right hire in his second season- and bringing quarterback Logan Bonner with him has been a help- but it was backup Andrew Peasley leading the way off the bench in a 49-45 shootout win over Air Force on Saturday. The defense, on the other hand, has been suspect and led to several close calls already.
31. Wyoming (3-0)- Head coach Craig Bohl is leading the culmination of what’s been developing for years in Laramie. Wyoming has found itself in the middle come conference play, but has always been held back with losses in tough non-con games. This year, a strong rushing attack has led the group to an undefeated start with against a lighter September schedule.
30. Baylor (3-0)- A much needed strong start for Dave Aranda, whose maiden voyage last year was rocky. Baylor squeaked by Texas State in the opener, but has easily dispatched of Texas Southern and Kansas in back-to-back weeks. The rubber meets the road with a home matchup against No. 14 Iowa State on Saturday.
29. SMU (3-0)– Hail Mordecai. Maybe that can be the nickname for Saturday’s win over Louisiana Tech. However, the Mustang defense allowed 37 points in the win, but otherwise has been solid- and will receive a true test against TCU.
28. Boston College (3-0)– The Eagles will be moving forward without quarterback Phil Jurkovec this season- but backup Dennis Grosel did enough to get the ball to Zay Flowers in a win over Temple last week. A home clash against SEC foe Missouri will be a great measuring stick this weekend.
27. Army (3-0)- As usual, Todd Monken has this group clipping along under the radar. Army has four players with 100-plus rushing yards on the season, and the offense as a unit has scored at least 38 in every contest. The Black Knights could very well be 5-0 and ranked when they visit No. 18 Wisconsin in two weeks.
26. Kentucky (3-0)- It was a close call this weekend against FCS school UT-Chatanooga at home- but Penn State transfer QB Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez have been dynamic enough to aid a strong start with a conference win already. Next weekend’s game at home against Florida is a great opportunity to burst onto a national stage.
25. Rutgers (3-0)– Rutgers undefeated, Ohio State 2-1. Put that in the College football Hall of Fame. In all seriousness, head coach Greg Schiano has done an unbelievable job rebuilding this program since his return. The rebuild gets a national spotlight in an ABC game at No. 19 Michigan this weekend.
24. UTSA (3-0)- Admittedly, I’m very high on the Roadrunners in year No. 2 under Jeff Traylor. It’s been just about a decade for UTSA in FBS, and 2021 has been a culmination of years worth of hard work. It topped Illinois on the road and has won convincingly both weeks since that. Now, a test on the road at another team on this list- Memphis. A 4-0 start could lead to a ranking in the Top 25 for the first time ever.
23. Texas Tech (3-0)- The Red Raiders have done what they needed to do. A win over Houston in week one looks good- but since then, the defense has been shaky. Oregon transfer QB Tyler Shough has been a nice add to the offense, and Michael Crabtree’s return to Lubbock last weekend has brought some energy back to the program. Texas Tech meets Texas in Austin on Saturday in a game both schools desperately need.
22. Oklahoma State (3-0)- Like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State has simply gotten the job done so far. Head coach Mike Gundy will take a controversial one-point win on the road at Boise State ten times out of ten. In a diversion from its usual style, the Cowboys have had to win three close games- and have scored the least amount of points in the Big 12.
21. Wake Forest (3-0)- Head coach Dave Clawson has turned Wake into steady eddies in the ACC in recent years. Sure, they’ve had a light schedule to start the year, but more than handled a reeling Florida State team on Saturday. The Deacs lead the Atlantic division after three weeks over Clemson- who saw that coming?
20. Liberty (3-0)- What an amazing rise this program has already completed. No matter what happens the rest of the day, QB Malik Willis leading the Flames to a throttling of a Conference-USA school Old Dominion is worth paying attention to. Liberty will be favorited in a game at Syracuse this weekend it can absolutely win for a second consecutive win in that head-to-head.
19. Memphis (3-0)- Memphis can score- that’s no question. They’ve topped 31 points in each of their three contests including a wild win over an SEC school in Mississippi State on Saturday. Seth Henigan has plugged in nicely at QB- and the Tigers will certainly be tested this weekend against UTSA.
18. San Diego State (3-0)– The Aztecs picked up a win they’ll probably remember forever- a three-overtime stunner at home over Utah for its second straight win over a Pac 12 school. A stingy defense has allowed just 55 points to lead the Mountain West Conference. SDSU passed its non-con tests with flying colors.
17. TCU (2-0)– Again, the Horned Frogs have taken care of business so far led by a strong ground game- but the question will be can the defense stop anybody? This weekend’s game against Mordecai and the SMU offense is a great test.
16. Kansas State (3-0)– Give the Wildcats a lot of credit for staving off upstart Nevada’s upset bid this weekend. The Wolfpack topped Cal on the road in 2021, but Deuce Vaughan and fill-in QB Will Howard did enough to not only win- but put up 38 points to get to a third win.
15. Coastal Carolina (3-0)– The No. 17 team in the land got a great test against Buffalo on the road, but ultimately did enough to win. Sophomore QB Grayson McCall leads the nation in passer rating despite less than 100 attempts- a perfect microcosm of his game- never doing too much, but always enough.
14. Michigan (3-0)– Jim Harbaugh deserves a lot of credit for steadying an uneasy Michigan program coming into the year. Sure, it’s been a light non-conference schedule, but the Wolverine offense has looked great led by RB Blake Corum.
13. Notre Dame (3-0)– Notre Dame has been largely unimpressive this season- but has still strung together three wins. Jack Coan has done enough at QB to win- but Kyle Hamilton- quite possibly the best individual defensive player in college football- has propped up a staunch defense.
12. Arkansas (3-0)- What a huge step forward Arkansas football has taken in year No. 2 under Sam Pittman. Just a few years ago, three wins was the ceiling under much maligned head coach Chad Morris. Now, the Hogs are the No. 16 team in the country with a huge chance to finally beat Texas A&M for the first time since the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
11. BYU (3-0)- 2020 was no fluke for this program. After a single loss last year, Kalani Sitake has rebuilt the offense around quarterback Jaren Hall after Zach Wilson’s departure. Back-to-back wins over Pac 12 schools Utah and Arizona State are a hallmark to this program’s status as a national power.
10. Ole Miss (3-0)- Lane Kiffin quietly Ole Miss right where they want to be. The Rebels are competitive in the SEC West and have been nothing short of dominant in non-conference play. Heisman candidate Matt Corral and the rest of what could be the top offense in the FBS have a week to rest before the ultimate test at No. 1 Alabama next week.
9. Michigan State (3-0)- Maybe the rebuild in East Lansing is ahead of schedule under head coach Mel Tucker. I’m not sold on the fact that Miami is a good team at all, but the Spartans made quick work of them on the road. Transfer RB Kenneth Walker II has led the charge along with strong play overall from first-year starting QB Payton Thorne.
8. Cincinnati (3-0)- They got a great test against Indiana on the road Saturday- but still did enough to win comfortably. The Bearcats nearly beat themselves with a mistake-laden first-half, but the coaching from Luke Fickell rallied this group to a huge win. They’ll have a chance to prove themselves next week on a national stage next week on the road at No. 12 Notre Dame.
7. Texas A&M (3-0)- No Haynes King, No problem. Without its quarterback, the vaunted Aggie defense completely humbled New Mexico in its first shutout of the season. Leon O’Neal leads what could be one of the best defenses in CFB against No. 16 Arkansas.
6. Iowa (3-0)- Talk about flying under the radar- Kirk Ferentz’s bunch continues to show that it has one of the best defenses in college football. Tyler Goodson has been the perfect compliment to what could be a playoff team. They’ve got one more non-conference game against lowly Colorado State before starting Big Ten play.
5. Penn State (3-0)- The Nittany Lions keep on flying up the rankings. In front of the white-out, Penn State humbled an Auburn team that put up 60 in both of its first two games showed what Penn State can do defensively- while QB Sean Clifford stitched together an uber-efficient performance aided by the next PSU star in WR Jahan Dotson.
4. Oklahoma (3-0)- It’s an ugly undefeated, but head coach Lincoln Riley will definitely take it. Preseason Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler hasn’t been bad by any means, but still hasn’t lived up to the hype. Defense and special teams were the X-factor in Saturday’s win, and they’ll likely need that same help against a plus West Virginia team at home this weekend.
3. Oregon (3-0)- Boasting what is probably the most impressive individual win this season, Oregon didn’t let the hangover of last week’s win at Ohio State linger around in a 48-7 win over FCS opponent Stony Brook. Anthony Brown has been a nice fit at QB, while the defense looks elite.
2. Georgia (3-0)- Quarterback JT Daniels continued to shine in his return in a 27-point win over South Carolina. James Cook and Zamir White are the perfect compliment to him in the backfield, while UGA’s defense looks more than stable heading into SEC play.
1. Alabama (3-0)- They got much more of a test than they would’ve liked- but Bryce Young continues to thrive in his first year starting at quarterback. He still hasn’t turned the ball over. And while Alabama’s defense was tested against a top-15 Florida team, it still did enough to help the Crimson Tide lead wire-to-wire. Alabama is No. 1 until proven otherwise.
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