The rivalry was born in 1915, and a skillet came into the mix 30 years later. It was either a friendly gesture between two student councils or a trophy bred of a tailgate argument over frying frog legs -- that second tale is more than a little dubious -- but regardless, fine cast iron cookware isn’t the only thing on the line
This year’s edition of the Battle for the Iron Skillet between TCU and SMU might not garner much national attention, considering both teams are 1-2. But don’t overlook the fact this rivalry game has been has been sneaky important -- and a tad strange -- in the past two seasons.
TCU is 10-2 under Gary Patterson in this Metroplex showdown. The second of those two losses came in 2011, in rather crazy circumstances.
That loss ended TCU’s 22-game home win streak, but it wasn’t easy. The No. 20-ranked Horned Frogs rallied with a 23-point fourth quarter to force overtime but still lost 40-33. That game marked only the second time in its post-Death Penalty history that SMU had defeated a ranked team.
The week after that game, Patterson -- angry both about how SMU coaches and players treated his team and how the game was officiated -- went on a tirade (and probably a deserved one) that added some fire to the rivalry.
"Don't look for any help coming from us ever again," Patterson said. "SMU got a lot of help from us over the last three or four years. They are not going to get any help about a game or a conference; they are going to get no help from Gary Patterson. Don't ask me about anything. We've bent over backwards to help them because that's what I believe in."
Patterson and June Jones have reportedly mended fences since then, but his speech did underscore just how much beating TCU has meant to SMU.
The other time the Ponies bested Patterson and TCU? That was in 2005, when SMU knocked off the No. 22 Frogs one week after their upset win over Oklahoma in Norman. It was the lone blemish in TCU’s 11-1 year, and the win was hailed as SMU’s most important victory since resuming football in 1989. The 2011 win is still considered one of the milestones of Jones’ tenure in Dallas.
The last five times TCU wins, however, haven’t been all that close. Those victories over the Mustangs have come by an average margin of three touchdowns.
The closest game of those five occurred last season. TCU came in with a 12-game win streak -- the Frogs hadn’t lost since that 2011 overtime stumble -- and held onto it with a 24-16 win in a heavy rainstorm.
That ended up being Casey Pachall’s final start of the season before being arrested the following week and suspended. TCU picked off Garrett Gilbert five times, including the first two interceptions of Jason Verrett’s career.
This time around, Pachall is injured and the Frogs are only worried about getting a win, no matter the score, after early-season losses to LSU and Texas Tech. SMU would love nothing more than to go back to Fort Worth and steal another win like in 2011.
The rivalry that realignment couldn’t kill will continue into 2017, even though they’re no longer Southwest Conference and WAC foes. The two schools will keep trading home-and-aways for the next five years because they still consider the tradition important.
They’ve been playing this game for more than 90 years. Considering how close the last two years have been, and how desperate both teams are to avoid 1-3, we could be in for another classic on Saturday.