The 15th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs attempt to stay perfect on the season, as they make the short trek to Dallas to take on the SMU Mustangs on Saturday night.
After demolishing Grambling State in its opener (56-0), TCU has posted solid wins at Kansas (20-6) and at home versus Virginia (27-7). The 3-0 start extends the Horned Frog's winning streak to 11 games -- the longest active streak in the nation -- and they are now an incredible 80-2 when allowing 17 points or less under head coach Gary Patterson.
SMU has one win under its belt against FCS program Stephen F. Austin, but otherwise it has challenged itself with a brutally tough non-conference slate against fellow Lone Star State schools, losing to Baylor in the season opener (59-24) and to Texas A&M on Sept. 15 (48-3). The silver lining in this matchup is that the Mustangs have been impressive at home in recent years, going 15-7 there since the start of the 2009 season.
TCU has the edge in the all-time series with SMU, 44-40-7. The Mustangs were able to beat the Horned Frogs last season, 40-33, which was the last time TCU lost a game.
On paper, the TCU offense has appeared to perform well through three games, piling up more than 34 ppg and 485.3 ypg, but according to Patterson, there is plenty of room for improvement on that side of the ball,
"To be honest ... I haven't been very happy with our offense," Patterson said. "That's in a complimentary way. I don't think we've been close to living up to our potential and what we can do. We've turned the ball over in the red zone. You can't do that if you're going to score points. We need to play a lot better."
Quarterback Casey Pachall seems to be well on his way to improving upon a fantastic sophomore season. He has completed more than 76 percent of his passes so far (54-of-71) for 841 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception.
Pachall has been locked in on Brandon Carter and Josh Boyce in the early going. Boyce has 13 receptions for 190 yards and three scores, while Carter has averaged more than 20 yards per catch (14 for 290), adding four touchdowns.
Matthew Tucker (152 yards) has garnered the most carries out of the backfield with 34, but Waymon James has eclipsed his production on half as many touches (17 carries, 168 yards, TD). Trevone Boykin (eight carries, 108 yards, TD) has also been electrifying in a reserve role.
While Patterson isn't pleased with where his offense is at this stage of the season, he'd be hard-pressed to find any complaints with his defense, which leads the nation in scoring yield (4.3 ppg). The Frogs have also held their opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing per game, and they allows foes to convert just 19 percent of their third-down opportunities.
Joel Hasley has been the unit's top performer with 25 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks. Kenny Cain has also been impressive with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
SMU's offense had a lot of firepower in 2011, putting up 38 points or more on five different occasions, but it has not been completely in sync to start this season (26.3 ppg, 381.3 ypg).
"We haven't really gotten going in the first three games," head coach June Jones said of his offense, "but there's a lot of football left, so hopefully we will pick it up."
The struggles of junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert is a big reason for the slow start. He has thrown for 694 yards, but he has also completed just 52.8 percent of his passes (76-of-144) while tossing more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three).
Zach Line has been able to pick up some of the slack out of the backfield, racking up 299 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries. Line is a true workhorse for the Mustangs, as no other player has more than six carries.
Jeremy Johnson (127 yards, TD), Darius Johnson (110 yards), and Line (95 yards) are all tied for the team lead with 14 receptions, but it's Keenan Holman who paces the squad in receiving yards with 156.
The SMU defense has faced two very difficult tasks in going up against Baylor and Texas A&M, which has skewed its numbers (35.7 ppg, 556.7 ypg).
A ball-hawking secondary has been the unit's best asset in the early going. The team has seven interceptions, with Ryan Smith and Kenneth Acker picking off two apiece.