As TCU prepares for the 89th "Battle for the Iron Skillet" with the SMU Mustangs, the question remains if this will ever be a true rivalry again.
TCU has dominated the rivalry since SMU came back from the death penalty, winning fourteen of the last nineteen contests.
For those unfamilar with the NCAA "death penalty", it is a total ban on all play for one season, with further sanctions prior to full reactivation into the sport. Since the SMU death penalty, no team has received similar treatment.
Prior to the death penalty, SMU had won fifteen games in a row against TCU when SMU was experiencing its period of greatest success as the "Best Team Money Could Buy".
For TCU fans, the question has risen whether it is worthwhile to having the annual drag on their strength of schedule by playing the perennially weak Mustangs.
Sure, June Jones came to town with the goal of fixing the program, but success still appears distant for SMU.
This year, TCU enters the game as a four touchdown favorite against a team that has not held an opponent under twenty-one points in its last thirty games.
SMU hopes to use the spread offense to come back regain national significance and does not appear to have built even a halfway decent defense. SMU, which adopted extremely high recruiting standards in wake of the death penalty, has recently liberalized these policies in an effort to win.
Now, SMU, for those too young to remember, is a program with substantial tradition and history. Doak Walker won the 1948 Heisman trophy. The Ponies have one recognized national championship in 1935, as well as three "other" national championship years according to College Football Data Warehouse.
The Mustangs finished in the AP Top Ten six times, most recently in 1984. But the Ponies have not been competitive since receiving the death penalty in 1987.
Now, SMU's demise has largely been a benefit to other schools with large numbers of NCAA infractions. No program has received the death penalty since (even ones with many clear and substantial violations).
Under current enforcement policies, SMU would probably have been required to only vacate some wins and have a few scholarship restrictions.
So, where does the rivalry stand today?
SMU has defeated TCU under Coach Gary Patterson just one time, in 2005. TCU, coming off a road win over Oklahoma as a huge underdog, lost by eleven at SMU as a huge favorite the next week. TCU then went on to win the rest of its games on its way to a 11-1 season and the Mountain West Conference championship in its first year in the conference.
TCU should roll on Saturday in its final OOC tune-up. TCU worries more about pranks by SMU students than the SMU football team. TCU will continue to beat down SMU for many years to come.