TCU is one of college football’s top programs and a competitive Power 5 member.
SMU is a mid-major that's been to four bowl games since 1984.
But that hasn’t gotten in the way of the teams still talking about each other as serious rivals, whether there remains any real suspense or disdain between the Horned Frogs and Mustangs or not.
When SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey asked recently what it might take for Baylor to officially be TCU's biggest rival, the answers came down to trophies.
"SMU. That's a rivalry game where you're competing for something, like the Iron Skillet. That's my definition of a rivalry," former TCU defensive back Derrick Kindred told Godfrey, perhaps with a bit of gamesmanship going on.
Even though TCU had won the Peach Bowl the year before and beaten 1-11 SMU, the Mustangs were a rival.
"There’s no [Baylor] trophy. I know after the SMU game we get, like, an Iron Skillet," then-quarterback Trevone Boykin told Godfrey. "I’m not saying what they need to do. If they want to, they can. But we’re going to play it like any other game. If we lose to SMU, it’s just as bad as losing to Baylor. We don’t want to try and make it bigger than it is."
TCU and Baylor do not play for a trophy. But TCU and SMU do, and the Iron Skillet seems like something worth fighting for, doesn’t it?
"We’re ready to take home the Iron Skillet," TCU receiver Emanuel Porter said in 2016.
That’s a mighty fine piece of cookware for the winner of a pretty lopsided football contest. I would want it, too, were I a player on either TCU or SMU.
Believe it or not, SMU's dominated the rivalry at times.
SMU's 1980s scandals were followed about a decade later by Dennis Franchione and Gary Patterson returning TCU to glory, and the two schools have been far apart ever since.
Specifically, TCU has taken 16 of the last 18 contests, running its all-time series lead to 50-40-7. What that means, of course, is that the series used to be tight. SMU actually had won more games as recently as 2003.
Things have historically been more balanced. The overall series record is 48-40-7 in favor of TCU, and from 1972-1986 SMU recorded 15 straight victories over the Frogs. So, while the rivalry may not burn as hot as it used to, those of us from the modern era who remember the 2011 and 2005 losses, not to mention the TCU alums from the '70s and '80s, still revel in the idea of dominating the Mustangs.
The most famous game in the series happened in 1935, when SMU beat TCU in a game the Mustangs still submit for "Game of the Century" consideration. SMU scored the winning touchdown on a 39-yard fake punt pass, edging a Sammy Baugh-led TCU to win a national title. Both teams had entered undefeated. You can read more about it here.
It’s been an awfully long time since this series has been that enjoyable. Almost all of TCU’s entire run of dominance since 1999 has been comprised of blowouts, with a couple of one-touchdown margins mixed among a whole lot of routs.
Then again, in Texas, every game is a rivalry game.
"I don't think you need a 'the game,' because for so long we were all in the same conference together. Seventy-five years," TCU AD Chris Del Conte told SB Nation last year. "Two big publics, ATM and Texas, then TTU, TCU, Rice, SMU, Baylor ... all these games meant something to this state."
It also helps make a rivalry more intense when the schools lie just 40 miles apart from one another.
“I like this game because of the travel part,” Patterson said before the 2018 matchup. It’s like a home game one way or the other because you only have to go 30 minutes.”
We’ll see who takes home the Iron Skillet on Friday night.