Odds are that many reading this have completed the Gallup test, or something like it, at some point in their schooling or working careers. For the lucky ones who haven’t, it’s a personality assessment to determine if you’re an ideal candidate for whatever job or company you’re interviewing for. The test consists of 177 questions, or “pairings,” that must be answered quickly, usually within a span of 20 seconds, upon being presented a scenario and a group of possible responses. Gallup, a management consulting firm, is paid untold millions for administering the test and interpreting the results to nail down perfect employees for their clients.
TCU head coach Sonny Dykes will face his own employment post-hiring evaluation in a Gallop test — see what I did there?! — against his former team, the SMU Mustangs, on Saturday around brunch o’ clock in Dallas. Dykes himself is paid untold millions (reports indicate between 4 and 5, but TCU’s private status precludes them from having to publish such information), and it’ll be the fandom’s job to determine what kind of value donors are receiving. Dykes won’t have 177 opportunities to produce the right answer — probably more in the neighborhood of 140 — and the one-hour timeframe will stay true.
In college football, there’s an understood strategy when it comes to coaching personnel: “If ya can’t beat ’em, get ’em.” I’m not suggesting in a holistic manner that losing twice in a row to the Dykes-led Ponies was the proverbial nail in Gary Patterson’s TCU coffin, but it didn’t help. Hell, Texas had tried more than once to lure GP (a guy they lost to with regularity, even when his win/loss ratio was down), and they finally found the opportunity to smatter him in burnt orange this season, with at least satisfactory results thus far.
As much as it pains me to write this, and it’s not something you have to admit to any Mustang-faithful in your life, SMU is a real team now. I’m certainly not suggesting there wouldn’t be shame in losing thrice in a row, because the humiliation would be acutely felt at the highest levels of boosterdom, but in the past, this game was probably approached with flippant dismissiveness from Funkytowners, patting the Ponies on their snout as big-conference brothers, assuring them that if they were to pull one over this time, it’d be a complete fluke rectified by five consecutive defeats. Those days are gone.
Southern Methodist could very well be in the conversation for a new round of conference realignments, depending, of course, on how long the current landscape keeps its shape before college pigskin is Disney-fied into two ginormous conferences, leaving everyone else (possibly even TCU) out in the cold. The Mustangs started their season with two decimations of less-than teams: UNT and Lamar, by approximately 30 points each. The Mustangs returned from College Park, Maryland, on Sunday with their first loss. The seven-point defeat was thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns from the Terrapins in a contest where SMU held the advantage starting late in the first quarter. Tanner Mordecai (#8), a senior from Waco, is no stranger to the TCU faithful and burned Maryland for just shy of 400 yards, but he coughed up the ball three times in the form of two interceptions and one lost fumble. His favorite target, Rashee Rice (#11), also a senior and from the greater Fort Worth area, accumulated 193 yards on 11 receptions and remains his quarterback’s favorite and most reliable connection.
The Terps were able to run and pass with balanced efficiency against SMU for more than 200 yards each, but the pass-happy ’Stangs consistently broke through with splash plays for extra yardage. TCU’s new defensive coordinator, Joe Gillespie, should consider bracketing Rice with Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (#1) coupled with safety assistance, forcing Mordecai to seek receptions elsewhere.
The Pony Express hasn’t risen from the Death Penalty, but these Mustang backs are serviceable, including Mordecai. While surrendering yards in the running game sometimes seems like death by a thousand ant bites, it’s preferable to allowing blue-and-red receivers to streak downfield in man coverage, situations where the purple secondary has shown vulnerability versus previous opponents.
Saturday will mark the 101st meeting between schools who are as similarly different as the cities they’re from. The Iron Skillet, the traveling trophy, is supposed to symbolize a hard-nosed rivalry, a working-class artifact representing universities whose student bodies are classically anything but. I expect the Frogs to win, but fans will need to be satisfied with passing the test and not necessarily acing it.
There isn’t another game on the ’Stang schedule this season that SMU players and fanatics will want to win more, so the Frogs will need to treat their cross-metro rival with more respect than in previous years if they want to repossess the Iron Skillet for the first time in three seasons.