As we like to do from time to time, we've asked if our SB Nation friends covering the TCU Horned Frogs could weigh in on a few questions as we count down the final hours until kickoff. Just as TCU is new to the conference, so to are the fine folks over at Frogs O' War. In fact a handful of them will be coming to Lawrence this weekend and they're looking for recommendations.
I answered of few of their questions, but feel free to correct any omissions or mistakes that I may have made. In return they have graciously answered five burning questions that have been weighing on my mind heading into this heated battle....here's a quick Q&A with TCU's Frogs of War.
Help us understand the full scope of the off the field issues at TCU this past year. You hear a lot of talk about how it could impact the Horned Frogs but how much talent did TCU lose and do they have the players to step in and keep things moving forward?
The offseason purple haze has definitely been a distraction for the frogs and a number of us were concerned that TCU was just going to be continually hammered about it over the summer months. Then Bobby Petrino crashed a motorcycle and we were pushed to the backburner, and then the NCAA started circling around Penn State before lopping off their heads and TCU fell out of the news pretty much entirely, with just the occasional joke thrown in an article here and there. With that in mind its easy to forget how much we ended up losing as a result of the drug bust. Losing Tanner Brock was a blow, as despite the publicity Tank Carder got after our Rose Bowl win he may have been the better linebacker of the two- and his departure left us desperately thin at linebacker. That's the common theme about all of the players that were kicked off the team- they weren't so good that TCU didn't have players that could step in after them without missing too much of a beat, but they were at key positions where TCU just doesn't have a lot of depth. Freshmen and walk ons are strewn about the roster, so Frog fans are hoping for health in this inaugural Big 12 season even more than usual- if we have injury issues in the linebackers or the offensive line it's going to be a long season.
Talk about the move to the Big 12 and what it means to TCU from a recruiting standpoint, support standpoint and competitive standpoint. Can this program become a powerhouse like a Texas or an Oklahoma by making this leap?
TCU's recruiting has been on a steady upswing over the past few years, and it's becoming more and more common for players to choose TCU over A&M, Tech, Baylor and Arkansas- we've even beaten out OU for recruits here and there. The Big 12 move will certainly help in recruiting long term because its one less card for the teams that we typically recruit against to play against us- the "They're not in a BCS conference" argument is firmly out the window now, but recruiting hasn't just rocketed up this past year- I expect that will change if TCU shows it can be successful in the Big 12. From a support standpoint, the Big 12 has energized the fan base on a level that many of us didn't think was possible. The breakup of the SWC was a long festering wound for a large portion of the fanbase, and for the teams that abandoned them to the WAC to ask the Frogs to join them really made hearts swell with pride and wallets open wide. TCU finished a renovation of long suffering Amon Carter Stadium this year and it looks absolutely fantastic now. As for whether TCU can become a Texas or an Oklahoma, the answer is almost certainly no- they're two of the most successful programs in history. What TCU can do is put itself in a more Miami-esque position- a small private school in the middle of hugely fertile recruiting grounds that has some national cache. I honestly believe that TCU can be a school that competes for Big 12 and national titles, but it won't ever come as easy as it comes to Texas or OU.
Is Grambling that bad or is the TCU defense that good?
The answer is probably a bit of both. I don't think that there's a finer defensive mind in college football than Gary Patterson (and if there is, it's close) and he knows absolutely every in and out of running the 4-2-5. The Patterson blueprint is a pretty clear one- take away the run, and force the opposing quarterback to beat you while sending pressure at him from a variety of angles. This has worked well for TCU against teams that have had spectacular running backs (Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma, C.J. Spiller of Clemson, Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State) but sometimes the opposing quarterback is good enough to beat you (Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin being good examples) and we have to live with that. This will be an above average Patterson defense if folks stay healthy, which should mean a pretty decent defensive ranking at the end of the year, even playing in the uptempo Big 12.
Give me a quick rundown of what we should expect from the TCU offense? Who should we watch?
What to expect from the TCU offense is balance. TCU has two excellent running backs (it was three before Ed Wesley decided to leave the program for non-drug related reasons) and they will be able to run the ball against just about anyone. Waymon James is the fan favorite, averaging over seven yards per carry last year, but the coaching staff has loved the running back by committee approach ever since LT graduated so he won't be a feature back in that sense. Throwing the ball TCU probably has its best set of receivers in school history, with Josh Boyce being the headliner. Boyce was just two yards shy of 1000 yards last season and we expect him to get it this season, Skye Dawson will be coming off his one game suspension for the Kansas game and he may be the fastest receiver in the Big 12 and LaDarius Brown, who is coming off his redshirt season, is one of the highest rated recruits in school history. The star of the show, however, is controversially unsuspended (controversial to the national media, anyway) Casey Pachall. Casey came in last year to replace the winningest quarterback in TCU history and though it may be sacrilegious to say, probably outplayed him. I love Andy Dalton, but Casey has the same swagger while also possessing an absolutely lethal touch on the deep ball (check out the Boise State highlights from last year for evidence, it was Casey's masterpiece) and is a good bet to go over 3,000 yards and get All-Big 12 recognition on the first or second team. If the O-line holds up (they're frightfully thin) then this could easily be the best offense in school history.
Let's hear your prediction for the game and since that isn't all that much of a question, how about your prediction for the TCU Big 12 finish as well?
For the game prediction I'll go TCU 42, Kansas 10. It probably comes off as presumptuous of me to predict a blowout on the road, but I think TCU will be able to shut down the Jayhawks on the ground and get after Dayne Crist to force some turnovers. As for the season, it's a tricky prediction at this point. At the beginning of the offseason I was thinking 10-2, after the drug bust I was thinking 8-4/7-5 but over the course of the offseason my optimistic nature seems to have won out over rationality without a whole lot more to go on and I'm back to thinking 10-2 and co-Big 12 champions if the team stays healthy. If there are injury problems on the O-line the win total could spiral down really quickly.