The Horned Frogs. Loveable underdogs turned big dogs. It's been a bit of a rough road for them this year like the rest of the conference, but there is still so much to learn. To help us out, I reached out to Melissa B. Triebwasser over at Frogs O' War, the SB Nation site covering the TCU Horned Frogs. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us:
RCT: Given the history between these two teams the last few years, you would think that TCU and KU were longtime rivals, where the records don't matter and we see spectacular play after spectacular play. What is it about these games, and do you expect to see the same Saturday?
FOW: Wait... is that not what's happening? This is a shocking turn of events.
I don't know what the mental block is between TCU and Kansas, and this point I won't even say it's underestimating them, because it's happened too frequently to believe that's the case. The weather has been an issue it the past, and for tomorrow, I have a built in excuse - we are wearing the all-whites, which never goes well.
Ultimately, Kansas has been the Frogs' Big 12 kryptonite, but I'm hopeful that TCU plays with a little more desperation tomorrow and gets the job done.
RCT: TCU has typically been thought of as a great defensive team first, but this year that defense can't seem to stop anyone (except SMU). What's going on with them this year?
FOW: There are so many issues. So. Many. Issues. It starts with a defensive line that has not been nearly as effective in the pass rush as anticipated, forcing the undersized corners to hold up in coverage for far longer than they can do effectively. The defensive backfield has also struggled with getting lined up correctly and making the proper pre-snap adjustments to counter the offensive audibles. Once the ball is snapped, it turns out, that outside of two guys, no one can really tackle. So if you can put your foot in the ground and change direction, you'll pick up a lot of yardage. It's just a really young group that hasn't quite figured it out yet, and the seniors that should be picking up the slack are responsible for as many mistakes as the young guys. Also, it doesn't help that the offense is either scoring in 90 seconds or going three and out, with no in between. That doesn't leave much time for adjustments or catching their breath. I've called it a perfect storm of suck in the past, and I stand by that. Been fun!
RCT: The offense hasn't seemed to miss a beat at all this year. Who are the major players that we can expect to hear a lot from Saturday?
FOW: Well, it depends when you're watching. The offense is really good for two quarters every game, and a total disaster for two. Kenny Hill has been erratic, the play calling has been erratic, and the wide receivers lead the nation in drops - by a lot. So, yeah the talent is there, and Kyle Hicks has been awesome - if underused - as a running back and receiver out of the backfield. The offensive line seems to have a knack for being penalized at the worst possible time, and is really missing center Austin Schlottman, who was lost to injury against SMU. He was the leader of a unit that has only one senior (who is a walking holding penalty waiting to happen), but was really starting to turn the corner prior to losing their center.
All that being said, the Frogs are still scoring a ton of points and are a threat to hit a big play at any moment. Taj Williams is dynamic as a deep threat, and John Diarse has established himself as the bailout guy when Hill just needs a completion. If Hill uses his legs to create, and Cumbie and Meacham use Kyle Hicks like they should (20-25 touches a game), and they finally play a full four quarters, the sky is the limit. They aren't going to replace Boykin/Doc/Green, but they can get really close.
RCT: I couldn't get through this Q&A without asking about basketball. What are the expectations for the season now that Trent Johnson has been replaced by Jamie Dixon? That was a huge hire for the Horned Frogs, but how long do you think it takes for him to get the team competing for conference titles?
FOW: I am so excited about Jamie Dixon. Outside of bringing in John Wooden, I don't know that Chris Del Conte could have made a hire that would have gotten the TCU and Fort Worth community more excited about the future of this program. I think Dixon has the love for TCU and the cache' to make a huge difference immediately, and we have already seen that in the recruits he has gotten to commit in just the last few months. College basketball is so unique, as it's really the one sport that you can fully turn around with just one or two signings. I don't think it's unrealistic to expect an NIT trip this spring, and an NCAA bid a year from now. We will be more patient than that if needed, but if the young guys play to their talent and the older vets buy in (which by all early accounts they have), why can't TCU, with their financial commitment, facilities, and great campus, be a player sooner rather than later?
Conference titles is a different battle, because as we all well-know, the Big 12 is unbelievably deep. If we can finish in the top half of the league in the next two years, and maybe be in the race late in the next three, I'll be more than happy.
RCT: Finally, what is your prediction for Saturday? I know that the Horned Frogs are huge favorites, but that hasn't seemed to matter in the past.
FOW: I haven't given up on this team yet, and still believe that the goal should be to compete for a top three finish in conference. I also could see things really going off the rails and bowl eligibility becoming a question. So, we need to learn a lot about this team Saturday morning: will they rise to the challenge and dominate a team that they, on paper, should? Or will they jack around for two quarters as has been their habit and rely on their talent to pull away late? I will go with the former, and believe that the team and coaches will finally say 'enough is enough', and put their foot on the throats of the Jayhawks, and finally show the fans that they are the team we expected them to be. 49-17 Frogs on the road.
RCT: BONUS - Which would you prefer, a personal assistant or personal chef?
FOW: I would love both. Is both an option? I enjoy cooking, and think I am pretty good at it, but the thought of having someone prepare my meals, portion them, and make them healthy, is too good to pass up. I choose the chef.
A huge thanks to Melissa for helping us out today. Don't forget to check out the questions I answered for her over at Frogs O' War.