It’s the first Q&A of the season, and it comes at an important point in the season for the Kansas Jayhawks. This is one of the last games that you can look at on the schedule and say “Yeah, I can see how they would win that one.” To help us prepare for how that might be possible, I turned to Melissa Triebwasser over at Frogs O War. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: TCU has been on a bit of a rollercoaster this year, getting a huge win at Purdue to go into an early bye, then crashing back down with a weird loss to SMU at home. How much should we read into those results?
FOW: I think we will have a much better idea of who this team is after Saturday. The version of Purdue that TCU played was highly flawed and very bad. But the performance against them was exceptional regardless, at least on the defensive side of the ball. The loss to SMU was a combination of not preparing properly, not being focused, and playing a talented team that pounced on a weakness and kept jumping. I don’t know how good TCU is or how good they can be - the defense ought to be really stout, but certainly didn’t look the part against the Ponies. The offensive line is veteran and good, the running game is potent and deep in talented players, the quarterback... I have no idea.
It’s hard to determine which is the real TCU - the one that played like they wanted to send a message in week three, or the one that got sent a message in week four. We will learn a lot about how they respond.
RCT: Gary Patterson is well known for his defensive prowess, and it seems like this year is no different, despite the offensive explosion last week. What has been the secret for the defensive consistency?
FOW: Patterson has always done an exceptional job of identifying players that fit his system, no matter what position they played in high school. That’s why he consistently turns high school quarterbacks into NFL-caliber linebackers and running backs into rush-ends. He’s a brilliant mind, and he knows what he needs and how to fill them. He has a scheme that works, and now that he has access to a higher caliber of player, the sky is the limit for what they can do annually, even in a conference like the Big 12.
The issue this season, that was exposed last week, is the two-deep is REALLY young. The Frogs started a true freshman, a redshirt freshman, and a sophomore in the secondary, though they should get some veteran help back this weekend. The combination of pass rushers have yet to record a sack this season - both are first year starters. At linebacker, Garret Wallow is a veteran, but he played safety last season. The two guys primarily in the rotation next to him are playing in their first year at the position - one is a sophomore converted safety, the other a true freshman.
Every excuse in the book, yes, but at the end of the day, Patterson’s reputation says they should perform at a high level annually.
RCT: QB was the biggest question coming into the year, and it still seems to be the biggest question now. What can Max Duggan do to take a step forward in this game?
FOW: Well, the easiest thing would be his receivers stepping up and making some plays. Reagor is amazing, but he has yet to spring loose in a game, and part of the reason for that is no one has stepped up next to him. Duggan throws the ball a million miles an hour, so it is a difficult pass to haul in, so learning a little touch would help. The play callers also need to give him an easier book to ease his transition - short, quick, timing plays, routes where he can get an easy completion off his first read, and a focus on running the ball early and often to keep the pressure off of him. It would be nice, too, if the Frogs could get out to a lead so he isn’t having to play from behind.
RCT: Who are the biggest playmakers on each side of the ball that we can expect to hear from on Saturday?
FOW: If we don’t hear from Jalen Reagor Saturday, something is terribly wrong. Running back Darius Anderson has been well over 100 yards each of the last two games and should continue to be hot against a sub-par KU rush defense. Defensively, Garret Wallow is leading the country in TFLs and is averaging almost ten tackles per game - he has been EVERYWHERE this season.. Ochaun Mathis is a young DE that everyone has been talking about since last season, but has yet to record a sack in 2019 - I think he breaks through against KU.
RCT: Prediction Time! Who do you have in this game, and how do we get to the final score?
FOW: I am expecting a much better effort from TCU defensively, as they will look to turn up the pressure on Kansas and get in the backfield several times. I don’t have a ton of faith in the offense, but they can do enough against even this improved Kansas D to score enough points to win. Give me the Frogs 31-13, thanks to a Jalen Reagor special teams touchdown, a defensive score, and a pair of Anderson running scores.
A huge thanks to Melissa for helping us out today! For more coverage of the game, don’t forget to check out the questions I answered for her over on Frogs O’ War.