Gameday is fast approaching, and the Kansas Jayhawks have an interesting opponent coming up. For some reason, KU usually seems to play the TCU Horned Frogs close, no matter how big the talent disparity. So what can we expect from this game? To find out, I contacted Melissa Triebwasser of Frogs O' War, the SB Nation site that covers TCU.
RCT: This season seemed to start with so much promise, but the offense seems to be going backwards. What’s going on with this team?
FOW: Well, coming into the year I think we knew there would be some issues, and coupled with that whole “global pandemic” thing, figured that this probably wasn’t a team that was going to be a true contender. I even got ripped in the comments by several fans for slowing the locomotive to AT&T. But, it’s still a highly disappointing year; bad playing calling on offense coupled with poor offensive line play and the inconsistency of Max Duggan as a passer have really held the team back in winnable games. And then, just as the line was player better and Duggan was finding his touch again, the defense got torpedoed by injuries, including to the first and second string cornerbacks and our most veteran defensive lineman. So it’s really just been a back and forth of suck.
It’s really hard to justify the production against the talent — guys like Darwin Barlow, Quentin Johnston, Zach Evans…. They would be good anywhere, but they aren’t being used properly here. It feels strongly like a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation — something Patterson would vehemently deny. But, it’s clear that the talent exists… which makes it feel like the answer isn’t with the players — it’s the coaching.
RCT: Coming into the year, Max Duggan was seen as one the best candidates to have a breakout season. What changed, and do you still think he could develop into a top-tier QB in the Big 12?
FOW: I think it’s unfair to say Duggan hasn’t been good. He’s become one of, in not the, premier running quarterback in the conference, and while his passing hasn’t been great, he’s been running for his life behind a patchwork offensive line for most the year. There have been some disappointing misses (Taye Barber WIDE open in the end zone at WVU), but so many of his issues have come from very odd game plans and the play callers unwillingness to get him into the flow of the game early. What he showed early — in the second half of the Iowa State game and at Texas — proves, to me, that he can be a high-tier dual threat QB in the Big 12. But the inconsistencies since have been frustrating to say the least.
RCT: What is it going to take to force Gary Patterson to actually change up his coaching staff?
Patterson literally said, before the season, how much his friendships of the staff mean to him. He defends Jarret Anderson, who has held just about every position coach role available, and Jerry Kill at every turn. He has brought in some really exciting young talent — Zarnell Fitch, a TCU alum, Paul Gonzales, and Malcolm Kelly, but he’s held onto Cumbie as the offense has sputtered and chose to bring back Doug Meacham instead of hiring a younger, more up and coming coaching prospect. I think we might see a change or two this offseason, but a full overhaul? No chance.
RCT: While this seems like a defense that is strong as usual, the amount of points they have given up seem to indicate they have some sort of weakness. Where can Kansas attack TCU in this game?
FOW: The secondary is so banged up that it’s become a source of weakness for the Frogs this fall. The Frogs have a true sophomore starting at one cornerback position and a revolving door at the other, and at safety, Ar’Darius Washington had a head injury last time out and three different guys have player opposite he and Trevon Moehrig. So if you have time to throw, and receivers that can come down with it, you can hit for big plays against TCU.
The pass rush was non-existent until the Baylor game where it really came alive; leading into that week, TCU had just five total sacks in four games — they had five that afternoon and have been consistently strong since. So what was once an area of vulnerability has started to become a strength.
RCT: What is it going to take for Kansas to pull an upset in this game?
FOW: Turnovers. If TCU turns it over 2-3 times, and the secondary can’t adjust to the injuries, Kansas might be able to outscore them. Based on past experience, it won’t take much to do so.
RCT: Predictions! What’s going to happen in this game? Who wins and by how much?
FOW: I think TCU wins, but I’m not saying that with a ton of confidence. Give me the Frogs, 24-13
RCT: What’s the one must-have food item at your COVID tailgate?
FOW: Well, there’s no tailgating at TCU this season, but I miss my friend Chris’s BBQ like you wouldn’t believe. That and just the people — I have been out of college for a while now, but I still got together with my college friends every home game, and I really miss that.
A big thanks to Melissa for helping us out. Don’t forget to head over to Frogs O' War for the questions that I answered for her.