The football season marches on, this time with a bit more pep in its step since the Jayhawks won last week. This week, I had the privilege of talking to HawkeyedFrog about the upcoming TCU-KU game.
RCT: In its third season as a member of the Big 12, TCU looks poised to represent the conference in the College Football Playoffs. Did you honestly think when they joined the league they would rise to the top so quickly?
FOW: That's an interesting question that can't really be answered with a yes or a no, since it's really both. When we got the invitation to the Big 12, I felt that there was definitely a chance for TCU to come in and contend for the conference championship right off the bat- we had the right sort of defense to give Big 12 offenses fits, and a very strong offense led by quarterback Casey Pachall. Then we had the drug bust, which decimated the depth on our lines and removed a starting linebacker. Then, in our first Big 12 game against Kansas, star running back Waymon James was lost for the season with a horrific knee injury (he'd averaged 10 yards per carry to that point). Then before our game against Iowa State, Casey Pachall went on a drunken drive and ended up excluded from the team for the season, leaving us with freshman Trevone Boykin, who had been practicing at running back before Casey's bad choices, to take over the reigns- and expectations got adjusted in a very quick way.
Then this season, installing a new offense and starting Trevone Boykin at quarterback again expectations were lowered- probably an 8-4ish year that would get us back into a bowl and set us up for a big year in 2015... only for Boykin to transform into a Heisman contender in the offseason, and suddenly we look like we've arrived. So the short answer to your question is- I expected we'd be at the top sooner at first, but not as soon when expectations were readjusted.
RCT: Normally a game against Kansas before playing Texas could be considered a trap game. Any chance TCU overlooks Kansas a bit and lets the Jayhawks keep it competitive?
FOW: I'm of two minds about this, because there is definitely a temptation to look ahead to the Longhorns, and there have been myriad distractions this week with the Frogs moving tentatively into one of the four crucial playoff spots- that's generally a recipe for a struggle. However, the fact that the grasp on a playoff spot is so tentative, with the lingering shadow of Baylor lurking behind us, makes me think that the Frogs are going to come out focused and try to make a statement against Kansas, both for our continued seeding aspirations and Boykin's Heisman hopes. I'm pretty sure you'll be able to tell in the first two series whether the Frogs are on point or not, as if the TCU offense is feeling it, it could very likely be 14-0 after the Frogs take their first cracks.
RCT: Who would you say is your biggest football rival is right now? Having been in 3 conferences in the last 10 years (4 of you count the Big East false alarm) I imagine it's difficult to actually develop rivalries.
FOW:This is an easy question- the answer is Baylor, and it pretty much always has been. Back at the demise of the Southwest Conference, TCU/Baylor was the third most played rivalry in college football, after Minnesota/Wisconsin and the Border War, and I'll argue that it was the second major rivalry to be ended by conference realignment (after Arkansas left the SWC and ended the Texas/Arkansas series the year before). The fact that Baylor got into the Big 12 (with the generous assistance of Governor and Baylor alum Ann Richards) and TCU didn't get the invitation rankled the Frog fanbase in a way that is difficult to measure, as it seemed at first that we had been doomed to irrelevance in football forever.
Remember back in the Big Ten/Pac 10 expansion discussion, how Missouri seemed assured of a safe landing spot, but all projections had Kansas falling to the Mountain West, Big East or worse? That was our reality at the end of the Southwest conference. However, as TCU football was reborn from the ashes, winning conference championships in the WAC, CUSA and Mountain West all before moving on, Baylor football languished in the basement of the Big 12, winning nothing and looking like they were the ones who would be in for a lifetime of irrelevance- interesting how things work out sometimes, isn't it? That TCU was thriving in the slums of college football (The MWC was nice, but the WAC was definitely the dregs) while Baylor was looking so hopeless in the Big 12 led to even more hatred brewing up between the two fanbases, as Baylor maintained that they were better simply by being in the Big 12, while TCU pointed out that the teams that we were beating to win conference championships were better than anyone Baylor could hope to compete with.
When we eventually played Baylor again and absolutely destroyed them the first three meetings was cathartic for Frog fans and deeply embarrassing for Baylor supporters, but BU got its redemption by pulling out a last second comeback in Robert Griffin's Heisman year, and then suddenly we were back in the same conference again- and the rivalry was nastier than it had ever been. The old rivalry with Texas Tech is still fiery as well, and SMU has been on the schedule constantly as we've changed from place to place, but the TCU/Baylor rivalry was the first one, and the level of enmity between the fan bases compares to any in the country.
RCT: I can't believe I forgot about Baylor as your big rival...
FOW: It's okay, everyone else forgot about Baylor for about 15 years when they joined the Big 12 too.
RCT: The TCU I remember coming into the conference built it's success on defense. This year, while they still have a formidable D, the offense has really stepped it up. Does this signal the acceptance of that Big 12 mantra, that "The best defense is the ability to score, like a lot."?
FOW: Patterson is a defensive minded coach, so I'm sure in an ideal world he'd love a defense that shut everyone out, and an offense that simply minimized mistakes and didn't put the defense in hard positions with quick three and outs or interceptions, but I think his perception started to change when we started getting into dogfights in the MWC with high scoring BYU and Utah offenses, so the Frogs adopted a run heavy spread attack coordinated by Justin Fuente (current Memphis HC) that was both efficient at limiting mistakes and scoring points.
When we made the jump to the Big 12, however, Fuente was gone and OCs Jarrett Anderson and Rusty Burns had simply no clue how to run an efficient offense, so while TCU's O bogged down again and again, the defense was asked to bail it out repeatedly- and Patterson had to notice that even when the Frogs held opponents to three and outs repeatedly, the big play offenses of the Big 12 would eventually find a way to make a play and put the Frogs in a hole, and that surely made Patterson a bit jealous. There's a line in Silence of the Lambs, where Clarice and Hannibal are discussing what makes people covet. Hannibal asks, "Do we seek out things to covet?" to which the answer is, "No, we begin by coveting what we see every day." I think that seeing explosive and often high flying offenses every week made Patterson covet one of his own, so when the time came for new offensive coordinators to come in this past offseason, it didn't take him long to decide what sort of offense he wanted to run.
RCT: Final question. Since the result most likely isn't in question, tell me what the longest scoring play will be on the day, and who will get the score.
FOW: The longest scoring play of the day will be a quick slant from Trevone Boykin to Deante Gray, with Gray breaking the initial tackle attempt and simply running away from everyone else for an 87 yard romp. The second one to greet him in the end zone to celebrate (after freakish speedster Kolby Listenbee) will be Trevone Boykin, who ran 70 yards downfield himself to help block before realizing it wouldn't be necessary.
Thanks to HawkeyedFrog for joining us today. Don't forget to check out the questions I answered for him if you haven't already.