Much thanks to the folks over at Frogs O' War for answering a handful of questions about TCU. Very insightful and much appreciated!
1. TCU and Gary Patterson have had to overcome so much since this summer. It seems like that was ages ago and the Frogs have done a terrific job of getting things back on track. How do you think that Patterson was able to right the ship?
Patterson was able to right the ship first of all by doing the right thing. The scandal was a huge hit for the program's image, and a large number of coaches would have probably taken the lumps from suspending the kids for the first few games and plan on getting them back on the field when conference play rolled in (Like Texas A&M's selective suspensions- You're suspended for the season opener, unless it's an SEC game). Patterson didn't do that, even in the face of an absolutely critical season for the TCU program, and as a result the respect that the fanbase has for Patterson grew even greater. I think that Patterson fed on the negative press that was coming TCU's way and the team has responded thus far. Also he managed to turn the secondary, which was a smoldering crater last year after the Baylor game, into possibly the best unit in the Big 12. As for how he did that, I don't have the faintest idea. Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and say "because he's Gary Patterson". Though my sources say it involves a lot of yelling, tying shoes and periodic belt readjustments.
2. Given that TCU just faced Baylor, which is an excellent spread team, how do you thing that Bumpus and Patterson will attack the Texas Tech offense and will they do anything different than what they did against Baylor?
Tech can run the ball better than Baylor, so I expect the linebackers to not drop so deep into coverage this week. Your tight end Amaro likely being out for the game makes things simpler, as Iowa State's excellent tight end accounted for... pretty much all of Iowa State's offense himself. I also expect Patterson to send a few new blitz packages tech's way, especially early in the game- he's been vanilla for much of the year so far, which makes the results that we've had on defense even more impressive. If I'm Patterson I'm sending additional pressure up the middle, probably in the form of Kenny Cain, to try and force Doege to throw quickly and make poor decisions with the ball. Doege has shown that he doesn't always make the best decisions (the West Virginia pick wasn't his fault, but some of the other ones this season were bad) and TCU's secondary has shown that they can certainly make something out of errant passes. The big key will be keeping our super freshman Fields going on the outside, but I think Tech's o-line will be the toughest test he's faced so far. Hopefully he can rise to the challenge.
3. So far, it appears that Trevone Boykin has been really good for TCU. Talk a bit about what he brings as a quarterback and do you think the offense is better or worse with Boykin at the helm?
What he brings that Casey didn't bring is a big play threat on the ground- Casey was supposed to be a dual threat quarterback coming out of school, but somehow every time he ran it reminded me of a drunken Giraffe- he got first downs, but it was an ugly sight (I broke out the drunken Giraffe comparison the week before his arrest, and it just seems to get more accurate every week, huh?). Boykin on the other hand is as smooth a runner as you'll find. Boykin, like Casey is also exceptionally accurate on short and medium routes, and throws a mean out pass to the first down marker= but where does the offense drop from Pachall come in? First, Casey threw the best deep ball in the Big 12 and we haven't seen a lot of that from Boykin yet so far (his deep throws have been good, not "uncatchable if you are not wearing purple" good) and he fit the ball through windows that Boykin (wisely) won't try. Over the course of the rest of the season I think the offense may end up being better with Boykin at the helm than Casey simply because of the week 2 injury to the best running back in the Big 12, Waymon James. With James the TCU running attack is dynamic and a constant threat, while without him we were unable to get anything going on the ground and the offense devolved into try to run, try to run, it's third down Casey please bail us out-okay thanks, let's try running again. Boykin however is a big threat with his legs which opens things up for the other running backs as well (A great example of this is comparing TCU/Baylor 2011 to TCU/Baylor 2012- without Griffin opening up the defense to the run the Baylor running game was annihilated) and as a result we've had a pleasant uptick in yards per carry since Boykin became quarterback. If James were healthy, Casey's superior mastery of the multiple looks that TCU likes to break out on defense, superior arm and great decision making would give TCU an offense that is among the Big 12's best, if not the best. Since he's not, Boykin is the superior fit for the offense (man that feels weird to say). It will be interesting next season with James back, a five star RB transfer coming in from Nebraska and Casey likely back from suspension if Boykin will keep hold of the job.
4. If Stansly Maponga can't go, on Saturday, is this a huge loss for TCU or is this going to be the narrative of the TCU season, which is that if a player goes down, someone else is going to step-up?
It would indeed be a huge loss if Maponga can't go (I think he will, he's stubborn as they come) as the talent behind him is young and not nearly as talented as Fields. What the stats don't show for Maponga is that he disrupts the offensive line by drawing consistent double teams which free up Fields to go one on one on the other side, which generally results in good things. Maponga is also excellent at drawing holding penalties and run stuffing even when doubled, so the dropoff from Maponga to Koontz would be notable and put added pressure on our very young DTs (nobody above a true Sophmore on the two deep at DT) to close running lanes and keep contain, their problems with the latter was the big reason Kansas was able to have success on the ground against the Frogs in the first half. TCU's triumph over offseason adversity has been excellent so far, but the depth just isn't there on the DL anymore to lose another man.
5. What will be the biggest difference in a TCU win or loss on Saturday or rather, what will TCU need to do to get a win on what looks like two very evenly matched teams?
The cliche but true answer is turnovers, because the TCU offense has been feast or famine with them so far. The TCU defense will get takeaways- Doege hasn't impressed me with his decision making so far this season, as even against West Virginia's awful defense he threw a bad interception-albeit one that was negated by a neutral zone infraction-when he was relatively unpressured. Tech's defense on the other hand is world's better than Baylor as well, so the Frogs will have to hope that last week's turnover free performance was not just a fluke. The biggest problem with TCU turning the ball over is that it's happened so consistently in scoring position, taking points off the board and providing a huge change in momentum. If TCU wins the turnover battle they'll win the game, but if Tech has the edge in turnovers I expect where TCU typically turns it over will be the doom of the Frogs.
6. Tell me about the renovations to Amon G. Carter stadium from last year. What was added and what was done to improve the stadium?
The biggest difference from last year is that we're back at capacity and can seat 50k comfortably, up from 32k while the upgrades where being put in. From two years ago though it's a world of difference, as the stadium looks fresh and clean as opposed to the relatively dingy feeling that Amon Carter used to have (For Tech fans who remember going to games in the 80s and 90s- nothing changed about the stadium until these past two years). It really is a beautiful stadium, though there is still resentment among some season ticket holders that their former seats were turned over to high dollar boosters after the rebuild was complete. Now we have the suites that seem to be a necessity for modern college football (though I prefer my boosters to be a part of the action. Some friends of mine at Arkansas who attended the UT/Arkansas game that year told me stories about Jerry Jones sitting right up front next to the student section and having to be hauled back to his seat by his wife to keep him from joining in with the student section jumping on the bleachers) and the sight lines are excellent. There are some photos here that bear checking out for those of you planning to make the trip- it's ritzy.