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The Early Edition: TCU Horned Frogs

With Big 12 Media Days underway, we take a look at the next opponent on the Texas Tech schedule and touch on something I hadn't previously thought about with TCU installing a HUNH spread offense.

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Difference Makers

Matt Joeckel. With the Horned Frogs installing a new offensive system, the success of their season is going to lie with the way the QB operates the system. We know that this Leach-descendant offense is timing-based and works best with QBs that have great rapport and timing with their receivers.

Trevone Boykin. Boykin's most influential position in this offense should be receiver. He has some reps there and could help this offense move the ball. And then obviously, he could be the next one up under center if Joeckel goes down or if things don't work out with him. Boykin will have the ball in his hands in one form or another this fall, and that is a good thing for the Horned Frog offense.

Devonte Fields. Fields should be completely healed from his foot injury (suspected to have sustained in the game against Tech last season) and back to his terrorizing self. We saw glimpses of what he could do his freshman campaign and with more experience, could be an even bigger asset along the defensive line.

The safeties. With Tech's dabble in the 4-2-5, we know the safeties play a key role. All three of the Frog safeties are excellent playmakers, Sam Carter, Derrick Kindred and Chris Hackett.

What do we know about the Horned Frog offense?

We know quite a bit, actually. Mecham has been at Houston and Oklahoma State and Sonny Cumbie was obviously at Texas Tech. The thought here is that it is going to be somewhat similar in style to what Leach/Kingsbury run, but even then, we've seen variations of this offense at both Oklahoma State and Houston. Was what Cumbie was coaching here at Tech going to show up on the field for TCU? We're not sure yet. The one chance we had to look at the offense, it was admittedly vanilla. That though, holding back offensively, flies in the face of the HUNH spread mentality, especially the one Leach taught. It wasn't so much about surprising the defense with trick plays, but more about out-executing them. Obviously in the spring, the well-established defense was going to be ahead of a new offense with new coordinators, but will that continue into the fall?

What do we know about the Horned Frog defense?

With this being TCU's third season in the Big 12, we have a fairly good idea about how their defense works. This is going to be the strength of the team. There will be some personnel changes this season with the departure of Jason Verrett, but don't expect this defense to be really all that different from last season. It's still going to be difficult to move the ball against them, through the air or on the ground. With only a six man box, they do a surprisingly good job defending the run.

Here's the point I had never considered until Seth brought it up in a post over the weekend. Running a new, HUNH spread offense tends to lead to quicker 3-and-out series for the offense, putting the defense back on the field to defend more plays with less rest. We at Texas Tech are very familiar with this. Given that this offense will be in its infancy with the Frogs, will they be able to string together enough first downs to keep their defense on the sideline and rested. We saw that their offense these previous seasons have been pretty methodical, eating up a lot of clock, even when not moving the ball too well. How will we see some offensive inefficiency affect the defense? Will they wear down towards the ends of the games? Will they be gassed on quick turnovers? Will they have the depth to keep everybody fresh if their defense is on the field for significantly more time this season compared to previous seasons? Things to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

How will TCU affect Texas Tech?

These last two games against TCU have been all-out dogfights, a three overtime thriller in Fort Worth and a controversy-filled game in Lubbock. Tech will catch the Frogs in game 5 of a 6 game stretch between off weeks; after two weeks at home and the week before hosting Texas. Tech will be coming off a home game against the Jayhawks, so I would expect Tech to be rested and prepared for the Frogs. For the Frogs, though, they will be hosting Tech at the end of a tough four-game stretch that includes hosting Oklahoma, traveling to Waco, hosting Oklahoma State and then hosting Tech. This could be a very crucial point in their season, and could be battling for bowl eligibility. Realistically, the Frogs will be around 3-3 at this point in the season, although their schedule lightens up for the last 5 games with Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa State still remaining.

Where will TCU finish?

I think worse-case scenario for the Frogs this season is 5-7. An improvement from the past season, mainly because they avoid heavy-hitters like LSU in their non-conference play (they take on Minnesota in Fort Worth). I think they can take Iowa State, Kansas and their OOC opponents (Samford, Minnesota and SMU).

Best case, I think they win in the 8-9 game range. I don't think they're there to compete for the conference crown yet. I would see them losing to Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State in this scenario.

Realistically, I see them in the 6-7 win range. I see them adding one or two to their worst-case from West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and/or Texas.