Isn’t it ironic that the two SB Nation sites that blew off our overtures to do opponent Q&As were Kansas and Baylor? What can I say, bottom dwellers love company. Regardless, we’ve got a huge game on our hands this week. It’s Senior Day, potentially Kingsbury’s last home game, and a bowl game berth is up for grabs. Personally, I’ll be making the trek to Lubbock for this one, but I’m keeping my expectations low. The Frogs are loaded on defense, but we’ve always shown out against TCU.
Cheers to this being the final 11am-er of the year!
Let’s dive into the questions.
1. I was really surprised to see the offensive numbers for TCU. Hill will need to play excellent football to eclipse 3,000 yards passing, and the running game hasn't been electric, per say. Are the Frogs missing Doug Meacham? What's been going on there?
Melissa: It's definitely not Doug Meacham... I mean, have you seen Kansas' offense?
It's a combination of a handful of things, but it starts with the absence of Patrick Morris, who started the season at center, went out a couple games in with injury, and took with him the explosive TCU offense. Sonny Cumbie has been up and down as a rookie play-caller, but it's not all on him; Hill has been good but isn't a guy who can go out and win you a game on his own at this point, Kyle Hicks has been banged up and now his backup is out for the year. We haven't seen the Frogs establish a go-to guy wide receiver yet, and while the drop issue has improved, it is far from fixed and seems to pop up at the worst possible time. Hill is who he is at this point, and now he's banged up on top of that, so it will be interesting to see how things operate behind true freshman Shawn Robinson, who the fans have been clamoring for. Normally, I would say they would lean on the running game, but with Anderson out and Sewo looking pretty average the last few weeks, I don't count on that bailing him out. The Frogs just haven't hit their groove on O yet, and might not find it this year. Thankfully, they also aren't turning it over a ton, special teams has been really good, and the defense is outstanding when not playing OU, so they can still score enough to win games.
2. The tackle for loss figures, and sack numbers always make my jaw drop for TCU. I'm not sure where you find these players, but it never seems to matter who's on the field. Where are the weaknesses on this defense, and who's done a good job exploiting those weaknesses?
Melissa: There aren't a ton of soft spots on this defense, unless you have massive wide receivers like Iowa State that can basically post the corners up. If you take away the Oklahoma game, and I think that's fair, seeing as how they have been destroying people on offense most of the year, you see a unit that is explosive and deep along the defensive line, smart and fast at linebacker, and physical and fast in the secondary. Ben Banogu has been a revelation - he has a motor that doesn't quit, is a freak athlete, and has a real nose for the ball at DE. Travin Howard once again leads the team in tackles and is on his way to becoming the best ever GP linebacker (which is saying something when you look at who has come through this program over the last decade and a half) but he's hurt as well and might not play. Ranthony Texada remains the most under-appreciated corner in the country, he's undersized but tough and fast. But those are all strengths and aren't answering your question, so let me circle back; historically, it has always been the deep ball that opposing offenses exploit, which is Patterson's plan. He's going to take away your running game and count on his defensive line crashing the pocket and not allowing the QB a clean throwing lane over the top. When they get home, it's effective. When they don't, they give up big plays. Shimonek and Coutee could have a field day in the Tech offensive line holds up. If Howard is out, the linebackers could also be exploited, especially in pass coverage.
3. How big is the loss of Darius Anderson? I recall Kyle Hicks being a stud last year, but injuries have always hampered him. Does Patterson have enough faith in Kenny Hill to allow him to make plays in this one?
Melissa: It's huge. Anderson is really good - he's a bull through the hole but has the ability to run away or over people once he gets into the open field. He also finds the end zone with regularity and can make dudes miss. Hicks is really great as well, but you shudder to think he might have to tote the rock 25 times Saturday, being as he is just now getting healthy. And with Hill banged up, I doubt they'll turn him loose in the run game. The Frogs have several guys that can be used on short passes or out of the backfield almost like running backs - namely KaVontae Turpin, Shaun Nixon, and Kenedy Snell. And if Robinson does get the start or at least takes significant snaps to spell Hill, he is a dynamic runner in his own right. Someone is going to have to step up - whether that's back up Sewo Olonilua, Turp, or one of the young guys, I don't know.
4. In a game like this, special teams might be the difference. Can you speak to these units, and would they be considered a strength for TCU?
Melissa: Absolutely - with a caveat. Adam Nunez is an incredible punter. He doesn't have a huge leg, but there are few better than him at downing the ball inside the ten, which is important against a guy like Coutee. The special teams coverage is also generally outstanding, and they cover really well. Turpin is one of the most exciting and electric returners in the country; teams don't give him many opportunities, but if you miss, he's always ready, and tends to break off a big one nearly every game. As far as kicking... things were going so well... and then Jon Song got hurt again. Ryan Graf missed his attempt Saturday in Norman, causing TCU to turn to Cole Bunce (the kickoff guy), and if Song doesn't play this weekend, field goals will be an adventure.
5. Who do Tech fans need to keep an eye on that we're not already aware of?
Melissa: True freshman receiver Jalen Reagor has spent the season looking like either a potential All-American or a freshman, but when he's good, he's a bad, bad man. He reminds me a little of Josh Doctson, but obviously isn't there yet. On defense, I mentioned a few already, but the guy you'll want to watch is Ross Blacklock. The redshirt freshman DT won't put up a ton of stats, but it's because he will be taking on double and triple teams all game freeing up the rest of the guys on the line to make plays. He and Chris Bradley kind of make the defense tick as a whole.
6. What are the best matchups for TCU heading into this game?
Melissa: I think the TCU defensive line has an advantage over the Tech offensive line, especially when you factor in that Shimonek isn't much of a running threat. And I think Kyle Hicks can have a really solid game against the Red Raider defense, but that will be somewhat dependent on QB play.
7. Any key injuries/suspensions to track?
Melissa: All of the injuries. QB Kenny Hill. Linebackers Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson. Safety Niko Small. Kicker Jonathan Song. All questionable. Darius Anderson, out. C Patrick Morris is scheduled to return for the first time in eight weeks, but will be limited. That's a lot of talent potentially on the sideline.
8. Score Prediction?
Melissa: I think the TCU defense gets the job done Saturday after getting worked over in the first half against OU. The Frogs take a close, hard-fought game (probably with the help of a special teams or defensive score), winning 28-20.