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Ask the Expert: TCU writer expects wild game

We connected with our friends at Frogs O’ War to chat about the game this Thursday evening.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Christian Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Red Raiders, and count me hopeful we’ll finally be at full strength this week against the Horned Frogs. TCU has had an odd year in my opinion. They went toe-to-toe with Ohio State, yet barely squeaked by Iowa State at home. Shawn Robinson has been underwhelming, and he might actually be hurt this week (not that Patterson won’t play a hurt player...). Meanwhile, the defensive statistics don’t jump out at you like they generally would for a Gary Patterson defense. I think the real question we all have though is, will Alan Bowman start at quarterback? If it’s not him, is it McLane Carter or Jett Duffey? Your guess is as good as mine, but my gut tells me McLane Carter starts.

Before we hop into questions, I’d like to thank Melissa Triebwasser for answering questions again this year. Toss her a follow on Twitter, and check out Frogs O’ War if you want to scout the enemy. Let’s dive into the Q/A!

Everything I’ve been hearing states Shawn Robinson is out for this week. What’s the word on that? Also, what do we know about Michael Collins and how he fits into your offense?

On Monday’s conference call, Patterson said that Robinson will play Thursday, but may not start. What that means, exactly, I’m not entirely sure. I would expect Robinson to get the majority of the snaps, but Patterson has been calling to get Collins more experience, so maybe this is the perfect set-up to do just that? Collins is, to quote Coach Patterson, “a better runner than you think”. He’s inexperienced, having only taken meaningful snaps once this season - and not showing much in his action in Austin - but has been a guy that teammates refer to as poised and with a strong arm. I think the prevailing sentiment is that he’s not as dynamic an athlete as Shawn Robinson, and maybe not as good a deep ball thrower, but I wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off in regards to what we have seen out of Robinson so far in 2018 - and maybe fewer turnovers if they were forced to run a ore conservative offense.

TCU always seems to reload on defense, and this year feels no different. But, what sticks out is that you only have two interceptions and the Tackle for Loss numbers seem down. Is this defense playing less aggressively, or is it more the quality of opponents so far?

When TCU has been at their best as a program, they have dominated the turnover ratio. When they haven’t been great, they’ve lost that battle. What we have seen so far in 2018 is a team that is playing aggressively but not getting the ball to bounce their way, while the offense keeps giving it away at an alarming pace. It also can’t be understated how much losing Ross Blacklock in the preseason hurts the Frogs; his presence as a space eater and double-team requirer completely changes the dynamic of the defensive front, especially against the run game. Innis Gaines and Corey Bethley have played well, and Ben Banogu seems to finally be getting things going. It’s a solid and dynamic defense, but they aren’t getting many breaks in the turnover department so far.

Who do Tech fans need to keep an eye on that we’re not already aware of?

TCU has a few interesting young players on both sides of the ball that could be factors Thursday night. Sophomore linebacker Garret Wallow has the look of a budding star - a hard hitter with great instincts who is learning to balance his aggressiveness with staying in his lanes. Innis Gaines is another guy that folks outside of Fort Worth may not know, but he’s the biggest playmaker the Frogs have in the secondary, and can impact the game in a lot of different ways. He’s also just a really fun guy to watch play. Offensively, Taye Barber is a true freshman that is getting more involved in the passing game and is really dynamic with the ball in his hands - he is a guy Texas Tech fans may like because his commitment led to Ta’Zhawn Henry’s decommitment from the Frogs. The rest of the offense revolves around some familiar faces, namely Jalen Reagor and KaVontae Turpin at WR and Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua out of the backup. Turp, of course, is one of the biggest X-Factors in the country in the return game, and has been really quiet the last three games. He could be due for a big night.

What are the best matchups for TCU heading into this game?

I really have no idea where the Frogs have an advantage on offense in this game, because it’s really hard to nail down what they’re good at. If Robinson is healthy and if the wide receivers can make catches, I think the Red Raiders’ secondary could be vulnerable to giving up the big play. I also hope to see the Frogs exploit a defense that seems to like to get into the backfield by using some play action and focusing on the short to medium passing game. I also expect Darius Anderson to have a big game against a Tech defense that is allowing 4.4 yards per carry so far this year; the junior RB has had double-digit carries just twice this year, but Thursday could be prime time for him to get back in a groove.

Defensively, it’s going to be a game of contain if Duffey is at QB and hopefully dropping into some more exotic looks against a freshman if Bowman is the guy. I haven’t seen a ton of Tech this year, but I assume the offensive line has been solid with the numbers they are putting up, so I am looking forward to see if Banogu can get going and make some madness in the backfield.

Special teams will be interesting - as previously noted, Turpin has been quieted for three weeks in a row, but it doesn’t take much of a crease for him to make a big play. Song has looked solid as the kicker, but the punting situation has been iffy. ST could be the difference Thursday.

Any key injuries/suspensions to track?

Robinson is the big one, of course, but the Frogs could also be without two massive pieces that could impact the game even more - Cordel Iwuagwu on the offensive line and Niko Small in the secondary. Markell Simmons has been good in relief of Small, but the safety is the coach in the secondary and a real team leader. The offensive line has looked completely different with Iwuagwu out, but there’s a good chance he returns for Thursday from what we are hearing.

Score Prediction?

This game is horrifying on so many levels. TCU is such a hard team to get a read on - the defense has been really good, but hasn’t forced turnovers. The offense is inconsistent, but the potential and talent is there. Plus... weird things happen when Tech and the Frogs play. This could be an old-fashioned Big 12 shootout or a weird low-scoring affair, and neither would surprise me one bit. I will split the difference and call it a 31-30 TCU win, with Jonathan Song hitting a game winning field goal late for the second straight game.