We're back this week with another edition of our Staring Down The Musket... series and a look at this week's opponent, the TCU Horned Frogs. Hawkeyed Frog from Frogs O' War took the time to answer a few questions for us about Saturday's visitors:
Country Roads: It's been a long time coming since the death of the Southwest Conference, but TCU is finally back at the big boy table. How are you guys liking life in the Big XII so far? Has the transition been harder than you thought it would be? At what point can the Horned Frogs reasonable expect to win a conference championship?
Hawkeyed Frog: We're enjoying it a good deal, especially after Tommy Tuberville and Art Briles had both commented in the past two years that they didn't want to play TCU again, it's sweet to be back with our ancestral rivals instead of trying to find reasons to hate San Diego State and UNLV (They're so good at basketball! Grrr). The transition has definitely been harder than expected, but there's no way of saying how much of that is due to the increased level of competition in the Big 12 and how much is a result of losing a huge portion of starters in the offseason and our two best offensive players during the season. That said, TCU will be able to compete for the conference championship next year, as either Pachall will be back or Boykin will have beaten him for the starting job (which is what we'd probably prefer at this point) and our running game which has struggled so much without Doak Walker candidate Waymon James will not only get him back, but will see him joined by a five star RB transfer from Nebraska. TCU's defense will lose just one starter (and just three on the entire defensive roster) to graduation, and all of those freshmen and sophomores who are playing well but taking licks now will have a year of experience under their belts. TCU will have a great shot at the title next year with you guys, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma all graduating senior quarterbacks.
CR: Through four games, TCU was sitting at 4-0 and ranked 15th in the country. Then Casey Pachall decided to go on a bender, was arrested for DUI, and subsequently withdrew from school to attend counseling. Now, you sit at 5-3 and are coming off a thorough whoopin' at the hands of Oklahoma State. What is behind the recent slide? Did Pachall mean that much to the team? Are you starting to feel the effects of playing a more difficult Big XII schedule? Or is it maybe just one of those things where a team goes into a funk for a few weeks?
HF: The reason behind the recent slide is that the TCU offense didn't have Casey Pachall to bail out the running game if it wasn't being productive. After Waymon James was injured the TCU offense tried to stay balanced, but it ended up being a lot of screen, try to run the ball, oh god third and long- Casey do something! Oftentimes he would, but then the process would repeat on the next set of downs. Boykin has done a decent job with the team so far, but he's committed costly turnovers that have turned drives that would have been game clinchers (against Iowa State) or at least put TCU back into the game (against Okie State) into touchdowns the other way. It's hard to be patient with the success we've had in the Mountain west, but we're going to have to get through Boykin's growing pains and see if we can pick up the sixth win we need for a bowl bid and the extra practices this young team desperately needs.
CR: While the Horned Frogs have undoubtedly produced some great offensive players over the years, the hallmark of your team has been defense. In the last four games, you gave up 37 to Iowa State, 36 to Oklahoma State, and 56 to Texas Tech (36 in regulation), and held a potent Baylor offense to 21 points. What do you expect to see from your defense this week? Do WVU's recent struggles on offense give you some confidence that there is a blueprint to slow down Geno Smith and company? Or do you expect a bit of a shootout in this one?
HF: The defensive numbers for Iowa State and Oklahoma State are a bit blown up by a pick 6 to Iowa State and a pick everything but 6 to Okie State (it was returned to the one yard line) so I'm not particularly disappointed by the way we've played so far. The big issue in the Tech game was that our secondary, which is normally quite sure handed (we lead the Big 12 in interceptions) got both hands on three Doege passes and didn't manage to come down with any of them. Against West Virginia... I'm cautiously optimistic about our defense. Holgorsen has an excellent offensive mind, and I'm sure he's used the bye week to make a few counters for how Kansas State and Tech were able to stymie Geno and company, which means that it will be on the secondary to stay with West Virginia's receivers until Devonte Fields can get there to clean up. I'm expecting a lot of yards, but probably not a WVU/Baylor number of points in this one.
CR: I honestly haven't had much chance to watch TCU this year. What type of quarterback is Trevone Boykin? Is he a true dual threat, or are his rushing yards more attributable to scrambles? Is he prone to turnovers? How much does the offense rely on him as opposed to running backs or quickly getting the ball to receivers on the perimeter?
HF: Boykin is definitely a dual threat, or at least he was before Tech rolled his ankle in the second quarter of our game. He didn't seem to have quite the confidence running against Oklahoma State and that hurt the running game a good deal, so hopefully he'll be back to 100% in this one. As to whether he's turnover prone... yes he is, but he's getting better. If TCU isn't down multiple scores he'll be fine, but late in the game if we're behind he's pressed a bit much and it's led to interceptions. At the moment the TCU offense is most effective running the zone read with Boykin and Catalon and tossing short and intermediate routes to our excellent group of wide receivers. Josh Boyce is one of the Big 12's best and Ladarius Brown is fast, sure handed and almost impossible for one corner to tackle on his own. They're joined by speed demon Skye Dawson and the sure handed Cam White who has taken on a great deal of responsibility after checkdown superstar Brandon Carter got injured (so many offensive injuries, arrgh).
CR: The line has WVU as a 6.5-point favorite, but I haven't seen an over/under. In all aspects, what do you expect to find this weekend in Morgantown? Will TCU fans travel well? For those making the trip, are there any expectations of Morgantown or WVU fans? How do you think the game plays out? If you're placing a bet, where is your money and where would you set the over/under?
HF: I really wish I was making the trip to Morgantown this year, because I love the state of West Virginia, and getting to Morgantown on gameday has been on my football bucket list. Sadly, fate has left me in Australia until two days before Thanksgiving, so I'll have to miss it. I think TCU will bring a few thousand to Morgantown, but it's a bit of a haul and some of the enthusiasm seems to have left the fanbase with the Tech and Okie State defeats so I'll be interested to see how much purple there is on Saturday. As for West Virginia fans, I personally have only had good experiences, and sadly I don't think TCU is good enough this year to warrant a couch burning in the event of a Mountaineer win, so I expect it will be a great atmosphere. I think that I would be comfortable with an over/under of 65, and I really feel that somebody is going to get blown out in this one... I just don't know who. West Virginia has proven virtually Baylor-esque on defense, and TCU was able to score at will on Baylor while shutting down their offense with pressure and forcing Florence into bad decisions. If TCU dominates the time of possession like they did against Baylor, TCU will win by two or three scores. If West Virginia is able to run the ball and keep their offense in a rhythm though, I'm not sure that TCU will be able to keep from shooting itself in the foot at some point. Since I'm a shameless TCU homer, let's go with TCU 42, West Virginia 31, but if you flip the scores I wouldn't be surprised in the least.
Thanks to Hawkeyed Frog and our friends over at Frogs O' War for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to stop by their blog to see my answers to their questions, learn about the Frogs, or talk the requisite pre-game smack.