Matt: TCU's one of the hottest teams in the country, coming off that big OSU win. Do you think they timing of your bye week is going to help or hurt your momentum going forward?
Melissa: Well, it certainly slows the momentum, but I think that's just how Patterson likes it. We have been making the comparisons to 2014 a lot since early in the season, as this is another veteran unit working with a new play-caller and a ball hawking defense. In 2014, the Frogs burst into national notice by upending a top ten team from Oklahoma (albeit at home) and then lost a heart-breaker a week later on the road. This year, the Frogs burst into the national conversation by beating a top ten team from Oklahoma (on the road) and won their bye week in overwhelming fashion. ;) There's nothing more dangerous to a football team than an 18-22 year old believing their own hype - GP had a week to remind his players that they aren't as good as everyone says they are and to let the heat wear off a bit from the big win and the excitement settle down some. I think GameDay coming helps get the players hyped up, so the pause won't effect them as much in that way. So, TL;DR: I am glad the bye week came when it did, but I am ready to see this team back on the field.
Matt: How has Kenny Hill improved from year one to year two at TCU?
Melissa: He has just grown up so much - I think the reality of his collegiate career ending really set in with him this summer, and he finally put in the extra work we have all wanted him to do this past off-season. Kenny wants to win more than he wants to be the man this year, and that's a pretty big transformation for him personally. He also has a play-caller that doesn't just believe in him, but is committed to putting him in a position to succeed by not asking him to be the best version of Trevone Boykin, but the best version of Kenny Hill. Additionally, and this to me is the most telling thing - his teammates love him. Last year, he would throw a terrible pick and the defense would kid of lumber on to the field like 'oh here we go again'. This year, he throws that same terrible pick and they come out and say 'we have your back, don't worry' and force a three-and-out. Maybe Kenny will stop throwing those terrible picks at some point, but if not, he's got guys around him that will do everything they can to make sure it's not all on his shoulders.
Oh, and a really good offensive line and running game helps, too.
Matt: West Virginia is going to try to run with it's three headed monster backfield to set up big plays downfield. How has TCU's front seven faired this year and who are the names to watch?
Melissa: The Frogs run a 4-2-5, so it's more of a front six. But, either way, you are not going to like our defensive line. Like, at all. TCU has always been at their best when they can make opponents one dimensional, and that has been the case through the first four games of the season. Gary Patterson's philosophy has always been - if you can beat us with the big play, beat us with the big play, but you aren't going to run the ball against a good TCU defense and you won't be able to dink and dunk your way down the field. More often than not, that's worked out - though with the better QB play the Frogs see week in and week out in the Big 12, he's had to make a few tweaks.
Well, this year, he has the best defensive line we have had since entering the conference, and arguably as good as any under GP. Ross Blacklock, Chris Bradley, LJ Collier, Corey Bethley, and Joe Broadnax are just these massive human beings that clog the line but are still athletic enough to make plays in the run and pass game. Plus, there's enough depth that GP can rotate people in and out and keep them fresh. Off the edge, Mat Boesen is an exceptional pass rusher who has really improved as a tackler this season, and he wreaks havoc in the backfield. Ty Summers, our second leading tackler a season ago as a linebacker, is now playing DE, and he's sooo sooo fast. A former high school QB, he's a ridiculous athlete, and finally nearly healthy this fall, he should be a key rotational player Saturday. And finally, I have a serious football crush on Ben Banogu, who looks to be the second coming of Jerry Hughes. Big, fast, with a ridiculous reach, Big Ben looks like a potential All-Conference player and candidate for DPOTY if he keeps up his current production.
Combined, these guys have already racked up 30 TFLs, 11 sacks, and 10 QB hurries, and held opposing offenses to just 2.8 yards per carry. For the 4-2-5 to work well, you have to keep the opposing QB uncomfortable, not give offense time to run those deep routes, and limit the run game. The Frogs have executed that to a T through four games.
And we haven't even talked about the linebackers yet... Travin Howard, the Big 12's leading tackler from 2016, is back, and while he hasn't had to do as much, he had a huge game against Oklahoma State and continues to be a force in the middle. His running mate is a question at this point - Arico Evans and Sammy Douglas have been banged up, so they are serving in backup roles, while Montrel Wilson has struggled in coverage but been good against the run. Wilson is listed at the starter, so we will see what happens Saturday.
Matt: We've been at this for a while now, how do you feel the Big East Game of the Week of the Year stack up against your other Big 12 rivalries?
Melissa: It's definitely one of my favorite games of the year - I had a great time in Morgantown last year, despite the game result, and have always loved the WVU fanbase as a whole. The first three games were so crazy and so close, that it really built a strong rivalry between the two schools. Plus, we will always have the common thread of coming into the conference together, so I think there's a special kinship between us. It's not the hatred or vitriol of a Baylor or a Texas Tech, but it's a fun game between similar programs and fanbases that have a mutual respect for each other.
Matt: How does this one shake out?
Melissa: The double digit point spread is dumb. I don't see any way that this one doesn't come down to the fourth quarter, and while it might not be whoever has the ball last, I don't think it's decided until late in the game. With a GameDay crowd that should be in full-throat, and full intoxication, by 2:30, I think the Carter will be night game level lit. Give me the Froggies, 41-38, with a Ben Banogu strip sack sealing the deal late.
BONUS: What's your favorite thing on TV right now and why is it the DuckTales reboot?
Melissa: I hate re-doing classics, and you can't improve on the perfection that was Duck Tales. So, I haven't watched it. I was a Film and TV major at TCU, so I am the worst person to ask about movies and TV shows, as an unabashed snob. But I have really weird tastes - I am a huge fan of the smart animation available to us now; Bob's Burgers and BoJack Horseman are as well-written as anything on TV, period. And, when I just want to laugh without thinking, The Mick is perfect for that, and The Good Place and Superstore are fun ensemble comedies as well.