Gameday: Saturday, November 10
Location: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Opponent: TCU Horned Frogs
Predicted Season: 8-4, Offense - 49th ; Defense - 16th
Streak: TCU Cheated, again.
When TCU and the West Virginia Mountaineers joined the Big 12 in 2012, it looked like they were destined to be on similar paths. Both went 7-5 their first year in the league and both suffered a “reset” year in 2013. In 2014, though, TCU broke through with Trevone Boykin and went 23-3 the next two years.
The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs of Dallas, TX have staged some epic games. In fact, I would argue that TCU is the measuring stick for the Mountaineers. Gary Patterson has done a great job of recruiting in Texas and using the increased exposure of the Big 12 to increase his team profile. The two teams have staged some epic games from their first meeting where TCU cheated, or the 2014 game where they cheated, or last year where they cheated. (I’m only slightly kidding Frogs....)
Gone is senior quarterback Kenny TRILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. In his place is sophomore Shawn Robinson. All of the hype surrounding Robinson is that he could be better than Boykin, who put himself into the national picture during his senior season. That may be true but Robinson has thrown 27 passes in his college career. Will he be able to execute week in and week out? That will be the question for Gary Patterson.
If Robinson is good, he will have leading receiver Jalen Reagor and his [checks notes] 576 yards back. Speedster KaVontae Turpin also returns hot off his 394 receiving yards junior season.
Robinson will have some help in the running back department as well. While Kyle Hicks is gone, the Frogs’ leading rusher, Darius Anderson, will return. Hicks split carries with Anderson in 2017, more so after Anderson suffered a season ending injury against Oklahoma. Now the attention will turn to junior Sewo Olonilua and speedy freshman Emari Demercado.
While TCU has a lot of skill players with talent return, the offensive line loses significant contributions. Everywhere but left guard there are questions: Anthony McKinney and Lucas Niang are gonna play tackle but which one? At center, the Frogs could start sophomore Wes Harris, no relation to the WVU basketball player. At right guard another unproven player in Quazzel White could end up playing here. It takes time for a line to gel and get in sync with each other and the amount of unknowns along the line make it hard to get a good read on the Frogs.
Defense is where Gary Patterson has made his living and its been no exception in the Big 12. For the most part last year the TCU defense was great. They were great against the run and stout against the pass, generally. Every now and then, a team could hit a big play and when they did, those big plays were gigantic. The WVU game is a great example where Will Grier completed only 25-of-45 passes but averaged over 8 yards per pass and the offense gained over 500 yards.
On the line, Ben Banogu returns but he will have to help offset the loss of Mat Boesen. Boesen was a monster with 15 TFL and 11.5 sacks but Banogu was no slouch with 16.5 and 8.5. Banogu was the Defensive Newcomer of the Year. Also returning is Ross Blalock, the Freshman Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
The Frogs will replace Travin Howard and his 84 tackles, 7 TFL and 1 sack with NIU transfer Jawaun Johnson who had 18 TFL and 4 sacks last year for the Athletics. If Johnson is able to replace Howard’s production, then the Frogs will be able to use senior Ty Summers to create even more havoc.
Ranthony Texada is thankfully gone after harassing the receivers all year and posting 14 passes defended. Junior Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis will be asked to blanket receivers but matching the skill of Texada could be a tall task. The Frogs also lose Nick Orr, who led the team with 3 interceptions and was second on the team in tackles.
Turpin is still here. He is one of the most dangerous return men in the game. Avoid kicking him the ball. On the flipside, the punter Adam Nunez has the ability to flip the field. Where the Frogs could likely struggle is kicker Jonathan Song who has struggled with injuries and his career long is only 39 yards. Knowing you can’t trust your kicker is a killer for a football coach.
This game has always been tough and this year, despite the fact that TCU returns so little production will be no different. TCU threw the kitchen sink at West Virginia last year hoping to confuse Will Grier. It slowed the Mountaineers down in the first half before Jake Spavital and company figured out how to attack the Frogs. Hopefully the Frogs don’t resort to cheating, again, to win this game.