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Three Things to Know about the TCU Horned Frogs



The Cowboys blew through the non-con slate, stifling fledgling offenses and overwhelming outmanned defenses. Flying into SWO this week are the Fort Worth Frogs, ready for a shot at the class of the league.

Coming In Hot

Looking to be one of the more improved teams in the league, the No. 15-ranked veteran Frogs will be the biggest test yet for the Cowboy defense.

Oklahoma State’s defense had a confidence-assuring fall camp, often holding its own against an offense that looked like the best in the nation in Saturday’s 59-21 win over Pittsburgh. In August, after OSU’s second scrimmage of camp, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy was encouraged. They’re containing big plays, he said of the defense.

Three games into this season, the offenses Oklahoma State has played have all ranked outside the top 60 in yards per play. Greater tests await, beginning Saturday with a TCU unit that averages more than 500 yards per game. [TulsaWorld]

While OSU returned proven, productive depth on the offensive side of the ball, TCU returned nearly all of its mediocre production (they finished eighth in the Big 12 in points scored in 2016) with another year of seasoning and development.

They’ve improved … a lot, it appears.

This year (so far, anyway) TCU has plenty of pint-sized playmakers making dynamic plays. Remember names like Kennedy Snell, Desmon White and KaVontae Turpin who have the capacity to turn something small into something big.

These are the kinds of plays that tweak the offensive output for TCU from 21 and 28 points to 35 and 42 points a game. And when the Frogs get you concerned with these guys around the edges, they have a few running backs capable of running by you (assuming Kyle Hicks is healthy).

Will Kenny Thrill or Spill?

Maybe the biggest question of the game – and TCU’s season – is the progression of quarterback Kenny Hill. Is he the same guy that threw 13 interceptions last year or has he turned a corner in maturity and skill?

Senior quarterback Kenny Hill has been willing to let his teammates do some of the heavy lifting through the first three weeks, but he might need to become more involved in Stillwater.

Patterson recognized that Hill will need to “take some shots,” but also acknowledged the danger of measuring success by yardage. [Dallas SportsDay]

That leads me to ask, does TCU have to keep this a go-kart match between two offenses or can they compete in a high-flying formula one matchup? Does Hill have a tendency to press and make bad decisions if you expect too much?

Check out his throwing chart from the SMU game where the Frog offense racked up 56 points and oodles of yards.

That’s a lot of dink-and-dunk throws – with the only long throw being the half-time hail mary. Can that work playing Oklahoma State? Maybe.

But playing an athletic, talented Razorback defense, Hill looked pedestrian – throwing for 166 yards, no scores, and a pick. I get the feeling the defense in Stillwater will look more like the Fayetteville version than the Shetland Pony Express.

Look at the highlights from the SMU game and it’s easy to build an argument that OSU’s team speed and Hill’s lack of downfield threat feel like something this OSU defense can handle.

For free, something to look at with TCU is a macro level question: Gary Patterson has to be wondering is about Hill’s progression. In 2014, he employed co-OCs (Tech guy Sonny Cumbie and Poke alum Doug Meacham) when Trevone Boykin went from an erratic throwing wide receiver to All-Big 12 dime dropper which leads to the question – who was responsible?

Meacham is calling plays in Lawrence now and if he was the culprit in the HGTV worthy makeover of Boykin and Cumbie wasn’t, the Frogs could be in for a rocky ride.

Running Away

Gary Patterson is nothing if not a brilliant defensive mind. His capacity to develop defenders on all levels and stress offenses likely landed the Frogs in the Big 12. And while they have some saucy players in the secondary, the big question is how well the Pokes can run the ball on TCU’s front seven.

If you had to zoom in on a couple of battles, it’ll primarily be about the interior of the Cowboy line against some beefy TCU defensive tackles and All-Big 12 linebacker Travin Howard, a Jordan Sterns-esque tackler that regularly gets 100+ tackles a season.

It’s most evident along the defensive line, with tackles Ross Blacklock and Corey Bethley playing at over 300 pounds. Under Patterson, TCU tackles traditionally have been much lighter for the sake of quickness.

But Blacklock, a four-star recruit from Fort Bend Elkins in 2016, and Bethley, a three-star recruit from state power Katy, are not slow. As part of the defensive line rotation, they made a difference in Fayetteville. [Fort Worth Star Telegram]

With that being said, it’s sort of a Jekyll-and-Hyde scenario with this group. After absolutely extinguishing Arkansas’ offense (seven points and 267 yards of total offense), the Pony Express wreaked havoc last week with 36 points and 463 yards of offense, allowing numerous big plays.

It’s safe to assume that after last year, the Frogs will have plenty of motivation coming to Stillwater. Nothing breaks the spirit (and endurance) of a team like mercilessly pounding them down the field and for Gundy’s offense to establish balance, it’ll be huge.

Think 2016 TCU game where Chris Carson plowed for 146 yards through the TCU defense.

And while death, taxes and Gary Patterson defensive backs are the only certainties in life, Mason doesn’t sound super concerned about “Texada on one side and *mumbles* there’s a guy on the other side I forget his name.”

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