It's finally time for Kansas State to meet the other new conference foe, TCU, as the Wildcats travel to Fort Worth to face KSU alum Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs. From my perspective, this one appears to be the toughest game left on the schedule, even if Texas is better from an objective standpoint. We own them and that game's on Senior Day.
The season hasn't gone according to plan for TCU, who has suffered through a multitude of injuries, a two-touchdown loss to Iowa State, and of course, a drunk quarterback. Despite all of that, they're 3-3 in the league and the preseason prediction of fifth seems within reach, if a bit improbable based on remaining schedules.
TB answered six of questions and I don't like to be outdone, so enjoy your bonus question in today's Q&A with Hawkeyed Frog from the excellent TCU blog Frogs O' War. Similarly, I tried to find a fan photo to match the awkwardness of the one posted over there, so please let us know who you think won in the comments.
AA: The West Virginia folks are still insisting they love the Big 12, despite all the crazy travel for road games and the fact that their season has taken a hard turn for the worse. With you guys having none of those issues and coming from a conference worse than the Big East (at least in the sense that you didn't have a BCS auto bid) you must be really loving the Big 12, right? Should KSU fans expect a warm welcome in Fort Worth?
HF: Oh we're absolutely loving the Big 12, no question. The proximity to most of the teams in the Big 12 is certainly a big factor in why we're happy to be here, but the Big 12 has always been TCU's dream conference ever since the conference formed. TCU fans have always felt shafted about the formation of the Big 12, especially as our archrival Baylor was included in the expansion due to political pressure rather than any actual merit. As a result of being left behind TCU has been left in conferences that sprawled across the entire nation, and with the win over West Virginia last week TCU became the team that has won football games in the largest number of states (every major college football playing state apart from New Jersey and Connecticut). Throughout all that, the hope was always that TCU would somehow get into the Big 12 (generally we hoped it would be through you guys getting sick of Baylor being awful and kicking them out) and when TCU got the invite it's hard to imagine a team happier to be in a conference anywhere else. Yearly games with Tech, Baylor and Texas, and the departure of A&M (who has historically owned us for inexplicable reasons)? Sign us up for that. As for how Kansas State will be received, all reports I've heard from Iowa State fans were generally very positive about how they were treated in Fort Worth, so I think that's a good indication of how the Wildcats will be treated as well. Things may be a bit more tense since you guys are national title contenders, but TCU fans are a generally friendly bunch as long as you're not Baylor-and even sometimes if you are!
AA: A lot of people expected TCU to kind of fall apart after Casey Pachall left the team, but other than the two-touchdown loss to Iowa State after Trevone Boykin took over, that hasn't really happened at all. Were you surprised by this team's resiliency? How much of that is Boykin being a good quarterback and how much of it is the rest of the team stepping up?
HF: When you have a good defense you can get away with some growing pains on offense, and surprisingly enough TCU has had a very good defense this year- After last year that wasn't a given, especially in the secondary. This season has been by far the most daunting one in the Gary Patterson era based on depth, injuries and (of course) drunken stupidity, but somehow the team finds a way to keep in games. Boykin has been about the sort of quarterback you'd expect a very talented and athletic redshirt freshman to be, at some points he'll make plays that will just dazzle you, while at others he throws a mind bogglingly awful interception when Brandon Carter was wide open on the post. The big difference in the Kansas State game was that Boykin started to click with Josh Boyce, TCU's best receiver and a definite future NFL player. (Editor's Note: I assume this was referring to the West Virginia game when Boyce caught 6 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, but it's also possible he was trying to predict the future) As a result, Boyce made some absolutely fantastic plays and Boykin looks to be a better quarterback. Now if only we can teach him to cut his runs upfield for the first down instead of always trying to beat everyone to the outside.
AA: I don't think anyone ever doubted that TCU's starters could hold their own in the Big 12, but the concern for many (including me) was that they wouldn't have the depth to be competitive with the top teams over a grueling nine-game conference schedule. How are they holding up and is that something to be worried about as you play arguably the league's three best teams (vs. KSU, @ UT, vs. OU in your last three games?
HF: Sadly we'll never know just how well TCU's full team would have held up in Big 12 play as we lost so many starters in the offseason drug scandal and ended up really young on both lines and very thin at linebacker, which should have been TCU's best unit. The (in retrospect, poor) decision of running back Ed Wesley to enter the supplemental draft for financial reasons hurt TCU's running back depth, and when TCU lost Waymon James (a likely first team all-Big 12 player if healthy) for the year against Kansas the Frogs were suddenly down two players who had been on the Doak Walker watchlist. Add in Matthew Tucker, who has been slow recovering from an ankle issue and that's three Doak Walker watch list players that TCU has lost this year, and as a result the Frogs have struggled running the ball this season. Still, TCU has endured playing the most freshman in the nation and come out with a winning record so far, so I think TCU wins at least one of its last three (most likely against Texas).
AA: Statistically, the Horned Frogs have the league's best run defense outside of Manhattan, so will they need to load the box heavily like Oklahoma State did last week to stop the Wildcats' run game? Assuming Collin Klein still starts, do you think all the injury speculation affects the defensive gameplan at all?
HF: TCU will do what it's always done when playing tough opposition: Stop the run first. TCU's 4-2-5 has always been predicated on stopping the run, which is in part why we've been able to have such consistent success against teams running the ball. When we've pulled off big wins against highly ranked teams we've always been able to do a good job shutting down the run- Boise State's Doug Martin, Clemson's C.J. Spiller, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and even OU's Adrian Peterson had issues picking up gains on the ground against the frogs in the past. When the Frogs have been beaten in the Patterson era it's been through the air (Baylor last year, OU in 2008) or by trick plays (Boise in the Fiesta Bowl). If Collin Klein can beat the TCU secondary regularly through the air Kansas State will win the game handily, but the secondary has been a good one so far which I think will result in a close game.
AA: For obvious reasons, most of us in Wildcat Nation have a ton of respect for Gary Patterson and the job he's done at TCU. Do you think he's going to be there for life? What are the odds if TCU gets first and goal down 3 with 5 seconds to go, he rips off his shirt to unveil a Kansas State jersey and orders his quarterback to kneel the ball?
HF: I think that Patterson is really comfortable at TCU and it's not a job he'd be likely to leave now. The first issue is the pay: Nobody, not even Texas, will outpay TCU for Patterson's services. The Alums love him and every time the issue of Patterson's pay has been brought up the administration has been quick to raise him up. The second issue is that the three jobs TCU fans have been concerned about Patterson leaving for are now conference mates of ours: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State, and Patterson isn't likely to abandon the team for one in the same conference. He's built the program up from virtually nothing and knows that he can be the coach here for as long as he wants- feeding in with the other issues, I just don't see Patterson leaving TCU until there's a statue of him outside of Amon Carter/Gary Patterson Stadium. On the possibility of treason during the game though, Patterson has expressed concern in his weekly press conference that if he wins this game he won't be allowed in his home state again, but I don't think that that will stop him from going for the win. The competitive fire is just too deep there to let a chance for a win go, even at the expense of his beloved alma mater's championship hopes.
AA: KSU is a touchdown favorite and Bill Snyder almost never loses games he's supposed to win, especially with his best teams. What does TCU have to do to pull off the upset, and will they do it?
HF: TCU has to not turn the ball over. The last time the Frogs won the turnover margin but lost the game was pre-2007 (Editor's Note: TCU is 47-1 when winning the turnover margin since 2005), and with Kansas State taking such excellent care of the ball so far the Frogs can't afford to get behind in takeaways. Following with that theme, TCU needs its secondary to have its greatest game of the season, as points are likely going to be hard to come by this week, and we won't be able to afford being beaten deep. Finally TCU needs to stop taking stupid penalties, which has been a recurring issue for the frogs this year. You can't give up free first downs to an efficient offense, and you can't turn first and ten into first and fifteen or first and twenty on offense. Can TCU do it? They certainly can, they have talent at all the right positions, the game is at home and the Frogs will have a bit of their swagger back after knocking off West Virginia in Morgantown, but it's hard to see the Frogs actually doing it. Still, I feel... pretty okay about this game, I think it will be close throughout, and in a close game I always go with the home team. Frogs 27, Wildcats 24. If you beat us though, win the national title game and shut up the ES-EE-SEE crowd for a little while, please?