We're less than 36 hours from D-Day here, and it's time to take a peek behind the opponent's curtain and see what's going on. Joining us this week for our not-so-weekly Q&A session is our pal from over at Frogs O'War, HawkeyedFrog.
Jon: First things first: last year, K-State fans were reaching for the nitro tabs at the end of the TCU game. You've already been through it twice this year. How'd you feel at the end of Baylor and West Virginia?
HF: The sense with Baylor was jubilation turning into the foulest pit of resentment and despair imaginable -- I'd liken it to a child on their birthday who opens the big box under the tree to see the box for the toy of their dreams inside, only to open it and see that the box not only doesn't contain the toy, but instead has both an active wasp hive and a giant turd. With all of your friends (and that kid from down the street who you hate, but your mom made you invite) watching. West Virginia on the other hand was a feeling of immense, bewildering frustration that turned into unadulterated joy -- somewhat akin to one's first attempt at removing a bra. And I'm sure that Kansas State will bring its own sort of feeling that I'll have to come up with another colorful metaphor for.
Jon: You obviously knew that adjusting to the Big 12 wasn't going to be a cakewalk. How does the Frog fanbase seem to feel about TCU's progress? Was this year's breakout right on schedule, too late, or are you actually surprised it's taking place now?
HF: It does feel a bit overdue because our hopes going into each season were so high, but looking back you can see that there were definitely issues that were going to hold both of them back from the team that they needed to be -- the Drug bust, Casey Pachall's weird mental state, crushing injuries to our RBs and, of course, bewildering incompetence from our former offensive coordinators. This year, however, things have flipped on its head; the offense is one of the envies of the nation (even if it does pass a bit too much, given what we have at RB) and the defense is still a Gary Patterson defense (even if it is a bit of a slow starter). Still, once we dumped former co-OCs Anderson and Burns in the offseason we were fairly confident we'd be a dangerous bowl team this year. It just seems that we may be a dangerous major bowl team now.
Jon: At what point this season did you sit up and say to yourself, "Whoa, okay. We've got something here"?
HF: It was against Oklahoma that the perception really started to come around, because as solid a team as Minnesota has turned out to be, TCU really didn't get tested in the non-conference schedule. You've been in the Big 12 long enough to know that a team should never really feel good about it's conference championship chances until after their game against Oklahoma. Stoops has won at least a share of over half of all of the Big 12 championships there have been since he arrived in Norman, so if you want a barometer for how your chances are in the conference every year, you have to wait until you play OU. Interestingly, we just happened to kick off conference play with the Sooners, and it went pretty darn well (it never felt as close as the score indicated). Baylor was a bit of a reality check of an "Okay, we're not 95 Nebraska" sort, but bouncing back against OSU (who had looked good to that point) solidified that this was a team to be reckoned with.
Jon: Last year, it seemed like Trevone Boykin just wasn't going to suffice at quarterback, with lots of people suggesting maybe he should just be a wide reciever. Now he's a star. What do you think turned the corner for him?
HF: Count me among those that thought that Boykin would end up at wide receiver this year, but this offseason was huge for Trevone for three real reasons. First of all, it was his first season that he got to just be a quarterback; he had to take snaps at running back his first year due to depth concerns there, and then his second season saw him taking a lot of time at wide receiver, since it was assumed that Casey Pachall would be doing the throwing. This year Boykin got to be just a quarterback -- and with the tutelage of new co-OC/quarterback coach Sonny Cumbie and the friendly competition between himself and Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel, Boykin took to the new offense. He doesn't have the most complicated reads, but with TCU's depth at wide receiver and the attention that opposing defenses have to pay to keep Boykin from running, it's enough to decimate even the most sturdy of defenses -- as long as it's not coming down with freezing rain, anyway.
Jon: B.J. Catalon's gotten a lot of highlight reel action this year because he, like K-State's own Charles Jones, just finds the end zone over and over. But in terms of actual explosiveness, he's played second fiddle to Aaron Green, who's been scampering for eight-plus a carry. With Catalon questionable Saturday, are you concerned?
HF: Quite concerned. Although Green is a monster in the open field (and a pretty darn good receiver as well), Catalon is the do-everything back that makes the offense tick. He pounds it between the tackles as well as swinging it outside, has a great cut and runs straight through arm tackle attempts with authority. The depth behind he and Green is very talented, but also quite young. Trevorris Johnson has been a monster in short yardage situations, to the point where many frog fans are calling for a bigger role for him, while Kyle Hicks is a classic one-cut-and-go back with electric speed. Still, a group of backs who combined have comparable skills to Catalon isn't the same as having all of them in one body, so we're hoping B.J. will be good to go on Saturday.
Jon: In their first two years in the league, TCU was known for defense. But against the big guns in the Big 12, the Frogs have been allowing points in bunches -- over 40 points a game against the three top-half teams they've faced so far. What's gone wrong on defense, and what do you think the Wildcat staff is going to exploit on Saturday?
HF: In most cases it's been the same issue repeated -- TCU has had a lot of issues covering speed receivers out of the slot this year, which has resulted in a ton of big plays that either score or set up scores later. The rest of the defense has acquitted itsself pretty well, especially since as the offense is moving so quickly these days, it does result in a lot more possessions for the opponent than last year's plodding (and incredibly ineffective) offense. I imagine that TCU will look to take Tyler Lockett out of the game by matching Kevin White up against him and working in safety help from time to time to keep Jake Waters uncomfortable in his reads. This may mean coverages on the other side may be a bit more simple, and I expect Waters to test freshman cornerback Ranthony Texada early and often to see how he holds up to single coverage. Beyond that I think we'll see the usual war in the trenches as we have the last few times the Wildcats and Frogs have gotten together, with the team that wins that more often winning the game in the end.
Jon: As far as K-State's defense, what concerns you the most?
HF: Their discipline is what has me the most concerned, rather than any particular player or scheme. TCU's new air raid scheme is very much about giving a defense a wide variety of different looks and motions and taking advantage of the mismatches and confusion created. Kansas State will play sound, disciplined defense, which means that the opportunity for huge plays out of busted coverages and linemen in the wrong gaps will be limited, and it'll be up to Boykin to regularly convert on third down by making the smart throw or simply running it out. If he wants to get back into the Heisman discussion, he needs to have a very big week against a very good defense -- and this is the best he's going to see the rest of the way.
Jon: Finally, as always, time to stick your neck out. What's your prediction?
HF: TCU and KSU have had an interesting series so far, with two tight games (despite TCU's general offensive incompetence) and I see a similarly tight game this time, despite the Frogs improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Still, with the Frogs improvement on offense I see a different result than the last two entries in this series, and am fairly confident that the Frogs come out on top in what should be an amazing atmosphere in Fort Worth. Give me TCU 48, KSU 40.
Our thanks to our bird-eyed toad friend from That Other Purple School. Much appreciated. And, of course, don't miss my own answers to his questions over at their wonderful site.