So the Frogs are coming off a record-breaking, news-making, bowl-bashing, conference-mauling 12-1 season, and you think it’s going to get even better? Here are five reasons to think otherwise. (Yeah, yeah-- I hate downers too, but relax: this is a set-up. Coming up next are five reasons why 2010 is going to be a better year than 2009. But let’s lower expectations first. It’s good medicine.)
1. Pragmatism/Realism/History/Murphy’s Law. Come on, now: what about TCU’s history leads you to think that it could possibly get any better? The Frogs haven’t won a national title since... since your grandfather was a little boy; since Dan Jenkins was too young to buy his own ticket to the games; since FDR was still within the two-terms-in-the-White-House tradition; since... since before SMU began paying its players. TCU has never gone to elite bowl games in back-to-back years. TCU, despite the sport’s death-defying flirtation with mega-conferences, is still on the outside of the cartel looking in.
So, if none of that has changed, why should a Frog fan expect TCU suddenly to buck a lot of history and party like it’s 1938, again? (OK, now that you’re screaming reasons to do exactly that at your computer screen, sit back down, take a deep breath, and come back in a couple days for my reasons why. Relax. We agree; 2010 is going to be a good year. That good? Probably. But one thing at a time, and we’ve still got four reasons left why you should not to get so excited.)
Remember, Boise State put that monkey named You’re Still Not All That right back onto the Horned Frogs’ back in Glendale, and if history, including 2009, proves anything about TCU, it’s that the Frogs never—ever—get the monkey off their collective back.
2. Pressure. Here’s where all of our inflated expectations for 2010 become relevant. The players feel them; the fans luxuriate in them; the school depends on them; and in a couple short months, there will be a train of 12 opponents who really, really hope to be able to capitalize on them. There’s a lot more coming from your humble blogger about those 12 teams, but the pressure to achieve perfection may be the most damaging opponent on TCU’s schedule. Ask BYU what that kind of pressure is like—it made ’08 a no-fun-season for the Cougars, even before the Frogs pantsed 'em (on national TV) (on a Thursday night when no other FBS team was playing) (yeah, that DVD never gets old). If TCU hasn’t got better coping mechanisms than BYU’s in place, the Frogs will have just as little fun in 2010 as the Cougars had in 2008. TCU only faces BYU once in 2010, but Pressure is on the schedule 12 times (13 if the team doesn’t totally tank).
3. Injuries/Depth issues. There is never a year, and never a team, that doesn’t have a weak link somewhere. Gary Patterson loves to remind listeners of this. 2010 TCU is no exception. Last season the Frogs were very lucky in the injury department, especially at their weakest link. What was that weak link? Backup center. The Frogs avoided using that weak link (right guard Josh Vernon moved over for those snaps for about one quarter of one game) and starter Jake Kirkpatrick is on All-American lists now. Probably TCU is not so weak at backup center in 2010.
What is weakest link in 2010? Replacing Jerry Hughes? Daryl Washington? Raphael Priest? Nope. Rather, it’ll be replacing a player who only played in garbage minutes last season, but who never caused Frog fans to worry when he was on the field: Marcus Jackson. Remember him? He’s the kid who beat Baylor in 2006, when Jeff Ballard went down on opening day. He’s the kid who threw a touchdown pass to Billy Pizor last season, in what had to be the best day of each player’s life that year. Who’s the backup this year? The coaches aren’t saying as much, but sophomore Yogi Gallegos hardly took a snap last season. That leads me to believe it’ll be blue-chip gunslinger Casey Pachall. And Mr. Pachall has how much experience playing football in D-1A? That’s right: none.
So pray for Andy Dalton’s durability, if you want the Frogs to top 2009 this year. An inexperienced Pachall, no matter how talented he is (and he’s clearly talented) isn’t going to best the Utes in Salt Lake City, or manhandle SDSU’s much-improved six-man secondary. Not in his first year. So let’s hope he doesn’t have to.
Other depth chart issues that make Frog fans purse their lips: the other backup corner (Malcolm Williams will be fine backing up the one side; but who’ll step up at the other?); Tejay Johnson’s backup at safety; and... that’s about it. More on the jaw-dropping brevity of that list in the five-reasons-to-get-really-excited-about-2010 post, coming soon.
4. One will get away. One always gets away from TCU. Truth be told, this is probably the most credible reason to temper your excitement for TCU’s 2010 season. Think about it—the Frogs had the difficult schedule last year, and they roared through it. Until what game? Oh yeah—that one. The F-Bowl. Against that team (see below). The only difference between last season and the myriad of others before it was that the getaway happened after the cartel gave the Frogs the keys to the big stage. Before 2009, the getaway always came sometime before that, and so the cartel took the keys away. Think Utah 2008, BYU 2006, SMU 2005, Southern Miss 2003, San Jose State in 2000... It’s the TCU way, letting one get away.
My guess is that every team feels this way. Alabama let one get away in 2008, just like Florida did in 2006, 2008, and 2009. Texas? Yup—not just with last year’s tax dollars, either. They choke on Kansas State or Texas A&M, somehow, regularly. Slowhio State? That’s the definition of Slowhio-ness. This list could go on and on... The difference for TCU, and all the cartel-outsiders, is that if one gets away, it takes with it the chance to play in a BCS bowl. The margin of error for a cartel-member is 1 game. For cartel-outsiders? There is no margin of error. If you lose one, you’re out. It’s simple, really. Wicked, but simple.
Which games are possible getaway-traps in 2010? Certainly Oregon State, but I think better candidates are SMU, Colorado State, and New Mexico. All of them are roadies, against teams TCU should beat, and cater to complacency. Top-10 teams just don’t lose those kind of games. Will TCU rise to the challenge of not letting a single must-win get away? It hasn’t in the past, uh, 72 years.
5. Boise State will steal TCU’s thunder. Ah, the Broncos. Those lovable little smurf-turf engines-that-could, and did, and might just do it again. How they vex the Frogs! They rose up and spoiled TCU’s coming out party last season. And before it even can get started again, Boise State joins our conference. And, to rub it in all the more, in the first year that anyone can remember TCU starting in the top ten, those potato-eating twerps from Idaho have the nerve to start the season ranked in the top five! If Boise State doesn’t choke on the pressure it faces this season (Virginia Tech!), then TCU will be a footnote all season to Boise’s rise to a berth in the national championship game. That’s going to stick in the Frogs’ craw all year. Count. On. It.