The Frogs face an uphill battle as they head east to take on a good, and sometimes great, WVU squad that has torn it up on offense and shown an improved D so far this year. Here are a few things TCU can focus on to ensure they come home with a win after their first foray out of Texas.
TRIP UP TRICKETT - Clint Trickett and Kevin White are near the top of the list when it comes to best passing and catching duos in the country. Trickett averages 345 yards per game through the air, has thrown for 17 TDs, and doesn't turn it over much, with only five picks on the year. About half of those scoring tosses have gone to Kevin White, who is in the argument for best wide receiver in the country. White has eight scores, is already over 1,000 yards receiving, and averages almost 15 yards per catch. He is a beast. But, the WVU o-line has allowed 19 sacks on the season, and they are a little vulnerable to pressure. It will be key for the Frogs D Line, which has been a bit quiet by a GP defense standard, stays in his face all game long. Chuck Hunter has put together a solid season, but hasn't racked up the numbers to back it up. He could be the key to this game, whether by being a disruptive force all on his own, or by drawing double teams that free up the other guys to make some noise. West Virginia has shown they can win games when they need to rely on their running backs, but they also haven't seen a front line like this since OU.
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, BUT ONE MIGHT NEED TO BE - White has shown that he can beat a double team, a triple team, and quite possibly an entire defensive backfield. But he's not the only player that can catch the ball on the team, and if opponents focus to heavily on him, guys like Mario Alford (600 yards and six TDs) and Wendell Smallwood (14 yards per catch) out of the backfield will kill you. Patterson has a tough choice to make - do you decide to single cover White and dare him to beat you? Or do you decide he's going to get his, and take everyone else away? More than likely, we will see GP start with either TCU's Kevin White (wouldn't that be fun for the announcers) or the youngster Ranthony Texada lined up against him, and then mix up the coverages throughout to keep the O guessing. Texada has the skills, but he gives up 40 pounds and five inches, as well as a wealth of experience, to White. I'm very interested to see how this plays out on Saturday, as the Frogs struggled in the first quarter against Tech to tackle on the short to mid range crossing patterns, and got burned deep a few times by a team that isn't known for chucking it long. No matter how they play defensive agains the WVU passing attack, the most important thing will be to keep the guys in front of you and tackle when they do make a catch.
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE - Trevone Boykin has had a couple of banner days against the Eers in the past, leading the Frogs to an amazing comeback win in double OT from behind center as a freshman, and eating their secondary alive as a receiver, keeping TCU in the game in an OT loss as a sophomore. Now as a junior, entrenched as the TCU QB and a Heisman Trophy candidate, Boykin has a chance to make his first big statement on the road. Trevone started really slowly at SMU and he scuffled down the stretch at Baylor, so his road performances haven't been exceptional. But he has been on fire the last two weeks, both at home, breaking records and leading his team to two huge wins. This is gut check time though, and I am sure it is not lost on him that a win in a tough environment, in front of a national audience, and with Game Day on hand, would surely put him in the top five of most voter's ballots. But as has been bandied about the comments all week, TCU has historically played much better as an underdog than as top of the food chain, and a big dose of humility will go a long way towards a victory in Morgantown. Fortunately, Coach P is well aware of this, and has been working to find things to complain about seemingly all season, and has knocked Boykin firmly off that Heisman hype train.
ON THE LINE - The West Virginia D is an aggressive, blitzing, chance taking unit, and I don't expect anything different this week. It will be up to the TCU O Line, which at times has been dominant and at times has looked a little lost, to pull it together and keep the QB on his feet (especially with the news that Joeckel is likely done for the year). Boykin's scrambling ability will keep the D honest - he can certainly make the D pay for being overly aggressive with his feet - but if the line holds up, there will be opportunities for lots of big plays down the field to guys like Kolby Listenbee and Deante' Gray. And if the weather is a factor (more on that in a minute), the run game could be the deciding factor, and the big boys up front's ability to open holes and clear some space for B.J., Green, Hicks (and please more) Johnson could be a difference maker.
IT'S ELEMENTAL - We are all well aware of the weather forecast for tomorrow - cold, rainy, possibly snowy - and that TCU has not been tested in that environment all year. There is certainly concern for a passing offense when the conditions aren't ideal, but TCU needs to be sure to not allow that to be a factor. With the four headed monster running attack, there are certainly options to move the ball down the field if the weather slows down the passing game, but really it's going to come down to mental toughness as much as game plan. This is a group who has been on a mission since that thing that happened in Waco, absolutely destroying anyone in their path. Is a little cold or snow going to slow them down? I think not. And the weather works both ways - WVU certainly has a much higher percentage of guys that grew up in the North East and have more experience playing in these types of conditions, but I don't care how many times you've faced it, cold is cold. And heck, Trickett is a Florida guy, so he probably doesn't like it any more than our guys will. The potential of not playing with our best hands guy in Josh Doctson is certainly a concern when you think about passing in inclement weather, but Boykin has plenty of other weapons and guys that can catch it. He just needs to continue to make good decisions, run when the lane is there, and protect what will probably be a slippery football when he takes off. The ball might not come out as smooth when he does throw, and there's the potential for slippage (by both sides) when it's in the air. No need to be conservative, that's not who we are this year, but smart football is a must. Hopefully the conditions will slow down the WVU blitz more than it affects the TCU offensive players!
These are just a handful of things that will go in to a TCU win, but be sure to leave your keys in the comments. Go Frogs!