Kansas seems oh so long ago, and since the semi-disaster in Lawrence, much has changed the landscape of the College Football Playoff. But one thing that has stayed the same, is the Frogs are the #5 team in the country, and there is an all important two spot gap between them and the Bears (#BaylorBeatTCUandNoOneReallyCares). Is there anything the Frogs can do to fend off Ohio State and Baylor for two more weeks? If there is, it starts with their performance tomorrow night.
HUNGRY - Yes it's Thanksgiving, a day where we are legally obligated to stuff our faces with delicious foodstuffs. But for the Frogs, they need to eat the beef, not the turkey. The Longhorns have an excellent run game, led by former TCU recruits Johnathan Gray (regretting that one, buddy?) and Daje Johnson, as well as Malcolm Brown, and it will be crucial that the big boys up front, led by Chuck Hunter, as well as Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallett, eat those guys up and stuff them at the line, behind the line, or with minimal gain. Run defense has been the strength of the TCU D this season, and if they can force UT and Tyrone Swoopes to be one dimensional by rendering that run game ineffective, the advantage lies squarely on the shoulders of GP's crew.
NO BIG PLAYS - I will be attending my first game at DKR, but from what I remember in watching this matchup on TV two years ago, the Thanksgiving Day crowd may be a little sparser than normal. To keep however many of them show up out of the game, TCU needs to fix their achilles heel and not allow the big play, through the air or on the ground. Swoopes isn't known for the deep ball, but he can hit it (just ask ISU), and anything that gives him swagger is very very bad for the Frogs. UT's longest offense scoring play this season only went for 45 yards, and while they have receptions for over 60 and runs for over 40, they are more of a grind it out squad than big play or bust type of team. Shutting down receiver John Harris will be key, as he has a nose for the end zone (seven scores on the season), and limiting Jaxson Shipley in the intermediate stuff will also be crucial. TCU has been effective in stopping the short stuff, so unless Strong decides to put a lot more long pass plays in the playbook, the Frogs have a chance to be very effective. On a side note, how many Shipleys are there and how are any still in school?
ROAD WARRIORS - While the Frogs have a signature road win (at WVU, which isn't an easy thing to do - just ask Baylor), they have yet to play good football away from Hell's Half Acre. Texas may very well be the best defense the team has seen all year, and performing at a high level against the best on the road is a tall task. But if the Frogs are focused on winning a conference championship and staying (ahead of the Bears) in the playoff conversation, nothing less than their best on the field will suffice tomorrow night. The forecast looks ideal, with temps in the mid 50's at kickoff, so maybe the weather woes won't be an issue this game, unlike WVU and KU where the cold seemed to really effect the offense. One other factor - this game hasn't been a big draw for UT the past two years, as the fans don't seem willing to give up their holiday with their team struggling - but in the midst of such a special season, could we see a loud, proud, and large pro-TCU contingent at DKR that could help this feel a little more friendly?
BOYKIN'S (NEXT) SIGNATURE MOMENT - The flip that will live in infamy will certainly make his highlight reel, but tomorrow night, Trevone Boykin will have a national audience all to himself, and one last real chance to show America what makes him, and the Frogs, so special. There will be a lot of pressure on Deuce, not only to win the game, but to take the last big step towards a conference title (sorry Iowa State), to make one last push in the Heisman voting, and maybe to bring the Davey O'Brien back where it belongs as well. Boykin has been calm and composed all season long, and to a man, the Frogs say his leadership and heart are as big a reason that they have had the success that they have had this year as anything. He needs to keep doing what he has been doing all year - make the right read, take care of the football, and run when the opportunity presents itself. Play within his immense skill set, and TCU should have a good day at the office.
RUN THE BALL - Looking back on TCU's conference road games, there is one consistent thread - both comebacks, against WVU and KU, started on the shoulders of the run game. The other game got out of hand when the Frogs stopped running the ball and weren't able to move the chains while the clock ran. So... let's run the ball tomorrow, mmkay? GP had no news on B.J. Catalon, though one report on twitter (reliability...) says he is questionable with a shoulder injury - take that for what you will. Without a healthy Catalon, heavy doses of Aaron Green, lots of read options with Boykin taking off, and hopefully one of the young guy stepping up and providing a spark with either speed (Kyle Hicks) or power (Trevorris Johnson). UT has held opponents to under four yards per attempt, while the Frogs have averaged 5.5 per attempt on the year. My guess is whichever team wins that battle, wins the game.
Safe travels to everyone headed off to spend the holiday with friends and family as well as those heading to ATX for the game. Happy Thanksgiving and lets all feast on beef tomorrow night!