It seems like it has been forever since we have had the chance to play under the lights at The Carter, but Saturday should be well worth the wait. Playing a top ten team at home has worked out well for the Frogs in the past, and if TCU wants to control their own post season destiny, they will need to do so again tomorrow night. But Bill Snyder's Cats present a completely different challenge than the Frogs have seen this year, a very veteran team that plays a slower pace than most of the Big 12. What will TCU look to do to take down the Cats under the lights tomorrow night?
11AM CAN'T MATTER - It's really easy to forget that these are 18-22 year old kids playing a game, especially in the middle of a successful season like the Frogs are involved in now. I would imagine our boys will be well aware of what happens in Norman in the morning - if Baylor has won, a win will keep them in the playoff hunt, but almost eliminate any shot at a conference championship; if OU has pulled the upset, TCU is not only playing for their playoff lives, but to control their own destiny for the elusive Big 12 crown. That's a lot of pressure for a bunch of kids, but so far, they have risen to the challenge again and again. No matter what happens outside of the stadium and around the Big 12, TCU needs to take care of their own business against a very good team Saturday night. Win, and the rest will fall in to place.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE - The TCU defense forced five turnovers Saturday in Morgantown, giving the offense great field position time and time again - only to see them squander it with their ineptitude. Three interceptions and two forced fumbles were an indication that the D was all over the field, and no matter what the offense did or didn't do with it, they kept giving them the ball. Kansas State is a very disciplined team, and there shouldn't the weather issues that plagued WVU last week, but forcing them in to mistakes and winning the field position battle will be a big key to victory. I don't expect the offense to be so bad this week, not at home in near perfect conditions, so if they are giving the ball in plus territory, they ought to be able to do something with it more often than not. On the flip side, Trevone Boykin and co need to protect the rock, and can't afford to give it up to a Cats D that has been opportunistic. TCU leads the nation with a +2.1 turnover ratio per game, and the Cats aren't far behind, sporting a +0.9. That one TO advantage, if it again falls in the Frogs favor, could be the difference in the game.
WE LEFT THE O IN TEXAS, TIME TO PICK IT UP - Apparently, the Frog offense doesn't travel well out of state, as it was about three quarters late arriving in Morgantown. But at home, those Frogs sure do fly. TCU averages close to 600 yards per game at Amon G, while scoring 48 points per game. Boykin's passing yards per game is also significantly higher, as he is 90 yards per game better in the friendly confines. Kansas State has also not been as good defensively on the road - they have given up almost 150 more yards per game away from Manhattan, allowing 426 yards per contest to the opposition. I don't expect a shootout (though nothing would surprise me all that much), but the Flyin Frog O desperately needs to get back on track under the lights, to keep the pressure off of the D and, as much as anything, keep the fans in to the game for a full four quarters. K State has been traditionally a ball control type of offense, but this season, they have loosened up the reigns. I don't think Boykin and co need to keep up necessarily, but they do need to set the tone and the tempo, and dare the Cats D to contain them.
WHITE V LOCKETT WILL BE HUGE - The Kevin White shutdown tour continues tomorrow, as he will face another of the Big 12's best receivers for the second time in seven days. Lockett has been one of the best receivers in the conference for the past four seasons, but hasn't put up high numbers in the big games this year. Lockett's didn't play great in his last biggest game of the season, against Auburn, when he had six receptions for only 45 yards. His best two games have come against Tech (not impressive) and Texas (pretty impressive), where he went over 100 yards in each contest and pulled in two scores against the Red Raiders. But he has been a Frog killer over the years, destroying Jason Verrett last year to the tune of eight grabs for 123 yards, and making the plays that gave them an opportunity to win after TCU;s furious comeback in the second half. But it's not just shutting down Lockett that matters, it's the ability to cover him without having to always provide safety help, and thus expose the second and third corners to a one on one matchup with a good receiver. Curry Sexton is a good receiver in his own right, and Kansas State uses these weird positions, called something like "tight end" and "fullback" (and in that one they have another one of those Gronk boys), pretty effectively as well. So if White can handle Lockett, the rest of the TCU D will be free to wreak havoc up front and keep Jake Waters uncomfortable.
WHO RUNS IT - If B.J. Catalon misses this game, or plays at anything short of full strength, the question of who will step to fill the void becomes a gib one. Catalon does it all - he runs as well as anyone in the conference, does an excellent job of hitting the hole, and has that second gear to run away from people. But where he is just as valuable is in pass protection, where he is excellent at chipping and picking up free rushers, buying time for Boykin to scramble and find an open man down field. Green has been great with the ball in his hands this season, averaging 8.5 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns. From what I can see, he is adequate in pass pro, and though he isn't quite the receiving threat out of the backfield that Catalon is, he has shown the ability to make a catch when called upon. But what has made the TCU running attack so effective is its depth - after Catalon there's Boykin, after Boykin Green, and when you've beat the opponents front line down long enough, you serve them a healthy dose of Trevorris Johnson to finish them off. The fans have been clamoring for more TJ, and they may get their wish if B.J. is a no go. But I am concerned about both he and Hick's ability to pick up the blitz, and my guess is that's why they haven't gotten more snaps to this point.
What are your keys to victory for tomorrow? Leave them in the comments, and I will see you all under the lights!