Hello everyone and a very happy holiday season to you and yours! It is bittersweet to write this last keys to victory post for 2014, to have one last chance to look ahead to an opponent while reflecting on this most outstanding season we had the pleasure to enjoy. But we aren't done yet - after spending a little quality time over at the SEC blogs, it's obvious most don't respect the Big 12 when it comes to football. While some do predict a TCU win, it's only because of how decimated the Ole Miss O is, not that the Frogs might actually, you know, be good.
So, after three plus weeks for GP and co to game plan, what will TCU be focusing on to disrupt the remaining Rebel offensive players and pick apart the nation's #1 D?
HAPPY TO BE HERE?: The big question on most everyone's minds seems to be, will the Frogs be excited about the Peach Bowl and the opportunity to strut their stuff against an SEC West team, or so crushed and disillusioned by their last minute drop to 6 that they won't show up ready to play? It's a legitimate question for those outside of the program, and 18-22 year olds can certainly be unpredictable emotionally, but it seems that everything coming out of the Frog's bunker is that they are excited to play in "SEC country" against one of the best the western division has to offer - and the only team that it can say it beat #1... twice. This is certainly a proving ground for TCU and Coach Patterson - a chance to take the vaunted SEC down a notch, make a statement to the playoff committee, and frankly, to the rest of the college football landscape. This game is almost as much a "must win" as you can get outside of the playoffs themselves. The boys need to come ready to play and prove themselves - and that starts with #2. He ought to have a big chip on his shoulder after finishing fourth in the Heimsan voting but being left out of the ceremony. I expect that the team we see tomorrow isn't a disappointed one, but an angry one. And that's good news for the purple people.
POISE IN THE POCKET: Boykin's legs are the great X factor in this game - his ability to move and slide in the pocket, break contain, and keep the Ole Miss linebackers guessing, could very well be the difference. Tucking and running won't always be the answer, but if Boykin can run enough to slow down the pass rush, he will buy himself some time to get the ball deep to his play makers. Though the Rebels like to remind us that "YOU'VE NEVER SEEN AN SEC DEFENSE SEC SEC WE ARE THE BEST AT EVERYTHING AND THE BIG 12 SUCKS SEC SEC ALL SEC ALWAYS", I think we have seen a similar defensive line in the group Texas put on the field, led by Malcolm Brown. That Texas front kept Boykin on his heels, and bottled him up pretty effectively for the most part. The offensive line's ability to create a pocket and allow Boykin to set his feet will be crucial to the Frog's overall success - and the longer he has to throw, the longer the excellent Ole Miss corners will have to cover, and the more likely the talented receivers in purple will be able to break free.
PROTECT AND SERVE: As in protect the rock and serve up a healthy dose of the run game. Boykin has been so good with the ball this year - he throws a lot of jump balls, but has been exceptional at placing those passes where his receiver is the only one that can make a play on it. His accuracy has been good on the deep ball, and much improved on the shorter passes, and he knows how to get his weapons the ball in space and let them do the heavy lifting. A healthy Deante' Gray should make a huge difference - no one has been better for TCU at turning nothing in to something, and he has shown a shiftiness in open space that will be unparalleled on the field Wednesday. By mixing up the looks on offense and continuing to make smart decisions with the football, hopefully the Frogs can keep the ball in their hands all the way to the end zone. With B.J. Catalon out (all of the sad), the bulk of the run game will once again fall on the broad shoulders of Aaron Green, who has more than filled in during Catalon's pro-longed absence. It would be great to see more from Hicks and Johnson, who have been great in garbage time but haven't gotten many meaningful carries down the stretch. Boykin may run more than he did late in the season as well - with this being the last game of the season, he won't be thinking past what happens to close 2014, and may take a few more calculated risks than we saw down the stretch.
LAND SHARK? THESE FROGS CAN SWIM: The legend of the Land Shark is a great story and an awesome symbol specific to Ole Miss, and why they chose the bear over that I will never know. In fact, why they have two mascots is stupid in it's own right. A little jealous of Auburn, are they? Back to the task at hand... the Ole Miss D is good, very good. The Ole Miss D is often quite great in fact, and sports several all conference and All-Americans selections, led by the outstanding Senquez Golson at corner. But the TCU D is pretty good too, and though they don't have the stats of their Rebel counterparts, I think they play as fast and physical as their SEC brethren. I know that my new friend Logo from RCR will probably throw a slurry of F+ and Q- and WVJTHBTBM#$% stats at me, but that doesn't mean a whole lot across conferences in my humble (and I am sure incorrect) opinion. All I know, is that when we have needed a stop, or needed a turnover, or needed a momentum swinging play, someone on this defense has stepped up time and time again. Yeah, there's one outlier, but we don't need to talk about that. The Ole Miss run game hasn't been stellar, and it will be the focus of the D to first shut that down. If they can make the Rebel offense one dimensional, then getting in to the back field and putting pressure on Bo Wallace will be the next step. If they can force a few bad throws, maybe get a strip sack, or at least keep them operating in third and long, that bodes well for the Frogs. It will be crucial that Mallett and Dawson stuff any attack at the line and can also make life tough for the Rebels' exceptional tight end, and that Carter and Hackett hold up in coverage as well as having the freedom to make plays on any off target passes. But I am going to go out on a limb here and say the defensive player of the game is the much improved freshman - Ranthony Texada. Texada played so well down the stretch, and with a few weeks off to get in the film room and break down tape, he could be the breakout star of the bowl game.
THE (REAL) DOCTOR IS IN: Josh Doctson battled an ankle injury the latter half of the season, and once he got close to 100%, he went off against Texas. With a couple weeks to get fully healed, he should be able to be very effective tomorrow, even facing the all world corner that will likely line up across from him. Doctson's combination of size, speed, and separation ability is special - and he is as underrated as any receiver in the country in my opinion. If he can make a couple big plays and consistently draw a help defender or double coverage, he will open up opportunities for Listenbee and Gray to break free for a big play or a deep shot. Ty Slanina has been a bit of the forgotten man the last couple of weeks but should have some space in the middle of the field, and David Porter seems poised to break out as well. The receiving core has a chance to make a huge statement, but it will be up to our Doc to put them in the position to do so.
Well, friends, I hope to see many of you in ATL and wish you all safe travels if you are headed to the game. Let me know your keys in the comments, and as always, GO FROGS!!!