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Friday Focus - Keys to Victory, Week Two

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What does TCU need to focus on to ensure a win against a quality opponent?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Bye weeks are the worst. And to think we have another one next week... But in the meantime, we get to see the Frogs against a quality opponent, and one from a Big Five conference. Saturday's game should give us a much better idea of what we can expect from TCU, as the Gophers are a much better opponent than Samford. What do the Frogs need to focus on to take down the Golden Gophers? Here are five things I think will make the difference between and win, and... well... we won't think about the alternative.

  1. Execution - Coach Patterson said that no one knows his scheme and his philosophies better than the staff at Minnesota. GP and Coach Kill are good friends, and have been for quite some time, so I can imagine many secrets have been shared and game plans discussed over the years. Knowing what the opponent will do and stopping it are two different things. Kill and co will have a offensive script drawn up that will look to specifically attack the 4-2-5's weaknesses (can you say QB run?) so it will be critical that Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallett, and co know their assignments - and stick to them. Facing a very capable running back in David Cobb means the read option and play action could wreak havoc on an undisciplined D. But I am sure Bumpas and Co will be prepared. On the offensive side of the ball, Trevone Boykin won't be able to get away with those small miscues that were harmless against Samford, he will need to improve his accuracy, and not leave touchdowns on the field by missing wide open receivers.
  2. Light it Up - We all know Coach Patterson is a class act, and isn't going to go all Art Briles on his good friend Jerry. That being said, TCU needs to score, score big, and score often. Keeping Cobb on the sideline and forcing Minnesota to go to a more air born attack certainly plays in to the Frogs hands - Gopher QB Mitch Leidner is banged up at best, and out at worst. So forcing an ailing QB or an inexperienced one to play catch up would be the best case scenario for the Horned Frog D. Speedster Kolby Listenbee is no longer a well kept secret, and I can about guarantee he won't be sneaking behind the defense for any easy scores this week. Big guys like David Porter, Josh Doctson, and JaJuan Story will be important in the mid range passing game, while Ty Slanina, Listenbee, and Cameron Echols-Luper need to make plays in space.
  3. Big Uglies Playing Pretty - Offensive line play was less than stellar against the Bulldogs, but even a completely dismantled D (I think I saw somewhere that they are starting seven true freshmen on that side of the ball because of injuries), the quality of play will need to be improved or the air raid will get deflated quickly. With two weeks to tighten up protections and correct flaws (and maybe get in a bit better shape), I expect a much better performance from the guys up front. They don't like in size or talent, but need to take the step to ensure success as the opponents get better (well, most of them).
  4. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers - TCU played a clean game when it mattered- there were some blips and bobbles, but nothing that ultimately impacted the result. There is less margin for error on Saturday of course, and in addition to protecting the ball, the D will need to force Minnesota to make mistakes. Ranthony Texada came oh so close to his first collegiate pic two weeks ago, I think he hauls one in this weekend. I also foresee another Mike Tuaua strip sack.
  5. Stop the Run - I made mention of the Gophers excellent running back, David Cobb, earlier, but it bears repeating. If Cobb is allowed to run wild early, it completely changes the game for the Frogs. With the speed of the new O, it's crucial that the D prevents long, sustained drives by the Golden Gophers O. A ground based attack by Minnesota combined with a TCU O that likes to score quickly could spell a lot of plays for the boys on D, and even if the weather is as nice as it's supposed to be, that will wear them down. Forcing Minnesota to play from behind early or shutting down the run game in the first half will go a long way in ensuring the defense is fresh and frenetic in the second half.
This is an important game for TCU - a chance to make a statement early in the season and keep up with the hot start that the rest of the Big 12 (minus Texas) has had. TCU should win - I don't anticipate a blowout, but I don't expect to be biting my nails in to the fourth quarter, either.