As soon as Derrick Kindred opened the second half in Manhattan with a pick-6, I had a feeling--way, way, deep in my stomach--that TCU had a real shot at a comeback. And I get it, Leonard Fournette is a once-in-a-decade running back, but between Trevone Boykin's brassy block to set up Aaron Green's touchdown, his 69-yard touchdown run, and the literally perfect throw to Josh Doctson, it's questionable why anyone would have him behind Fournette in the Heisman voting after Saturday's game.
The two most amazing things about TCU's comeback were (a) the Horned Frog defense opening the second half with a pick-6, then forcing Kansas State to punt four times out their first five drives after letting the same offense score 28 in the second quarter alone; and (b) somehow finding a way to score over triple what they did in the first half despite Kansas State eating a tremendous amount of clock.
Shortly after the air was sucked out of Manhattan, Snyder said to Boykin, "Go win ‘em all". Message received. Talking heads, of all outlets, aside, the goal is to just win them all. By 1, or by 100, it doesn't matter.
Iowa State Preview:
At this point, I hate night games on the road. I hate road games in general. Iowa State still isn't great, but they aren't as terrible as the team TCU shellacked the day before the Playoff Committee told them and their archrival Baylor, "nah."
Like last Saturday, TCU's undersized--which is not to say bad--linebackers put TCU on the ropes. Granted, a bad punt and not-so-great kick from Ethan Perry that resulted in the Wildcats scoring a touchdown on their first drive, and Boykin's two interceptions--neither of which were his fault--all contributed the large 18-point deficit from which TCU somehow overcame.
The good news for TCU is that Sam B. Richardson doesn't run that much, and the Cyclones pass the ball 57% of the time, for which Richardson has 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. That's encouraging not only because he's prone to interceptions, but also because as much as they pass--and should the Cyclones even make it kind of interesting for TCU--at the very least Boykin, Doctson, Green, and KaVontae Turpin will have more than enough time to respond. Plus, against Tech's meh defense, Richardson threw three picks, had only 10 completions among 21 attempts--which is well below his season average--all for a measly 139 yards. If you're TCU's secondary, while athletic, but still learning the basic concept of turning your head around when the ball is in the air, that's a comforting statistic. Despite B. Richardson being semi-reluctant to throw the football, he still has really good, really physical receivers who do a great job of gaining yards after a given catch. Iowa State has five receivers with over 140 yards receiving; Allen Lazard (259), D'Vario Montgomery (225), Jauan Wesley (181), Quenton Bundrage (178), and Dondre Daley (149). With that many consistent weapons, it wouldn't be crazy to assume that Richardson will test the corners more and try to get the ball to outside receivers, who could out-muscle the roller-coaster that is the TCU secondary.
The bad news is that Mike Warren had 245 yards against Texas Tech in Lubbock. Granted, we know that the Red Raider defense is worse than the TCU defense when it plays on the road. Thankfully, you won't see blocking like Kansas State's in this game--and I still have yet to be convinced that a running back can tear apart the Horned Frog linebackers like a 6-4 power-running quarterback can--but hey, weirder things have happened. It's also comforting knowing that Iowa State won't do anything too cute; they won't run much to the outside, and unlike Kansas State (and thankfully for the TCU's modestly sized linebackers) B. Richardson is rarely used as a decoy runner. That doesn't mean the Frogs shouldn't be worried about Warren. Since he emerged as the Cyclones' greatest offensive weapon since the loss at Toledo, Warren has only gotten better each game; gaining 126 at Toledo, 175 against Kansas, and 245 against Texas Tech. Patterson is always really good with shutting down the run, and TCU's defensive line seems ready. Terrell Lathan and Mike Tuaua being back has helped TCU out tremendously since the Texas game. Still, the Frogs best not sleep on Warren.
With Trent Taylor and Pierre Aka laying a solid foundation, Iowa State's defensive line is probably the best it's been in years and probably since Paul Rhoads has been the head coach in Ames. Their main linebacker corps, made up of Kane Sealey, Levi Peters, and Jordan Harris, isn't as good as the one TCU saw in Manhattan--though the Frogs and Aaron Green worked around it--but Green and TCU's offensive line will make it work. Tech gained 261 yards on the ground last Saturday on 31 carries; they did so mainly with Deandre Washington, Justin Stockton, and Demarcus Felt--the three of whom only totaled 21 carries.
TCU's bread and butter Saturday will be, you guessed it: Boykin to Doctson. The sweetest damn line you'll ever hear. I gave a lot of credit to Iowa State for doing a pretty good job with an undefeated Iowa team; a team they lost to at home, but regardless, it's a place where they play much, much better. The Hawkeyes beat them by two scores, but they did it all on the ground. Iowa's identity is very much that of a run-heavy team, but even they attacked heavily through the air and did it with great success. Boykin and the weapons around him should have a field day with the Cyclone secondary; regardless of how efficient their linebacker corps is, their defensive line isn't good enough to consistently get to and pressure Boykin; thus, the TCU quarterback will have plenty of time to pick apart the defensive backs. Whether Kolby Listenbee will be used like he was in 2014 remains to be seen. His speed is undeniably powerful weapon, but the Frogs have adapted successfully without relying on the deep shots to the track star. As underwhelming as the Iowa State secondary is, peppered in with the fact that Boykin's accuracy is much improved since last season, Listenbee--assuming he's at full health--could have his biggest game of the year Saturday night in Ames.
TCU 55, Iowa State 37:
Gambling has never been one of my vices, but whatever the line ends up being, give the Cyclones three more points and expect TCU not to cover--even if it's still a blowout. So my score above is with a 21-point line, and truth be told...I actually kind of like that score. I mean, I'd much rather our defense hold the Cyclones to less than 20, and it pains me that there's even a possibility of Iowa State putting up nearly 40 on a Gary Patterson defense.
I'm just not sold with us playing on the road, much less at night. Thankfully Ames isn't Manhattan. This isn't a knock, Ames is great, but I think we'd all be lying if we said Manhattan at night is a much scarier place to play when a you're going up against a wizard. The Cyclones just don't have enough speed to keep up with TCU. Like we said above, their secondary is far from great and Boykin should cut through it, both with his legs and arm, rather easily. It'll never get to panic mode like last Saturday, but I see Iowa State scoring more than they should.
Silver lining: TCU gets a nice little break after this and they'll get a week and some change to prepare for a West Virginia team who seem a lot less scary than they did two weeks ago.