A lot can happen between now and when TCU travels to Stillwater in November for the third time in four years; once again, thank the ever-gracious Aggies for that one. After the Horned Frogs beat the Cowboys last year, Mike Gundy's team completely fell apart their next seven games before piecing things together at the tail end, and thus gave T. Boone Pickens and their fans something to be cautiously optimistic about. This optimism, of course, mostly has to do with their massive Bedlam win led by quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Here's a quick TD;DR primer:
- TCU and Oklahoma State meet in Stillwater for the third time in four years. #ThanksAggies
- Mason Rudolph is the key for the Cowboys
- The Frogs finally won in 2014; stopping Oklahoma State three times in the redzone. The offense and defense were both flawless that game; and coming off of the Baylor defeat, it was arguably their most important win of 2014
- Playing in Stillwater in November will be no easy task; Rudolph and the 'Boys, should they live up to the underdog hype will be in top form by that point. If TCU's last early November games are an indication--'14's Kansas game in particular--this is TCU's "trap game" for 2015...if we're even allowed to call it that.
- Almost a reversal of Texas, Oklahoma State will be able to score points; and regardless of who comes out on top, and the margin of that victory, we'll see a lot of points from both teams
The Past, Last Year
After two very weird games in Stillwater--both of which the Frogs gave themselves a chance to win--TCU got revenge and made fools out of Mike Gundy's squad in part for (a) not only the previous two match-ups, but probably more so for (b) the Baylor frustrations they needed to get out of their system.
The 2012 Oklahoma State game had an extremely positive start; I mean, TCU went in there with newish quarterback, struck first, and ended up controlling most of the first half, leading 14-9 going into the the 3rd. The Cowboys absolutely dominated the second half, however: scoring nearly 30 points whilst holding TCU scoreless, simply wearing them out on both sides of the ball. That was a weekend where everyone was celebrating Halloween; I went as sad TCU fan and stayed in my duplex. The lack of depth killed the Frogs in 2012, just as a complete lack of offense killed them in 2013. Ironically, the incompetent offense in 2013--and yes, that's the polite way to put--had a much better chance to win, despite being down 17-0 at the half. Outscoring the Pokes in the second half--10 to 7 mind you--it was a game where Jason Verrett and the defense literally kept their offense in the game, and had the Frogs pulled it off, it would've been the rare case in which a defense had literally won a game by themselves. It was somehow worse than getting 27 points hung on you in a second half by a Wes Lunt offense, and then scoring none yourself in the same timeframe.
This pretty much sums up the first two years in Stillwater
If it means anything, that's when I knew it had to change. That's when I knew that Jarrett Anderson and Rusty Burns couldn't call plays in the Big 12; at least not with a quarterback like Trevone Boykin. I cringe to think back to that season where I'd get out of my seat and cheer every time the offense went 10+ yards. To their credit; their offense did make scoring feel like that molly-Binaca Ani Bezzerides got whilst undercover before shivving Texas' equivalent to Foghorn Leghorn.
2014 made it clear that TCU was a system change away from being one of the better teams in the Big 12. And perhaps no non-TCU person was as vocal about that as Mike Gundy. Oklahoma State has always been a sort of a friend to the Frog, as Gundy was one of the earliest, positive voices in bringing TCU to the Big 12. Gundy was right to be vocal too. His No. 15 Cowboys were coming off of a hard loss against Kansas State, and looking to regain some footing, after the Frogs were all but literally gutted by Baylor the previous weekend. And that's why, all things considered, the Oklahoma State game may have been TCU's most impressive; and also, arguably, their most important.
Gus Johnson, always a TCU fanboy
It was almost a reset game. You can either get pissed off, and go down one road and keep winning; or, you can let the Baylor game haunt, and cast a shadow for the rest of your season. The Frogs chose the former, and damn did it look good. The Cowboys drove into the red zone multiple times; and TCU made them settle for a field on every trip. For glimpses in the first of the first half, particular the first quarter, Oklahoma State looked as if they could hang with a vengeful TCU team; most notably a fantastic fat guy interception. Yes, the Frogs were up 21-3 midway through the 1st quarter, but as the commentators pointed out, Big leads in the Big 12 don't always last. The Cowboys kept getting into the redzone--chipping away to a 21-9 deficit halfway through the 2nd--and had they put it in the endzone at least once, the game could've very been different. It was also the first game where I knew how important Ranthony Texada would be in 2015. Breaking up a big, deep strike, Texada thwarted yet another Oklahoma State touchdown opportunity.
I've seen a lot of football, maybe not as much as others, sure; but I can't remember seeing a team, at least not in the SEC, get into the redzone that many times and not score; and the only Gundy's squad were going to get in the redzone after coming so far was to take John Candy hostage with a BB gun. Yet, because TCU was so in-synch and going full throttle on both sides of the ball, it made it nearly impossible for the Cowboys to forge any sort of comeback beginning in the second half. By the beginning of the second half, it was clear that the Cowboys were dead on arrival.
Oklahoma State will be better in 2015, and like we said above, there's reason to be cautiously optimistic, and the main for that is Mason Rudolph. The pressure's still on however; and before his Bedlam win, many questioned as to whether Mike Gundy was even a good coach, much less if he should be employed. With a non-conference schedule that carries the weight of a stick of butter, the Cowboys could very well be 8-0 by the time this game occurs on November 7th, possibly 7-1 with a gnarly matchup against West Virginia in Morgantown on October. Should that loss occur, Oklahoma State will have plenty of time to regain their footing with Kansas and Texas Tech, even with the latter being on the road, before they get the Frogs at home.
TL; DR Watch out for:
- Mason Rudolph, QB: First win ever against Oklahoma. That's big. He'll more than likely be the starter, splitting time with;
- J.W. Walsh, the man who we feel like's been in Stillwater forever. Still has a chance to take the majority of snaps, but even if he doesn't, his legs and knack for the offense will be great in short-yard situations
- The defense has plenty of great players including: CB Kevin Peterson, DL Emmanuel Obgah, and LB Ryan Simmons. But they've got a long way to go as they ranked in the bottom half in just about every Big 12 defensive category in 2014
The Pokes will be without Tyreek Hill made the abhorrent decision to choke, and punch his pregnant girlfriend. Hill was a promising talent, but it's safe to say that Oklahoma State, and Big 12 fans alike, are not losing sleep over his departure from the Big 12. Now with Hill dismissed, and Desmond Roland gone; the running game in Stillwater, for the first time in a minute, is very much in question. But this might not matter: whether it's Rudolph, who'll likely start, and play the majority of the games, or they use the legs of J.W. Walsh in short-yardage situations; not only do both of those guys have legs, but there are so many options at receiver that the Pokes should be one of the higher scoring teams in a conference that cuts its teeth on scoring points.
"I still think TCU’s the best team in the country right now...We’ll never know. But I was shocked based on the strength of this league from top to bottom...""TCU has an explosive offense and a quarterback that’s playing lights out..."They’ve been very sound and solid on defense. So I just thought they were the best team in the country, and they’re very good on special teams"
College football in September is euphoric. In October, it's still amazing, but we're a little more used to it; we're in a rhythm, and it's so ingrained in us that we rely more so on hanging out on, and blowing time off of work and school, by reading articles, trolling on message boards, and so on. By October, Texas A&M and Notre Dame are in everyone's playoff predictions. Yet come November, and to use my second True Detective "Church in Ruins" reference in this article; it's full on Ray Velcoro shadowboxing on various substances; and you either walk out of your house happy, or you walk out destroying dozens of model planes.
While the Frogs will get tested in October by Texas, Kansas State, and West Virginia; November is make or break--and that's all there is to it. Whatever team the Longhorns end up being in 2015, it'll still be going through growing pains the first weekend in October; West Virginia, who TCU's only beaten in Morgantown since they both joined the Big 12, will see a very different team, on a Friday nevertheless, than what they saw the last time they came to the Fort; and thus, without a doubt, the game in Manhattan is by far TCU's toughest game in October. November is a different story: The Okahomas plus Baylor will decide whether the Frogs will head to the playoffs or if they'll play in the Texas Bowl.
Friendly reminder: The charts are interactive
In the simplest of terms, to get out of Stillwater alive, TCU just can't lay an egg. And that's fair to say at this point in time. Not unlike where TCU was last year, to express doubt in this team, not so much as competent ball club, but as a contender, is warranted; thus I think we're allowed the liberty of calling it a trap game, or a "laying an egg" game. If the TCU team that played Kansas last year shows up to this game, then yes, the Frogs will probably lose by a touchdown, maybe by 10 (points). But should the offense come out and do what they did in every game last year--except for in Lawrence--Oklahoma State won't be able to keep up. The game may end up being 52-42; but again, and again, and again; TCU scores fast and often.
The Pokes' defense is stellar, not only do they have 3 Preseason All Big 12 players; CB Kevin Peterson, DL Emmanuel Obgah, and LB Ryan Simmons. But it's more than just three names on a computer screen--née a piece of paper; it's trying to figure out, with all their talent, how Oklahoma State will put the pieces together. The Pokes ranked 100th in Nationally in scoring defense last year (7th in the Big 12). As far as the other Big 12 defensive stats go; Oklahoma State finished 7th in total defense, 9th in pass defense efficiency, 8th in pass defense, and 5th in rushing defense. These aren't exactly promising, and if anything; they're concerning. But they do have a plethora of talent, and that part is promising.
I'm not saying the Cowboys won't be a good football team in 2014; it's just, right now, I don't see them as the spoiler of that everyone thinks they'll be. The ever-geniusing guru, Bill Connelly thinks otherwise, and he has plenty of reason to do so. To put in terms we understand; this isn't a team like TCU in 2013 whose average margin of defeat was less than 10. This is a team that scored 27.6 points a game, and who allowed 32. Where I'm standing now, the Pokes are a fine team who could play spoiler; but if they're going to convince anyone they're a real contender and can get through the last third of their schedule; they're going to have to show they've got at least one leg to stand on.
Score Prediction: TCU 52, Oklahoma State 42
This one's going to have a great atmosphere. It'll be colder than shit, and should OSU be 7-1, much less without a loss, they'll be ranked; and that could spell Gameday. Given that TCU's biggest game falls on a Friday, this may be the best chance they get all season for the Gameday crew to host.
In the game itself, Oklahoma State shines nicely on offense--mostly through the luxury of playing at home. The game is air tight through the first half, but TCU pulls away 52-35 late in the 3rd/early in the 4th, simply wearing down the Pokes. Rudolph and Oklahoma State get a few more chances in the 4th, but the youthful defensive steps up big, before allowing a late, garbage-time touchdown. Aside from Baylor, this should be the most points the youthful TCU defense gives up all year.
And on one foggy Bedlam's Eve; Gundy came to say "Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my team tomorrow night?"