Happy thoughts everyone. Happy thoughts. About everything that could have gone wrong for TCU last week, short of actually losing a game, did. I know. It's a little upsetting. At the same time, consider what I just said. The worst thing that could have happened to us last week was to lose, and we didn't; we're 1-0. Now that the first true test of the season is behind us, we get to play two much less talented teams at home before we have to go on the road to Lubbock.
The more manageable part of our non-conference schedule begins on Saturday. No disrespect to Stephen F. Austin, but I'm definitely feeling a lot less anxious about playing the Lumberjacks this week. The thing that makes me feel best about playing them this week is that our defense doesn't have to go up against Gus "The Bus" Johnson, who is now on the Cowboy's practice squad after leading the team in rushing during the preseason. After the tough, physical game they got last week from Minnesota's rushing attack, I'm glad that we'll be lining up against an offensive line with an average weight of 272 lbs. We do still have to go up against their 6'6", 237 lbs junior QB Zach Conque, who threw for 2,733 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 626 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014. That will be no easy task. Here's what the Frogs need to focus on to take care of business this weekend:
PROTECT THE CARTER: TCU won two home contests in 2012, and not a single one against a Big XII opponent. In 2013 they won three home games, managing to take down Southeastern Louisiana, SMU and Kansas. However, as recently as 2011, TCU owned a 20 game home winning streak dating back to 2007. In the Mountain West days it was seldom that you left The Cater without a smile on your face. The first couple of years in the Big XII were humbling, but now we have a new home wining streak: seven games. Being an elite program means taking care of business at home, especially against teams that you should beat. This year the Frogs begin the push to stretch that streak to 13 games and re-establish their dominance at home. This weekend we just need to get to eight.
GET UP, GET REPS: SFA is a team that just shouldn't be able to compete with a top 5 ranked program. We need to establish the pace that we want for this game early, get out to a comfortable lead and never look back. If we can succeed at that, it will allow us to get the reps that we need for the twos and threes. In college football, injuries are part of life. When someone goes down you have to have the next man ready to step up, fill that role, and perform at a high level. On defense, we are so young that pretty much everyone needs as many reps as they can get, but the offense needs them too, for the opposite reason. We have eight seniors starting on offense right now. If we aren't able to get up on teams we're supposed to beat, and get the backups some good reps, we could be in for a rocky transition period in 2016.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Coming into this year we all assumed that year two of the Meacham/Cumbie system would be an improvement. It still could/should be, but it wasn't last week in Minnesota. Every position had their own struggles to be honest, and I don't really need to call anyone out here, but when it comes down to brass tacks this offense is predicated on timing. The timing wasn't there last week. A lot of that had to do with the fact that Minnesota's defensive line did a good job of getting penetration and forcing Boykin to make decisions with less-than-ideal time to do so. To be effective offensively like we were last year, we have to be able to connect on the deep ball. We have to have better timing. And in all reality, if we make it to the playoff, we're going to face teams that can get pressure on the quarterback. In a week where we should see less, I want to see the offense's timing be crisp and on point like it was the majority of the time last year.
PLAY HARD, STAY HEALTHY: For the love of God. Right? I know that injuries happen, but could we simmer down with all of these players getting hurt for a second? The thing that I sometimes forget about when it comes to TCU's 12-1 season in 2014, is that the team as a whole stayed remarkably healthy throughout the year. We only had a few starters miss time with injury, and most of them were back after a couple of weeks tops. Very quickly, this year is shaping up to be a different story. News came out earlier this week that we've already lost our most experience linebacker for the season, and our most experienced pass-rusher as well. Then, Freeze took an indefinite leave of absence. Patterson has always preached a "next man up" philosophy and that is the nature of the beast in football. The good news is that we have reasonably good depth at those positions and, while the backups are young, I expect Patterson to whip them into the best versions of themselves by year's end. In the meantime though, I'm just going to hope for no more injuries. At least for a little while. That's not too much to ask, right?