As the beginning of conference play, it’s often the case that the next game is the most important one. That’s certainly the case for TCU Saturday, as they will welcome in preseason conference favorite Oklahoma, who has stumbled out of the gate but still presents a massive challenge for a TCU team that hasn’t quite established an identity through the first month of the season.
For TCU, a win is imperative; losing to an unranked Sooner team would be a huge blow to their conference title hopes and flip the national narrative, while a win could vault them into the top 15 and set the Frogs up for a potential conference title run. What will it take for TCU to beat OU in Fort Worth for the second straight time? Let’s explore the Keys to the Game.
BACK IN BLACK:
I love the helmets. LOVE. THEM. They are perfect and lovely and you won’t change my mind. So with these shiny new domes, slick black unis, and a stadium that should be rocky under the ligh... - oh yeah it’s an afternoon game because OU is 1-2, thanks - ok under the sun on what should be a beautiful fall day, the Frogs are primed to take advantage of a crowd that will be in full throat. The students do well in these big games, and the players tend to respond in kind, and while Coach Patterson would like to see his team generate more emotion from within themselves, they will certainly draw from the crowd as well this afternoon.
Yes, Oklahoma has the more highly touted running back duo, and rightfully so. But the Frog’s have a pretty good one-two punch of their own as well, with the explosive and dynamic Kyle Hicks and the hard-running Trevorris Johnson. TJ has seemingly earned back the trust from the coaching staff, and has been the primary backup in the fourth quarter the past two weeks. He can wear down the defense in a way that is reminiscent of Perine for OU, and deploying him early could pay dividends late. TCU will need to control the tempo of the game on the ground to have success, and a three-headed monster of Hicks/Johnson/Hill could go a long way to securing a much-needed win at home.
DON’T DO TOO MUCH:
Both quarterbacks have a history of trying to put the world on their shoulders, with mixed results. Baker has gotten cooked by forcing the issue and trying to make the big play against two really good teams in Ohio State and Houston, while Kenny Hill has thrown a few terribly interceptions in the name of wanting to will his team on. Making the right reads, knowing when to keep a play alive verses when to tuck and run, and taking what the defense gives you as opposed to making the play they want to make, will be the difference between which QB is celebrated and which one sees their fanbase crushed. They both desperately need this win - but playing with desperation can often lead to disaster. We need Kenny Chill to show up today, not the former trill dude.
HOLD THE LINE:
Neither of these defenses has done much to impress to start the season, though there seems to be hope around the Fort that the TCU D is starting to finally turn the corner after shutting out SMU save the opening drive. This game will be won in the trenches - which defensive line can harass the opposing QB forcing them into mistakes, which which group can either ignite the running game or stuff it into abandonment, which of the big bodies sets the tone early and controls it late. TCU has looked better in the last two weeks when it comes to pressuring the QB, but neither Ben Hicks or Joel Lanning holds a candle to Baker Mayfield when it comes to athletic ability and footwork. He presents a unique challenge, but has shown to this point this season that if you can make him uncomfortable, he will make mistakes.
Ultimately, this game will come down to which team executes their game plan better, and who can grab the momentum both early and late. It’s one the Frogs and Sooners both really need, and I expect it to come down to the last possession.