The other day on Twitter, TCU grads and former football wide receivers Josh Boyce and David Porter raised an interesting question: if the undefeated, Rose Bowl Champion, 2010 squad, and the one-loss, Big XII and Peach Bowl Champion 2014 squad, were to play a game against each other, who would win? A lot of former Frogs got involved in the debate, each taking the side of the team they played for, of course.
It's an interesting question, and there's no easy answer. But I thought it might be fun to break them down, side by side, and position by position, to see which group might hypothetically come out on top. For this exercise, we are focusing just on starters and/or key players.
Andy Dalton vs Trevone Boykin
The Red Rifle vs Deuce Boogie is an intriguing matchup in so many ways, not the least of which is because of how different the two players are. Dalton was never going to wow you with his arm strength, while Boykin can drop 75 yard bombs with ease. On the other hand, Andy's accuracy and decision making were some of the best in college football over the course of his career, while questions about his touch and ability to hit the medium range route have followed Boykin through the pre-draft process. Dalton was mobile enough to make plays with his feet, but wasn't going to beat a defense with his feet with regularity, while Boykin is so good with his legs that he left opposing coaches in awe. Ultimately, picking one of these two gunslingers has to take into account the defense they would be playing, and the matchup tells me Boykin could have taken the top off the 2010 defense with long throws to talented receivers and his speed in the open field, while the 2014 defense, led by former QB Sam Carter, could have contained a potent O on the other side.
Jeremy Kerley and Josh Boyce vs Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee
This one is fun. Doc is arguably the greatest receiver in TCU history, and 2014 was the apex of his career arc. It didn't seem there was a ball in the world that JD couldn't go up and get, and the double and triple teams he drew left teammate Kolby Listenbee open for the kill shot deep time and time again. On the other side, Jeremy Kerley had moves on moves for the Horned Frogs, and was nearly impossible to take down in the open field. Kerley averaged ten yards a reception in 2010 with ten scores, numbers that don't jump off the page when you look at the video game stats of the Air Raid, but were pretty damn impressive just a few years prior. Boyce is another target with NFL credentials, and he has a Super Bowl ring to prove it, and his hands were as reliable as they come. If you look past the two big names to guys like Bart Johnson, Jimmy Young, and Antoine Hicks in 2010 and David Porter, Ty Slanina, and Deante Gray in 2015, the separation might be greater, as the Peach Bowl team had an almost embarrassment of riches. Plus, Doc might be the best ever to don the purple. The 2014 group takes this one by a significant margin (sorry Kerley :-\).
Waymon James, Ed Wesley, and Matthew Tucker vs Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks, and Trevorris Johnson
This is where things get interesting. The three headed monster of James, Wesley, and Tucker gave the Frogs a dangerous and varied array of talented runners that could beat opponents in a myriad of ways. Meanwhile, Aaron Green might be the most talented player of any name on the list, but a still recovering Kyle Hicks and a young Johnson can't measure up to their counterparts on the other side. Waymon James didn't burst on to the scene really until a couple years after the Rose Bowl, but he had a certain shimmy and shake that put fear into the hearts and helmets of opponents.
Jake Kirkpatrick, Marcus Cannon, Jeff Olson, and Blaize Foltz vs Tayo Fabuluje, Joey Hunt, Big V, and Brady Foltz
Another tough battle, this one in the trenches, as both offensive lines feature a bevy of experience and talent. Kirkpatrick might be one of the toughest and smartest players to come through Gary Patterson's program, and Cannon was as dominant as they come. While Tayo is in the NFL now, and Big V is likely to be, it seems the best years are still ahead for both of them. I give the nod, by a hair, to the Rose Bowl group.
Wayne Daniels, Ross Forrest, Stansley Maponga vs James McFarland, Chucky Hunter, Davion Pierson, Mike Tuaua, and Terrell Lathan
No offense to the 2010 group, but that 2014 defensive line was STACKED. Part of what made that defense so damn good was the depth at each position - especially on the line. Gary Patterson and Dick Bumpas had a plethora of guys to send at the opposing quarterback, and they got there a lot. While the 40 sacks they produced weren't all from the line, enough of them were as a direct result of either the action of the attention they commanded. And you can't forget the yards against - opponents managed less than three yards per carry against them. The guys in 2010 weren't slouches by any stretch, but the star power and rotation of the Peach Bowl team gives them the win.
Tanner Brock and Tank Carder vs Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallett
Tank Carder gave TCU one of the single best moments in their athletics history when he tipped a pass at the goal line on a two point conversion to secure a Rose Bowl win. Tanner Brock gave the Frogs one of the worst, when he was arrested in a campus-wide drug string that humiliated the campus and community and left a dark stain on Gary Patterson's football program. On the other side of the debate, Paul Dawson went from lightly-recruited wide receiver to All-American and an NFL roster on the strength of one of the most productive seasons ever by a TCU linebacker - something that speaks volumes when you look at the guys who have come through Fort Worth recently. Marcus Mallet was by his side on the field and in the box score, as he racked up more than 100 tackles of his own. Dawson's pick six against Oklahoma was one of the greatest and loudest moments at Amon G Carter in recent memory, and while it was no Immaculate Deflection, it was pretty great in it's own right. Sorry Tank, I'm picking PJ and the Mallet.
Colin Jones, Tejay Johnson, Tekkerrien Cuba, Jason Teague, and Greg McCoy vs Derrick Kindred, Chris Hackett, Sam Carter, Kevin White, and Ranthony Texada
Wow, these two teams were stacked in the back, weren't they? Colin Jones has carved quite a niche for himself in the NFL, and the rest of his backfield mates were excellent collegiate players who accounted for ten picks among themselves and their mates and limited opponents to less than 130 passing yards per game and 10 passing touchdowns. The 2014 team were turnover forcing machines, picking off 19 passes in the secondary in the pass happy Big XII, and allowing 230 yards per game to opponents - which seems like a lot more, but when you look at the offenses they were playing, is probably more impressive. This may be a bit of recency bias, but the way they flew to the ball and forced opposing QB's into so many bad decisions makes the 2014 group so exciting and fun to watch. The 2010 team was probably more statistically dominant, but the Peach Bowl team was far more athletic.
Ross Evans and Anson Kelton vs Jaden Oberkrom and Ethan Perry
Do we even need to debate this? Jaden and Ethan in a landslide.
Jeremy Kerley and Greg McCoy vs Cameron Echols-Luper, BJ Catalon, and Deante' Gray
CEL and company were really, really good. But Kerley was special. While he didn't get into the end zone that year, he did average 13 yards per punt return and 28 yards per kick return, on top of putting fear into the hearts of kickers and punters every time he touched the ball. BJ was the best returner of the bunch in 2014, averaging over 30 yards per touch, but only had eight touches. Kerley wins this one easily.
By my count, that's 6-3 in favor of the 2014 group, making them, in my opinion, the best TCU team of the modern era. But, it's also important to remember that what the Peach Bowl team accomplished probably never happens without the 13-0 Rose Bowl group; the Big XII invite, the recruiting bump, the national profile, all came to be because of what that first undefeated team pioneered. While we will never know what might have been had the playoffs been in existence in 2010, or if the 2014 group had gotten the invite, it's safe to safe that both teams were at the pinnacle of the sport in the time that they played. Let your voice be heard in the comments - which position groups do you think would win out? Which players did I not mention? What one on one matchup would you most like to see?