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Iowa State @ TCU: Keys to the Game

The Frogs will open the Big 12 season against a team that has given them a little trouble through the years.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

You have to go back to 2013 to find the last time TCU lost back-to-back games, and a year prior to that to find the last loss to the Iowa State Cyclones. While the possibility looms that both could happen Saturday, what with the Frogs reeling from a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks, the 0-2 Cyclones haven’t done much to earn the confidence of their fans or fear of opponents. This is a take care of business weekend - as in, if TCU simply does what they should do, they should come out on top.

Of course, what should happen, and what does happen, seem to be at odds through the early goings of the 2015 College Football season.

Let’s take a look at how TCU can walk away with a much needed win to kick start conference play.

LEAVE THE YELLOW FOR IOWA STATE

Iowa State’s colors are cardinal and gold, but it’s TCU that seems to love yellow through the first two games of the season. The Frogs have been penalized 21 times for 220 yards. To put that in perspective, through the same two game stretch, the Frogs’ starting running back, Kyle Hicks, has 26 attempts for 110 yards. Yep, the Frogs have given away twice as many yards as Hicks has run for. That seems... less than ideal.

We have seen TCU teams like this before; the undisciplined, oft-penalized teams that tend to break out hearts more than make our season. But it’s where they are coming from and when they are occurring that has led to the wringing of hands in 2016. The offensive line has been the biggest culprit, killing drives and momentum with holding calls and chop blocks time and time again. Yes, they are young, but still: you have one job, guys.

Also, I don’t care if it means Rising Kings, Roundhouse Kick, Retched Karma, or is actually a throat slash... quit having fun. Football has no room for that. ;)

SPEAKING OF THE GROUND GAME...

Uh, do we have one? This goes back to the aforementioned Kyle Hicks and the offensive line, but it seems in the early goings, unless it’s Kenny Hill running for his life, the running game can’t get off the ground. Hicks has shown flashes of brilliance, but we have yet to learn who his backup is/should be. For some reason, Gary Patterson doesn’t seem to trust either of his true freshmen running backs, despite how glowingly he spoke of them in the spring and through preseason practices (cough, cough pass protection). We have yet to see Darius Anderson or Sewo Olonilua get a meaningful carry. Trevorris Johnson remains forever in the dog house, leaving Michigan transfer Derrick Green as the only other consistent back to tote the rock for the Frogs so far this season.

For TCU to take some of the pressure off of Kenny Hill, as well as limit how long the defense has to be out there, they have to get more out of the run. The talent is there, it just hasn’t quite come together - yet.

HELP, HE NEEDS SOMEBODY

Ian Boyd had an excellent article Friday afternoon exploring the issues surrounding the TCU defense. Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that TCU has been pretty good against the run and pretty solid against the pass - except for getting beat on long plays with more ease than you would expect. Boyd came to the conclusion that TCU was in trouble without an elite corner:

Ranthony Texada was expected to be that great corner, but whatever the reason (not fully recovered from his injury, doesn’t have the same quicks that he possessed prior to blowing out his knee, still getting in game shape, etc), he has not reached the lofty expectations he set as a true freshman. So how do you adjust? By now, we all know that the 4-2-5’s success is predicated on leaving your corners out on an island. But TCU might not have the personnel this season to do that. So, will Gary Patterson go ahead from what he usually does and roll a safety over the top against Lazard, or dial up more blitzes to put pressure on Joel Lanning, not giving him the time to make the deep throw? The answer, to this point in the early season, has been no. But I expect one of those things to change Saturday morning.

THE CURSE OF THE 11AM GAME

When you’re coming off of a stomach punch of a loss, the hangover can easily stretch into the next week. When your next game kicks off at 11am, against a team you’ve dominated three out of the last four match-ups, there’s room for concern. For the players - and the fans - showing up ready to play and continuing the momentum, even if things don’t go their way early, could go a long way towards the final result. You never want to give a big underdog the momentum on the road, and for a TCU team that has started slowly the last two weeks, the third time needs to be the charm. And for the fans, on this Homecoming/Family Weekend, we know it’s going to be hot, but get there early, tough it out, cheer loudly, and help get our Frogs back on track.