I hate this game every year. So much. There is nothing like struggling against the worst team in your conference, year after year, coming away with victories and heart problems.
Just what is it about the got-dang Kansas Jayhawks anyway?
Why do the Horned Frogs continue to bang their heads against the wall every time they match up?
I have no idea. But lets just beat them, mmkay? Here’s how TCU can get it done Saturday night.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
This one is pretty simple... TCU has been on the plus side of the turnover game in each contest but one (SMU), and that’s a huge reason for their success this year. Kenny Hill threw three interceptions in his first four games, but has been a great decision maker in conference play, with just one pick thrown against Oklahoma State. The Frogs have had larger issues when it comes to fumbling, putting the ball on the ground 12 times through six games, losing five. Fortunately, that hasn’t come back to bite them too much, but it’s a problem that needs to be corrected. And when you have a team that has historically given you problems coming in trying to pull off the upset of the year, you can’t give them any extra hope. The Jayhawks are losing the turnover battle badly this year, throwing ten picks, fumbling eight times and losing five, while opponents have just six total turnovers against them.
Here’s a fun stat: TCU has turned the ball over 17 times against Kansas over the five game span that has been their time in the Big 12 Conference. That’s just silly. I am not sure if that’s underestimating your opponent, not being mentally focused, or what... but just ridiculous. The Frogs are -7 in the turnover battle with the Jayhawks and somehow 5-0. I just... I have nothing.
If TCU keeps up their 2:3 turnover: turnover forced ratio Saturday, they should be just fine.
CONTROL THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE
While there are many things that we can point to as factors in the dramatic improvement of TCU from 2016 to 2017, the most important - in my view - is what has happened in the trenches. Chris Thomsen has been a revelation for Gary Patterson’s squad as an offensive line coach, and his move of Austin Schlottman to guard and Patrick Morris to center was brilliant - and the Frogs haven’t looked quite as good up front since Morris went down with an injury. But even without a key piece, TCU running backs are averaging over 5.0 yards per carry, the ground game is racking up 200 yards per game, and Kenny Hill has only been sacked seven times - and 2-3 of those can be blamed on holding the ball a couple seconds too long.
On the other side, it’s arguable that this is the best TCU defensive line of the Gary Patterson era. The Killer B combination of Ross Blacklock and Chris Bradley in the middle with Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen coming off the edge is nightmare fuel for opposing OCs. Banogu is making a play through six games for defensive player of the year, while Boesen is quietly putting together an exceptional year as a three down player. Blacklock is a monster in the middle, and Bradley has to be one of the most improved players on the team. Combined with Corey Bethley, LJ Collier, Ty Summers, et all, that’s a unit that can do a lot of things to upset a QB’s rhythm and spend a lot of time in opposing backfields. Opponents are averaging under three yards per carry against that front, while Kansas manages 4.5 per carry. It’s a strength vs strength matchup, and the winner there might win the whole ball game.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
Speaking of strengths, the Frogs need to continue to play to theirs. It seemed against WVU, an opponent very familiar with TCU’s offensive style, Sonny Cumbie tried to catch the Eers off-guard by utilizing a few pages in the playbook that should probably be lining the bottom of a birdcage. TCU got a little ‘cute’ at points - the fly sweep on fourth and one comes to mind - instead of sticking to the type of game plan that had gotten them to 4-0. They settled in the second half though, and played a style much more familiar to what we have seen.
That needs to be the case Saturday - certainly, Cumbie will want to keep Meach off-guard, and we all expect that Doug gave a full insider preview to the Kansas defensive staff based on what he knows from his time in Fort Worth. But at the end of the day, it isn’t about what they know, it’s about how you execute it. Run the ball, control the clock, play to Kenny Hill’s strength, and keep him out of a position to make too many mistakes. Do what works - don’t focus on catching the Jayhawks off-guard, just beat them like the better team - because you are. A heavy dose of Kyle Hicks paired with the short passing game, some QB runs, and the occasional long ball should do just fine.
MAKE MEACHAM ONE-DIMENSIONAL
This goes back to the trench warfare a little bit, but it remains true - Doug Meacham doesn’t want to run the ball a ton, and if you take that option away early by stuffing their running backs, he will revert to the passing game, regardless of who is at QB. Asking Peyton Bender to drop back 50 times against a defensive line that can harass the immobile QB that badly will spell disaster - think 4-5 sacks, a fumble, etc - and put the Frogs in the perfect position to succeed. If KU gets hold around three yards per carry in the first half, TCU will dominate the second.
IT’S NOT BASKETBALL SEASON
This is Kansas Football. Attack your opponent like the team that they are - be aggressive early, and when the time comes, step on their neck and end this thing. Let’s make this the year that TCU v Kansas is boring. Go Frogs.