The Frogs will live on the razor’s edge through September, with challenging games against Arkansas and Oklahoma State sandwiching a potential trap game at home vs SMU.
Another loss to Arkansas would be disappointing, but TCU losing three of its first four games would be catastrophic. And it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility. Regardless of the outcome versus the Razorbacks, overlooking SMU is a bad idea, now that Chad Morris has players who can compete. Realistically, TCU probably opens 2-2, with Oklahoma State handing the Frogs one of those losses. But more trap games lay ahead - West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech. With two losses already, there would be little margin for error. Kansas State could turn Manhattan into a no-fly zone for TCU. Texas Tech has zero defense, but could still challenge the Frogs if costly turnovers prevent TCU from keeping up on the scoreboard. Worst case? An extra loss in a trap game drops the Frogs to 7-5.
Fascinating look at TCU’s rankings through the GP era.
2001: Unranked, finished unranked
2002: No. 22, finished No. 23
2003: No. 25, finished No. 25
2004: Unranked, finished unranked
2005: Unranked, finished No. 11
2006: No. 22, finished No. 22
2007: No. 22, finished unranked
2008: Unranked, finished No. 7
2009: No. 17, finished No. 6
2010: No. 6, finished No. 2
2011: No. 14, finished No. 14
2012: No. 20, finished unranked
2013: No. 20, finished unranked
2014: Unranked, finished No. 3
2015: No. 2, finished No. 7
2016: No. 13, finished unranked
So many parallels to 2014... it’s hard not to get your hopes up as a Frog fan.
TCU: It seems every time we forget Gary Patterson is one of the very best coaches in the game, he reminds us in a big way. So let’s look back to the last two times Patterson finished under .500, and then what happened the year after. In 2004, TCU went 5-6. A year later the Frogs finished 11-1, won the Mountain West Conference in their first year in the league and closed the year with the first of Patterson’s top-10 final rankings. In 2013, TCU stumbled to a 4-8 mark and roared back to a 12-1 2014 season, narrowly missing the Playoff but ending the year at No. 3 in both polls. TCU went 6-7 in 2016, and return one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country in Kenny Hill. If quarterbacks coach and play-caller Sonny Cumbie can coax the bad plays out of time, TCU will be a factor yet again.
And then they come crashing down...
In order to improve its chances at being selected for the CFP, though, the Big 12 must also improve upon its 5-8 record against nonconference Power 5 opponents. Oklahoma has to beat Ohio State. West Virginia has to beat Virginia Tech. Texas has to win at USC.
"If the Big 12 wants to kind of up their image," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said, "those types of games need to be won."
There are no guarantees with the selection committee, however. The Big 12's new championship game has to feature more than its two best teams. At least one of them has to be one of the nation's top four teams. Only then does any conference championship game matter. Just ask Penn State.
The offense has to be better if the Frogs want to inch towards double digit wins in 2017.
TCU was a middling Big 12 offense last season. They averaged 31 points per game, which was 52nd nationally but 8th in the Big 12 and 11 points off their total the previous year. Their total yards per game were down 100, to 463. Most of that came from the decline in the passing game.
Senior Kyle Hicks returns this season as the starting running back after a 1,042-yard, 12-touchdown year.
The Horned Frogs also bring back their top nine pass catchers. Although, it’s debatable whether Kenny Hill and his coaches are happy with that continuity. The Frogs’ dropped more balls than any other team last season. Hicks had the most catches on the team last season with 47 and was third on the team in receiving yards.
Strong start for a program that wants to improve on a 2016 season that sent them to the NCAA Tournament. The new field certainly isn’t hurting, either.
The match marked the second game played on the new field, and Oliver has noticed the major difference the new turf makes on the team’s overall play.
“I love it,” Oliver said. “The elevation’s nice and it’s all flat. It’s a lot easier to play both ways.”
Bell agreed that the new field is helping the team’s level of play.
“The quality of the surface is great,” Bell said. “It’s a lot softer so there’s not as much wear and tear on your body, and when that’s combined with the kind of lighting we had on Friday night, it makes it into a venue where the quality of soccer can be really good.”