Not many are giving TCU a chance in Saturday’s top-20 matchup against Oklahoma State. A high-powered offense, led by a senior quarterback, featuring a bevy of NFL-caliber wide receivers, led by a 50 year old man who kills snakes and rocks a mullet... why even get on the bus, Horned Frogs? You have no chance.
Despite the extreme confidence of the Okie State fanbase, the Frogs absolutely have a chance to pull off the upset in Stillwater this weekend. Here’s the game plan to get that done.
Run the Ball:
No Kyle Hicks, no problem? The Frogs might need to find out Saturday afternoon, as Hicks is reportedly a game-time decision for TCU. Without their senior running back - and a player who is an exceptional receiver out of the backfield - the Frogs will lean heavily on Darius Anderson, who has been outstanding through the first two games for the Frogs, and Sewo Olonilua, who looked really good in extended duty once Hicks left with an injury last weekend.
The key is for Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper to stick with the run throughout the game, even if TCU falls behind a couple scores early. That keeps Kenny Hill from forcing the issue and keeps the defense fresh - which they will need to be. Too often in the past, the Frogs would abandon the run once they fell behind. They need to stick with it in Stillwater to have a chance to compete with the #6 Cowboys.
Veteran Leaders Shine:
TCU has not won in Stillwater under Gary Patterson, and is just 1-4 against Oklahoma State overall since joining the Big 12.
And man, they have looked bad at T. Boone Pickens Stadium in all three trips.
The Cowboys have a lofty ranking and a sold-out stadium, one that expects to be roiling with energy and noise for four hours Saturday afternoon. The Frogs are already battle and road tested, having survived a solid SEC matchup in Fayetteville under a broiling sun and come out on top despite 70,000 people rooting against them. But tomorrow’s game presents a different kind of challenge - the stadium is smaller but the stakes are higher, and that makes the environment even crazier.
The Frogs didn’t fold under the pressure at Arkansas, and this veteran squad should be able to handle the high stakes and bright lights once again. Gary Patterson has said time and time again that he would rather play on the road, and prefers the attitude and mentality of his team away from home. Hopefully, that points proves true once again, and the upperclassmen littered across all three units keep their eyes on the prize and the young ones in check, no matter how loud TBPS gets.
Or just finds a way to shut them up.
Win the Turnover Battle:
The Frogs have lost the turnover battle in two out of the three games this season, and won both handedly. In this instance, the third time is not the charm.
Mason Rudolph and his offense haven’t made a ton of mistakes so far this season, partially because there hasn’t been much time to make them. Kenny Hill had a pick apiece in games one and two, but was perfect against SMU... meanwhile his teammates fumbled three times. The Frogs also had a case of the fumblerooskies against Arky, but those all bounced harmlessly out of bounds. TCU likely won’t be so lucky in Stillwater, and ball security will be at a premium. The team that hangs on to the pig skin is likely to be the team celebrating in the evening.
Make Mason Uncomfortable:
Oklahoma State is rumored to be out two starting offensive lineman for their showdown with TCU; RT Zachary Crabtree left the game against Pitt with a toe injury, and it appears to be of the turf toe kind, meaning he’s likely out tomorrow. RG Larry Williams, himself returning from an injury suffered in 2016, is also expected to be out according to the message boards. That’s a big hole on the right side, something that Ben Banogu, Ty Summers, LJ Collier, and Mat Boesen could and should exploit. Between the stable of talented defensive ends and the problems Ross Blacklock, Chris Bradley, Corey Bethley, and others have caused from the middle, it could be a long day for a piecemeal o-line that hasn’t been tested all year.
It’s hard to throw 60 yards bombs when you don’t have time to set your feet, and while Rudolph isn’t immobile, he’s not known for his feet. If the Frogs can manage a handful of sacks and several knockdowns, maybe the accuracy that has been the QBs hallmark will fall off just enough to give TCU a chance.
Who Has the Big Moment:
There’s going to be a moment Saturday, a play or a series or a turnover or a cut or SOMETHING that makes everyone catch their breath. Maybe it’s a fumble on a kick return or a long field goal attempt late or a long pass... but there will be something. There always is in a big game.
Will it belong to TCU? Or maybe Oklahoma State? Who know. But, whoever has it, and how they respond to it, could be the difference maker.
Should be fun.