Well, after all of the chaos of last week, we head into a much more normal game week, even if things around TCU Football still feel anything but. And the challenge doesn’t get any easier for the Horned Frogs; the reward for knocking off #12 Baylor is a date with #10 Oklahoma State, on the road, under the lights.
And the Frogs may well be without Max Duggan, Zach Evans, Kendre Miller, Daimarqua Foster, and others again. And Chandler Morris is far less a mystery now, too.
Sure. Should be fine.
A win in Stillwater Saturday outs a bowl within reach, while a loss just reminds us all of the inevitability of this season. I expect the Frogs to play hard once again, and pulling off a second consecutive upset isn’t an impossibility, even if it is unlikely. Let’s take a look at what they’re up again.
This is not your typical OSU offense. Spencer Sanders is basically a game manager who is capable of some good moments, the wide receiver corp isn’t quite as dynamic as years past, and the running game, while very good, isn’t as deep as we have seen. This is a team that wins with defense of all things, and just asks the O not to screw things up.
Sanders kind of gives me Max Duggan vibes: the talent is there, he’s capable of making really incredible plays, but he does some mind-numbing things and just hasn’t improved as much as you would like a guy to in his third year as a starter.
Sanders is completing just 60% of his passes and has tossed 13 touchdowns against six interceptions. He doesn’t have the skill complement around him that he’s had in the past, and injuries/COVID have racked the team all season long. While the school of thought tends to be that you don’t want to ask him to go out and win you a ball game, he did exactly that in Austin earlier this year. Of course, he also had three picks against Baylor — a game his team somehow won — and threw none against Iowa State, a game they lost. He’s a confounding college quarterback, but is at the very least good enough to have his team in position to make a Big 12 Championship game.
At running back, the names aren’t as familiar but the production certainly is, and Jaylen Warren might be on of the best players at his position in a conference full of exceptional running backs. Warren will hit 1,000 yards against TCU and is averaging nearly five yards per carry along with having scored seven touchdowns. He’s physical, he’s super quick, and he absolutely understands the assignment. He’s just a really good player who takes advantage of nearly every crease in front of him. Sanders can certainly scramble a bit and Dominic Richardson — a former TCU signee — is giving the Pokes quality backup snaps while averaging just over four yards per touch.
At wide receiver, well, this isn’t the Cowboys of yesterday but they’re still pretty good. Tay Martin has been the alpha in 2021, leading the team in all categories: catches (43), yards (592), and touchdowns (6). Brennan Presley has been strong as well with 29/361/5, but from there, the pickins’ get slim. No other Oklahoma State player has more than 16 receptions.
Injuries and youth have impacted the Pokes’ offensive line, and they’ve allowed 13 sacks this season.
This is a nasty unit, maybe the best in the conference.
The Pokes allow just 16 points per game, less than 100 yards on the ground, and just 2.6 per attempt. Opposing QBs are completing 59% of their passes and the Pokes have a ridiculous 30 sacks on the season. They’ve forced 11 fumbles and picked off six passes.
Senior Malcolm Rodriguez is a stalwart, and the linebacker leads his team with 86 tackles (!!!), 8.5 of which have come for a loss. He has 9 QB hits and two forced fumbles as well. Three players have at least 4.5 sacks, with Brock Martin and Devin Harper reaching that number and freshman defensive end Collin Oliver leading the team with 5.5.
In the secondary, Kolby Harvell-Peel is an absolute dog, and one of the best safeties in the country. He and Jason Taylor have an inner competition going for interceptions, one which the former leads 3-2 at the moment.
This is a unit that understands how to operate together and are really good at covering space, laying the lumber, and giving opposing QBs tough looks. Against WVU last week, Jim Knowles’ unit held a Mountaineer offense that had been averaging nearly 450 yards across their last three games to a ridiculous 133 yards in total, 69 of which came on their opening drive — and led to just a field goal. Eight straight punts followed (not counting the end of the hald), a streak ended only by an interception. The Cowboys had eight sacks on the day and held Leddie Brown and WVU to just 17 total rushing yards, 2-14 on third downs, and now have gone eight straight quarters without allowing a touchdown.
Whoever lines up on offense for the Frogs this weekend will certainly have their hands full.
The Frogs were bolstered by a boost of energy last weekend, using all of the mojo they could muster to knock off their most bitter rival. Can they do it twice in a row? Will Chandler Morris magic travel? Can Zach Evans and Kendre Miller return from injury and have success against a Cowboys’ defense that has crushed the hopes and dreams of many a running back?
The challenge is tall, and I don’t know if emotion can carry them again. I think this will be an ugly win by the home team.
Oklahoma State 20, TCU 17.