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TCU vs. Duquense: 5 Things to Know

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The Horned Frogs will kick off the 2021 season under the lights Saturday evening.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 12 Louisiana Tech at TCU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The TCU football team has generated an awful lot of hype over the offseason. Max Duggan will enter his third season with the Horned Frogs, while multiple playmakers return on both sides of the ball for a team that finished 5-1 over its last six games in 2020. All of the anticipation will come to a head Saturday evening, when TCU kicks off the 2021 season with a nonconference game against Duquesne under the lights of Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Putting the special circumstances of the 2020 season aside, TCU has typically started its season with a big victory. From 2017-19, TCU outscored Jackson State, Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff by a combined score of 157-14. The Horned Frogs will face a Duquense squad that posted a 4-1 record with a loss in the NEC Championship during 2020-21.

Here are five things to know about TCU’s opening-week matchup with the Dukes.

1. The Horned Frogs haven’t released their depth chart... yet

TCU head coach Gary Patterson typically waits as long as possible before releasing the team’s first depth chart of the season. So it’s not surprising we haven’t earned a first glance at where the roster stands before kickoff against the Dukes. However, over the last two seasons, TCU has released its depth chart roughly one week before its first game.

Whether we’ll be afforded that luxury this fall remains to be seen, but there are several players we can expect to start when the Horned Frogs take the field on Saturday. Duggan will obviously be under center at the quarterback position, while sophomore Quentin Johnston will command targets as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. Five-star running back Zach Evans should also line up in backfield after Darwin Barlow transferred to USC.

Defensively, look for Ochaun Mathis to start on one side, while Khari Coleman and Dylan Horton could rotate on the other side at the defensive end position. Dee Winters returns as a clear starter at linebacker, while Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and a healthy Noah Daniels are primed for big seasons at cornerback. Griffin Kell and Jordy Sandy should handle kicking and punting duties for the Horned Frogs.

2. TCU was selected to finish fifth in the Big 12

Oklahoma was unsurprisingly named the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference, but the Horned Frogs were pegged to take fifth place behind Iowa State (second), Texas (third) and Oklahoma State (fourth). TCU defeated the Longhorns and the Cowboys in 2020. Additionally, the Horned Frogs have a 7-2 record against Texas since joining the Big 12. West Virginia, who was slotted to finish sixth, got the best of the Horned Frogs last season.

Three Big 12 teams (Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas) received rankings in the AP Top 25, while TCU and Oklahoma State each garnered votes, but fell just short of cracking the rankings. The Horned Frogs, who have a favorable start to their schedule, could make their case for the Top 25 with a strong showing against Duquense on Saturday.

3. There are high expectations for the Horned Frog offense

Memphis transfer Obinna Eze, TCU’s projected starting left tackle, made some interesting comments recently regarding the Horned Frog offense. But the lofty goals are well warranted, as TCU will field several returning starters on the offensive line as well as multiple talented skill players including Evans, Johnston and Duggan, who should be the team’s three pillars on offense this fall. With veterans like J.D. Spielman and Taye Barber at wide receiver as well as Carter Ware and Mississippi State transfer Geor’quarius Spivey at tight end, TCU has the personnel necessary to make significant strides on offense in 2021.

4. TCU will face its first four opponents at home

Not many teams in the Big 12 have a more friendly start to the season than TCU. The Horned Frogs will take on California at home after facing Duquesne this coming weekend. TCU will then see both SMU and Texas in The Carter before hitting the road to battle Texas Tech on Oct. 9, which will mark the first game away from Fort Worth during the 2021 season.

Five of the team’s last eight games are on the road, meaning TCU needs to take advantage of its favorable early schedule and stack wins before taking on teams Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Iowa State, who the Horned Frogs will get on the road this season.

5. Are the Horned Frogs playing for their future?

With all the buzz surrounding conference realignment, much has been made about whether or not the Big 12 will attempt to poach teams from other conferences or dissolve in favor of other Power 5 conferences like the Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC and ACC. While the future may be uncertain for schools not named Texas or Oklahoma, could an argument be made that the Horned Frogs will make a case for remaining a Power 5 program will a strong 2021 season?

That question could be a reach, but should the Horned Frogs find themselves putting together another double-digit win season with a bowl victory, something that hasn’t happened since 2017, other conferences could be more inclined to make TCU a member. Realignment rumors will continue swirling as the 2021 season progresses, but the Horned Frogs could strengthen their resume with a return to dominance this fall.