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Bye Week Breakdown: A FOW Staff Roundtable

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Your favorite staff got together to ask, and answer, some of the biggest questions surrounding TCU Football after two weeks of play.

NCAA Football: California at Texas Christian
Blair Conwright has emerged as a favorite target for Max Duggan, and maybe, finally, given the Horned Frogs a clear #2 wide receiver.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Horned Frogs have played just two football games this season, but the early bye gives us the opportunity to take a step back (yeah, yeah I know) and evaluate this TCU Football team after two complete games.

Do we know a whole heck of a lot about this team yet?

No way.

Will that stop us from making sweeping proclamations, asking unanswerable questions, or jumping to unrealistic conclusion?

Well, you don’t read this site because we don’t do those things.

Let’s dive in.

What is the best thing you have seen from TCU Football over the first two weeks of the season?

Russ: I think the offense has run the ball very well and the team has avoided any injuries, excluding the players who were sidelined when the season started. Hopefully those remaining few are back when the Big 12 schedule begins.

Garrett: Zach Evans.

Anthony: Max-QJ-Evans combo being deadly.

Deanna: I was impressed with the fight they put up last week. I was worried that falling behind in the first half would get them down and frustrated. They showed great fight all the way until the end of the first half, and that late touchdown gave us a huge morale boost and advantage going into the second half.

Christian: Zach Evans is everything we could’ve hoped for and more. That long TD run against Cal was a thing of dreams.

Melissa: Zach Evans and Quentin Johnston are legit superstars, and Doug Meacham and Jerry Kill aren’t afraid to use them. QJ is bordering on double digit targets week in and week out and Evans got more than 20 carries against Cal. These are both very good things.

Jamie: Two wins, zero losses.

What is the most concerning thing you have seen from TCU Football over the first two weeks of the season?

Russ: The lack of pass rush has been a little disappointing. Khari Coleman’s absence has hurt that group, but there’s simply too much talent and experience on the D-line to not get after the quarterback.

Garrett: The secondary, particularly against Cal.

Anthony: Secondary vulnerability to deep passes.

Deanna: Cal owned our secondary way too much. We gave up way too many yards.

Christian: We can’t connect on go routes, yet we just keep bombing them instead of playing to Max’s strengths.

Melissa: The secondary has not been good, and has not been helped by the lack of pass rush. But if I had to choose just one thing, it would be the lack of pressure in a standard defensive package. That line is too talented to have been rendered this ineffective when it comes to getting to the quarterback.

Jamie: The secondary, no pressure from the DL, Max’s deep passing accuracy....

Which player needs to take the biggest leap in October for TCU to reach its goals?

Russ: Max Duggan. He remains a very effective running threat but as we saw over the first two games, he’s still prone to bad throws and inconsistency in the passing game. Duggan has to make a leap as a passer if TCU wants to be a serious Big 12 contender.

Garrett: Max Duggan: if he can consistently hit on his deep balls, cutting the overthrows out of his game, and be a decisive scrambler TCU can keep rolling.

Anthony: Ochaun Mathis.

Deanna: Caesar has got to read the offense better and keep up with these receivers. He’s either misreading the plays or getting left in the dust by receivers. We spent way too much time trying to offensively make up for mistakes on defense last week, and that can’t happen if we want to stay competitive in the Big XII this season.

Christian: See above, Max needs to hit the deep ball. We also desperately need Khari Coleman and Noah Daniels back to shore up those spots.

Melissa: I am tempted to say someone like Bud Clark, as the Frogs desperately need one of their safeties to start filling the void left by Trevon Moehrig and Ar’darius Washington. But ultimately, I think it rides on the shoulders of Max Duggan. If he can start looking like a third year starter when it comes to accuracy — especially on the deep ball — the ceiling for this offense is pretty damn high. He does so many things well and has all the intangibles when it comes to grit/toughness/winner’s mentality, but he needs to be better at passing the ball. Period.

Jamie: Max Duggan - He absolutely has to start connecting on more downfield throws.

Which player has been the biggest surprise early, for better or for worse?

Russ: CJ Ceasar’s performance against Cal was very discouraging. As a veteran and the team’s CB3, he needs to be better, especially with the depth at corner being so thin.

Garrett: The offensive line. By and large, they look like a much stronger group than a year ago. Max Duggan looks much more comfortable with more time to throw this season.

Anthony: Zach Evans - maybe not a surprise, but living up to sky high expectations.

Deanna: Shout out to the O-line, because they were a hot mess last year. This year, they have done a great job protecting Duggan in the pocket. And y’all know I get frustrated when our O-line gets called for holding over and over like they’re on a hot date. I was impressed that they only got called for it ONE TIME last week, and that came in the 3rd quarter. Great job, guys!

Christian: Blair Conwright has solidified himself as one of Max’s favorite targets in a stacked receiving core.

Melissa: I couldn’t be happier with the play of Dee Winters through the first two games. It’s hard to replace a player and leader the caliber of Garret Wallow, but Winters has been as good as advertised on the field and in the locker room.

Jamie: Blair Conwright - In an insanely deep WR room, Conwright seems to be Duggan’s No. 2 option right now.

What is the biggest question that TCU needs to answer over the bye week?

Russ: My biggest question will be the same as it was when the season started, and that’s whether or not TCU can make enough significant plays in the passing game to win a marquee matchup. There’s a lot to like so far, but there needs to be more consistency.

Garrett: My answer is the pass defense/secondary issues. Shocking to see how wide open and how often the Cal receivers were against Gary Patterson’s defense. I don’t remember a team with that many big plays through the air against TCU in a single game in a long time. Fixing the communication and execution in the back end of the defense is critical.

Anthony: Is Noah Daniels returning? If not, how does the defense improve?

Deanna: Can all the pieces come together? Our O-line did a great job last week, the receivers started to figure things out and have fun, Evans ran around practically saying “neener-neener-neener” at times, and the defensive line made some big stops. If all of that can continue, and the secondary can work out the kinks, then I think this can be a really strong team. The question is: Can they put the pieces together in the bye week before the Battle of the Iron Skillet?

Christian: How do we get a consistent pass rush on Mordecai next week?

Melissa: Frogs have to find a pass rush. And really establish an identity on offense.

Jamie: How can they shore up the secondary? (beyond simply “get Noah Daniels back”)

Do you feel good about your win total prediction based off of the first two games or are you wanting to change it?

Russ: I still think 8-9 wins is realistic right now. There’s still so much that’s uncertain.

Garrett: Not sure yet.

Anthony: Think 9 games is still a solid target. The conference has looked pretty meh (including TCU).

Deanna: I never gave a prediction, so I may have a slight advantage after seeing the past two weeks, but I’m thinking we end up 8-2 in conference play. I may have said 7-3 in August, but I’ll be the optimist for now.

Christian: Still feeling good in the 9-3 range until I see the play calling philosophy shift.

Melissa: I still feel like this team is good enough to play for a shot at the Big 12 championship, and the Big 12 looks even more wide open — after Oklahoma — than it did in August. But there are some serious flaws that have been exposed, and I will be interested to see how they address them during the bye week.

Jamie: I still feel good, but that could change quickly.

Based off of the first two weeks, you expect TCU Football to finish [blank] in the Big 12 Conference standings.

Russ: Third. There’s still a lot of football remaining and no Big 12 team has emerged as a clear frontrunner, but the Frogs are talented enough to finish in the top 3.

Garrett: Third.

Anthony: Third.

Deanna: Third.

Christian: Second or third.

Melissa: Third.

Jamie: Third.

Let us know your answers in the comments!