The TCU Horned Frogs begin a new season and a new era under the Friday Night Lights of Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado. Being the first ever meeting between the Buffs and the Frogs, we could use a primer on what to expect from the Frogs’ Week 1 opponent. We got together with Tony Cosolo from USA Today’s Buffaloes Wire for the inside scoop to better understand what the Frogs are up against this week.
Frogs O War: Given the turmoil in the Pac 12 and Big 12 the past two seasons, we’re obligated to ask about realignment. What’s your best (realistic-ish) scenario for the Buffaloes? Are you hoping to add some G5 schools to the Pac 12 (San Diego St, CSU, Boise St), move back to the Big 12 in its new form, or stick with a 10-team conference?
Buffaloes Wire: I wrote about this on our website Buffaloes Wire, soon after the announcement that the Big 10 was adding USC and UCLA. It broke down the best, worst, and most bland options with a secret dream scenario for the Buffs. The TL;DR version was the best case for the Buffs would be to move to the Big 12 with the other four corners school. The thinking would be that with the added firepower from the four schools joining the Big 12 and the talent from the Pac 12, would create a healthy conference that could score a good TV contract. The worst option would be to stand pat and the blandest would be to add from teams from the Mountain West. The secret dream scenario would see the Buffs join the Big 10 when they eventually expand beyond the 20-30 team threshold.
FOW: The Karl Dorrell era has been a roller coaster, a 1-loss regular season and Alamo Bowl bid in 2020 followed by an 8-loss 2021. Which is the more representative season and what are the expectations for 2022 and beyond?
BW: This really feels like a make-or-break year for coach Dorrell. The team, especially groups like the offensive line, regressed last season. Expectations are pretty low on the outside looking in, but having been around the team and seeing a few of their practices, it is noticeable that the coaches have the team believing in themselves. If the Buffs can build an offense that can show some improvement, then the Buffs are well positioned to surprised a few teams. Colorado has done a good job of building a lot of depth at a lot of positions and some young talent in groups like the secondary, edge rushers, and tight ends that should have CU well positioned moving forward
FOW: TCU has been consumed with a QB battle (that to date is still not officially settled), but Colorado’s field general is also still undecided with JT Shrout and Brendon Lewis battling it out. Which guy do you see winning the job and what will they bring to the Buffalo offense?
BW: It really depends on the day of the week for me. In our off-season breakdown of each position, I went with JT Shrout as my projected starter. Going into camp, the coaches made it well known that Brendon Lewis was the leader in the clubhouse due to his experience from last season. I see the Buffaloes using both QBs until a starter can be named, with Shrout running a more traditional offensive attack and Lewis having an RPO/spread option package to act as a change-of-pace back of sort.
FOW: Outside of the QB competition, how will the Colorado offense look to attack a TCU defense that is coming off its worst season in decades? Which player is most likely to turn heads?
BW: CU has always been a run first program, and they will look to pound the rock again this year. Alex Fontenot is the more well known back, but keep an eye on #20 Deion Smith. Smith, a Texas native, has battled injuries in his time at CU, but is finally healthy and has been named a co-starter at the RB position. A more dynamic option, Smith can be used in the passing game as well as running the ball. If CU goes to the air, the main weapons this year will be RJ Sneed, a Baylor transfer, and true sophomore Montana Lemonious-Craig. Other receiving options will be the stable of young tight ends that back up senior Brady Russell. Erik Olsen, Austin Smith, and Caleb Fauria are all redshirt freshmen that are looking to get snaps in the two TE sets.
FOW: On the other side of the ball, TCU’s offense has some weapons but has had trouble deploying them over the last few seasons. Who will be the defensive standouts that will prevent the new-look TCU offense from getting off to a strong start?
BW: Colorado is very experienced and big on the defensive front. Lead by mountain of a man Jalen Sami, the Buffs front features a two deep that is filled with Juniors and Seniors. Na’im Rodman, Terrance Lang, Guy Thomas, and Justin Jackson are just a few of the names you should see plugging holes in the running game. CU is very strong at the linebacker position as well with West Virginia transfer Josh Chandler-Semedo and second year player, and former five-star recruit, Robert Barnes leads a talented group that can wreck some havoc sideline-to-sideline. The front seven will have to be strong as the Buffs are very young in the secondary. Eight of the 10 players in the two deep are underclassmen but bring some talent with names like Nikko Reed, Kaylin Moore, and senior Isaiah Lewis.
FOW: TCU has never played against Colorado. For Frog fans traveling to Boulder, can you give us a flavor of the game day experience? What are the must-see bars or restaurants near campus?
BW: Get to Boulder early! There is amazing hiking, biking and views to be had in our fair city. A favorite area of mine is to take in the scenery in Chautauqua Park, a great place for hiking and an amazing overhead view of Boulder. For food and atmosphere, you wont find a better area then Pearl Street. For 4-5 blocks, this street is blocked off as an outdoor pedestrian mall area full of restaurants and shops. Leaf is a great restaurant, along with Hapa Sushi. Rosetta Hall is a new food hall that sits next to a local classic, and great place for a margarita, the Rio Grande. For bars, there is Mountain Sun which also has some great hamburgers, as well as Conor O’Neills Irish pub. No Buffs fan would let me down if I didn’t mention the Dark Horse and the Sink. Both places are found closer to campus, with the Dark Horse living right off the highway into town and the Sink smack dab in the middle of “The Hill.” Both boast a fun atmosphere with great beers and burgers, a must for any visiting fan! Roll all of those views and fun laid back atmosphere, and you have a good idea of what greets you when you set foot in Folsom field. A fun day with some of the best natural beauty you’ll ever see in a football stadium. Be sure to be in your seat before kickoff, as you wont want to miss the running of Ralphie, one of the best traditions is all of college football
Thanks to Tony for his time in answering our questions ahead of game day. You can follow Buffaloes Wire on Twitter and read up on the Frogs O War answers to their series of burning questions, the first of which focuses on the TCU Defense.