Kenny Hill started off the season looking like a potential Heisman darkhorse, but he’s struggled a bit as of late. Is this the byproduct of defensive game plans, or is he just reverting back to some old habits from seasons prior?
I think it’s a product of a couple things. In the Iowa State game, he made some significant errors and looked shook late, but he also did get much help from a questionable game plan by Sonny Cumbie. Against Texas, he was quite a bit better than the stats suggested – at one point he completed 12 straight passes to seven different receivers – but the Frogs took their foot off the gas once the score got to 10-0, because at that point, the game was over. When Kenny is at his best, he’s dominating the short passing games, using his legs to extend plays, pick up first downs, or on designed runs (he had his best game of the season rushing the ball last week, not because of mind-blowing stats, but more due to the fact that he continually moved the chains), and leaning heavily on the outstanding running game he has the luxury of. Cumbie needs to focus on those things as well this weekend for the Frogs to have a shot. But if Kenny just needs to play within himself and his skillset, he will be fine.
On the defensive side, TCU has been nothing short of exceptional. In fact, the defense has allowed only 6.75 points per game over its last four contests. How has TCU figured out a way to be dominant defensively in a conference like the Big 12?
A lot of Gary Patterson pride and a little adjustment in recruiting. For so long, GP was able to out speed and out-scheme folks as a member of smaller conferences. But, in a 12 game Power Five season, you need a little more beef or your guys get run down. So the Frogs made it a point over the last two years especially to get much bigger in the trenches. The defensive line is a perfect example of how that can work, as the DTs all run 300+ and are pretty young basically across the board. Ross Blacklock, a redshirt freshman, is the cog that holds it all together, as the man-child regularly commands double and triple teams. That frees up Chris Bradley on the inside and the speedy duo of Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen on the outside to basically live in offensive backfields. The fact that Blacklock, Bradley, Corey Bethely, Joe Broadnax (yes, all the B names), and LJ Collier are also great against the run lets Boesen and Banogu fly around as well. The secondary is a really veteran group, so Patterson is more comfortable leaving them out on an island, and Travin Howard remains one of the best linebackers in the Big 12, and arguably TCU history. It’s a unit that has really gelled, has a ton of energy and high motor guys, and still maintains the speed that makes the 4-2-5 work.
Speaking of the defense, who are three players that Oklahoma fans need to keep an eye on this weekend, and why?
I think we are in for a big Kyle Hicks game. The senior running back is finally getting back to full health, and had a relatively light workload against Texas, because Texas. I would expect to see him more involved in the passing game than he has been, and while Darius Anderson gets a lot of the hype, he’s a dynamic runner in his own right. I would have mentioned Diarse and Reagor, but their in the next question, so I will go with Des White at receiver. He’s generally the smallest guy on the field, but he’s been targeted a lot, especially on third down. He’s a really good route runner and Hill and Cumbie have shown that he’s one of the more trusted guys on the team when it comes to whose number gets called in big moments. Lastly, I would be remiss to not mention KaVontae Turpin. The Frogs will need some help in the scoring department, and there’s not a player on the team, or possibly in the conference, as dynamic as Turp. As a runner, as a receiver, and as a returner, KT is the very definition of a game breaker. He’s a tough matchup for any defensive player, and TCU will find a way to get him 10-15 touches Saturday.
The three guys listed above – Turpin, White, and Hicks – should all be significant factors in the passing game. Dylan Thomas has gotten quite a few touches lately as well out of the slot, and Jaelan Austin is kind of the forgotten man, but has huge big play potential. Fans would love to see Taj Williams and/or Isaiah Graham play bigger roles; as bigger, but blazing fast guys, they add a dimension to the offense that has been missing.
As far as the run game is concerned, former 1000-yard rusher Kyle Hicks appears to be back to full strength, but Darius Anderson is getting just as many touches. What does each back bring to the table as far as style is concerned. What are their strengths?
Hicks is far and away the better receiver and pass protector of the two, and is probably a shiftier, faster back. He’s also a fifth year senior, so the big moment doesn’t phase him. Anderson is a beast in his own right; he’s a little bigger, but still has the plus speed, and is more apt to run someone over. Anderson excels in late game situations when defenses are worn out, and has kind of become ‘the closer’ for the Frogs. That being said, I would say Hicks is one of the emotional leaders of the team (along with Diarse), and for TCU to win, he has to have a big day.
How are TCU fans feeling about their team’s chances right now. Are the results of the last five years an encouraging sign to them?
I think the fanbase recognizes how good Baker Mayfield is, and what he’s capable of doing to even the best defenses. But this is a really special TCU defense, and unlike anything the Sooners have played this year. Were this game to be in Fort Worth, you would see a very confident bunch, but having to go on the road makes it more challenging of course. I haven’t talked to a TCU supporter that isn’t giving the Frogs a chance, but I would say most of us are in the ‘cautiously optimistic’ realm over the ‘exceedingly confident’ one. The X Factor is Kenny Hill of course; the general feeling is that the defense can keep the Frogs in the game, but Hill will need to play lights out to outscore Baker even if it’s a lower scoring affair.
Which are better — Ft. Worth steakhouses or Ft. Worth Mexican food establishments? Sorry to have to make you choose.
That’s a tough choice, and while I will generally go out to Mexican food over steak (I’m a teacher, I don’t have regular nights out at the steakhouse money), if given the choice – and someone to buy – I am going to choose a good bone in ribeye, and old fashioned, and some good sides. And there isn’t anywhere better to get those than DFW.
Who is your favorite TCU alum outside of the context of athletics?
This is a great question… it’s a tough choice between Bob Schieffer and Dan Jenkins, but Jenkins is a sassy man and I love it, so he gets the nod by a hair.
How would you rank TCU’s rival fan bases in terms of hatred?
Boise State (that’s a holdover, but we don’t like them)
And that’s probably the only schools we actually have any real rivalry hatred for.
Who would win in a fight — Gary Patterson or Jamie Dixon?
Jamie is a better athlete, but Gary finds a way to get it done.
What will TCU have to do to win this game on Saturday?
The defense has to be lights out, the secondary can’t give up more than a couple big plays, and they have to hold the run game down. Kenny Hill has to play a clean game, Hicks and Anderson need to get about 30-35 combined touches, and the TCU receivers can’t drop balls. Plus, there needs to be a momentum swinging play to quiet the crowd – maybe a Turp score on a kick or punt return or a Ben Banogu strip sack. The Frogs don’t have to play a perfect game, but it needs to be pretty close, and they need to keep the Sooners from doing the same.
How do you think this will shake out? What’s your final score prediction?
I really like the makeup of this team, on and off the field. They are mature, they have great chemistry, and they seem like a really unselfish bunch. I think the Iowa State loss galvanized them a bit and refocused them on the goal at hand. They, like Oklahoma, walk onto the field Saturday knowing that they control their own destiny and have a clear path to the playoffs if they win out. All that being said, the Sooners certainly aren’t going to roll over for them. We are in for a back and forth battle, and instant classic, and a memorable game. I feel a bit like a homer picking the Frogs, but I do think this game is a bit of a toss-up in some regards. So, give me the Frogs 34-31
Source: Crimson and Cream Machine
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