And so it begins. Gameday is nigh upon us. Honestly? I don’t think I’m ready. I mean, yes, I’m EXTREMELY excited about the return of college football and the opportunity to stop paying attention to failings of Cliff Lee aka Noonan… but am I really ready? Are my rage levels appropriately calibrated? Is my liver ready for 8 consecutive weeks of desecration to start the season? Are three pairs of gameday shoes really enough? I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow.
As for the game itself? Well, I suppose you’ll have to sort through 2000 words of rambling.
Offense: If I started with the TCU offense I’d fill up pages of space before I even begun considering talking about what Oregon State had to offer and then half ass it at best, so instead I’m going to half ass the Oregon State information session at the onset and see where I end up. So, unless you’ve been too busy helping Eddie Bernice Johnson siphon college scholarships to her under deserving brood the past couple of years, you’re probably pretty familiar with the infamous Rodgers brothers, James and Jacquizz. Before I really went back and checked up on these two guys, I was skeptical. Are they really THAT good? Or is it just a cool story that two lightly recruited brothers from Houston ended up becoming major stars at Oregon State? Well, apparently my long term memory is just as bad as my short, because, to make a long story short, yeah, they’re really good. The Quizz rushed for over 1400 yards and had 21 TDs last, and older brother James caught 91 balls for over 1000 yards and nine scores. The younger Rodgers is being hyped as one of the truly legitimate – read: Not Jake Locker – Heisman contenders this season, and getting to get his campaign jumpstarted on national television opening weekend surely gives him a little extra pep in his step. The Oregon State offense LOVES to get these guys touches with space to work because they’re both extremely quick and have breakaway speed, so expect to see a lot of swing passes, screens and even WR sweeps throughout the game.
But enough about those guys, what about the rest of the Beavers? Well, in all honesty, they better hope Jacquizz goes absolutely bonkers, because I’m not sure how many opportunities James and the other receivers are going to have. I’m looking at you, Ryan Katz. Losing a starting left tackle is bad for any quarterback, but losing a starting left tackle in your first career start against the returning top ranked defense in all of college football? Well, remember what happened to Custer at Little Big Horn? Because this is probably going to be like a re-enactment. It could be a long day for the sophomore. On the flipside though, he may actually have a tiny glimmer of hope because we have no idea what he can do. Coaches can make a lot of tricky things happen when the opposing team has limited film. Ah, who am I kidding, the kid is toast. He can quit his twitter account and get all fired up about the last time he started a game for the first time in high school and threw a TD, it’s just not happening. He’s going to be handing off the Jacquizz on first and second down and then trying to make some magic happen on third and long and get it slapped back in his face. I really have no fear of this kid. If things go as planned this offense will be unbelievably one dimensional, and Patterson will absolutely exploit it.
So, by reading that, you’re probably pretty aware of which way I’m going to take this pick I suppose, but for full disclosure, I’ll give a brief rundown anyway. Andy Dalton, Jeremy Kerley, Matthew Tucker, Ed Wesley, Jimmy Young, Antoine Hicks, Curtis Clay, Bart Johnson, Marcus Cannon, Jake Kirkpatrick… am I leave anyone out? Not a bad list of dudes to have on your side, no? And we have all of them, on the same side of the ball, working together to run up the score. I feel pretty good about our chances.
And if you really need a good, solid reason why this one is going to happen? Because Andy Dalton is one game away from becoming the all-time wins leader at TCU and squandered his last chance, which was also a high profile nationally televised game. He’s had an entire summer to stew on that, not to mention an entire summer being mostly overlooked nationally except for an overblown dog watering story. Same with Antoine Hicks, minus the dog story. Last time we saw him, he was dropping a potential game changing pass in the end zone in the Fiesta Bowl. And even Coach Fuenderson has to be excited about a shot at redemption after the playbook raping of the Fiesta Bowl.
I’m pretty sure we got this.
Edge – Frogs.
Defense: Like the offense, you probably know where I’m taking this in the end, but full disclosure is again necessary. And this one actually may be a little bit closer to call. If you’ve heard of any player on the Oregon State defense – and if you haven’t it’s entirely acceptable – it’s likely defensive tackle Stephen Paea, a native New Zealander and dragon tear aficionado. Jake Kirkpatrick is going to get a serious opportunity to back up the All-America hype because Paea is a big mofo at 6’1”, 311 pounds. I’d say Kirkpatrick should talk a lot of shit and get under his skin, but – little known fact – Paea just learned to speak English in the past couple of years, so unless he calls him something in sheepherder talk, it’s probably not getting through. Besides, Kirkpatrick seems like a pretty nice guy and likely doesn’t have the motormouth of most of the guys in his position.
Still, a big part of the TCU offense is the ground game, and having 311 pounds of roadblock thrown right in the middle of the mix is going to make us readjust the way we move the ball on the ground. But, assuming we’re able to find a few holes in the line now and again, unfortunately for the Beavers this could spell problems because their linebacker depth is the complete opposite of ours in most years. Their top linebacker – insert name with lots of apostrophes here because I don’t want to spell it – left the team in the off season, and when you run a 4-3 base, you pretty much need all of the healthy bodies behind the line as you can get. So assuming the linebackers pose few problems, then it should be a race to the goal line because – another little known fact – our receivers can throw some pretty serious blocks downfield. Watch Antoine Hicks sometime. Dude may not be huge, and you may view him mostly as a stretch receiver, but Mansfield’s Finest can throw a pop as well as any fullback.
And speaking of Hicks, what do those guys need to expect when running their routes? Well, it may not be the open season that it felt like our passing game experienced at times last year, because this Beavers secondary isn’t bad at all. But, I mean… come on. Other than Boise State, who shut any of these guys down last year? I’m not buying it, not in the first game. And yes, that was a total cop out.
As for the Frogs, I expect you should all be aware of what we have. The defensive line returns three starters and should be solid. Due to the closed practices of the past week, it’s anyone’s guess who the leader at left end is at present, but whoever the staff picks, they will clearly have earned it. Losing Daniels’ backup Clarence Leatch is a bad situation that to this point has been mostly overlooked, but I’m not worried about the coaches getting someone else in there to fill the role while he is out. Tank Carder is fully recovered from his spring injury and should be fine, and Tanner Brock focused a ton on keeping his helmet on during camp, so he’s got that going for him. And the secondary WILL be better than last year. You return TeJay Johnson, Tyler Luttrell and Alex Ibiloye as the safeties, and while the experts will tell you to worry about replacing Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest, both four year starters, on the outside, they clearly didn’t watch many games down the stretch last year because we all know that Greg McCoy and Jason Teague got their fair share of reps and were probably better than either of those guys. So, at worst, that’s a wash. Then you have the Walrus and the Manatee calling plays for the Rape-fense and exposing any and all weaknesses so how can there be any doubt? Also, that ocean-centric Patterson nickname is subject to change and open to suggestion.
Advantage – Frogs.
Special Teams – I know nothing about the Beavers kicking situation, but as I’m prone to do, I’ll give them the edge simply because his name isn’t Ross Evans. But, to be fair, I looked at the stats and this is actually a pretty even situation. Oregon State Kicker Justin Kahut has some accuracy issues, but he had more opportunities and even banged a 50 yarder. I’ll give Kahut a SLIGHT edge over Evans, but mostly because it looks like the Beavers rely on him a lot more. Plus, everyone who was at the spring game remembers what happened. But I’m holding steady on Anson Kelton because apparently he’s had a resurgence in camp and, again, he’s a linebacker sized punter so that’s always fun.
Regardless, unless you get the feeling that the game is going to come down to last minute field goals in Salt Lake City, the special teams assessment comes down to who is going to put their team in the best field position. Considering Jeremy Kerley was the second best return man by total yardage in the entire NCAA last season – and the #1 team wasn’t Oregon State – I’m going to give him the nod. Same goes for the kick return game with Kerley and McCoy, except in this case we led the entire country in return average by a full yard. I don’t know how many touchdowns or field goals the Beavers are looking to score, but after they get over the jubilation of doing so, I recommend kicking it short.
Advantage – Frogs.
Overall: Despite all my overwhelming confidence though, this game is anything but guaranteed. I personally think that two TDs is a high estimate for the Frogs to be favored and if we can cover, it will be extremely impressive. Maybe I’m just hesitant because the last time we underestimated a legit player, it was the Fiesta Bowl and we got outplayed, but I don’t know that we will completely shut down Jacquizz Rodgers. He’s not a Heisman contender because he fizzles out in big games -unless you consider the Las Vegas Bowl a big game, which is questionable. Then again, our track record in holding down an opposing team’s star running back in a big game IS kind of our specialty. Just ask Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe. I think – actually, I’m pretty sure I know – we are going to pack the box and challenge Ryan Katz to beat us with his arm and if he can do that, then this one will go down to the wire. But if he isn’t able to play beyond his years, and Quizz can’t find any holes to run through, this game will be over before halftime.
So how am I going to make this call? Well, two reasons. The first is Ryan Katz. Katz may end up being a phenomenal QB and could be the guy to finally lead the Beavers to a Pac 10 title, possibly even this season. But to think that he’s going to come out in his first game as a starter, not to mention first game of the year, against a defense that will in all likelihood finish in the top five in the country, and pick them apart is nothing short of ludicrous. Where are the holes in our defense? Honestly? Unless you think Maponga, Broughton and Forrest can’t get it done on the end, there aren’t any. GP has probably been absolutely salivating thinking about the blitzes he’s going to send at Katz which will haunt his nightmares for the rest of his days. I wish the kid well in the future and I hope Oregon State finally breaks the glass ceiling in the Pac 10, but Saturday probably won’t even be able to be positively framed as a “learning experience.” Good luck, kid.
And the second reason, which is extremely more arbitrary, is that TCU doesn’t lose openers under Patterson, and Oregon State loves losing September games under Mike Riley, especially non conference ones. It’s just the nature of the beast. Last year it was Cincinnati and Arizona. Two years ago it was Stanford and Penn State. Three years ago it was Cincinnati, Arizona State AND UCLA. Four years ago it was Boise State and Cal. I’m not sure Riley was even the coach then, but you see where I’m going. Oregon State, despite their track record of eventually being competitive in the Pac 10 are habitual slow starters, even when the team they’re playing isn’t necessarily that talented. So toss in a new quarterback and a top 6 ranked team and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.
And, for full disclosure, TCU hasn’t lost an opener since my freshman year in 2002 against Cincinnati. The streak won’t end here.
The Pick: TCU 27, Oregon State 14.
Yeah so I took a BIT of a cop out here by having us fall short of covering the spread by half a point, but we’re not going to come out in mid-season form, despite what you’ve read in the practice reports. I don’t think Dalton is going to go nuts and one of the Rodgers boys will get behind our defense for at least one score and the Beavers will find another one somehow, someway. But, Ryan Katz will make a couple of rookie mistakes and set us up with a short field and we will take advantage. And hey, I’ve even got Ross making two field goals – or, if you want to be pessimistic, missing one PAT – so maybe I’m a big softie on the kid after all.
Regardless, with temperatures projected to stay in the 80s all day and a national television audience tuning it, tomorrow should be an absolutely glorious day for some football and a great way for the Frogs to let the rest of the country know that we’re ready to once again topple the BCS hierarchy.