Friday, March 4, 2011

Spitblood Predictions: Spring Practice

Like we did every Friday during football season, it's once again time for the members of the Spitblood community to showcase their individual soothsaying talents. The Horned Frog football team starts spring practice later today, so let's see how you all do predicting what will happen in the next few weeks. Give us your thoughts, in the comments section, on these topics:

1) How will the QB race progress this spring? Will Pachall run away with the starting job? How much competition will he get from Matt Brown? Will any of the other QBs enter the conversation?

2) What players that have previously been in the shadows (redshirt freshmen or guys that just have not played much yet) will step up and become key contributors?

3) If any, what players do you think will end up changing positions- and why?

4) How will the newcomers (early-enrolled freshmen and JUCO transfers) do in spring practice? Which of them will end up having the biggest impact in 2011?

5) What will this team's final record be in 2011? I realize it's ridiculously early to be making predictions like this about a team with so many unknowns, but let's really see who's the best at seeing into the future.

2011 Schedule: Initial Thoughts.

Don't worry, Frogs fans - the home schedule may suck, but it will be worth it in the end.

Before we begin, I want to extend a warm welcome to our new readers from SMU and congratulate them on choosing to read up on a real football team. For those of you who were wondering where commenter shane arose from, I'll refer you to this story in the SMU Daily Campus regarding the recent spat of TCU related vandalism on the SMU campus. At first glance you won't see what I'm talking about, but I invite you click the link about midway down the page talking about the rye grass incident of a few years back. Yep, sure enough, the SMU SCHOOL RUN NEWSPAPER links to the Lesson in SMU Hate I penned a few weeks ago regarding the Toomer's Corner incident. Sadly, it wasn't one of my better pieces, but I suppose you have to start them off somewhere. And if the SMU faithful can't recognize the tongue in cheek nature of the SMU Hate Lessons and genuinely want to believe that this incident was years in the making, then they're even dumber than once thought and will surely provide us with many, many more opportunities for hate until this thing dies down. To be fair, most of them seem to recognize that there's no way someone directly affiliated with TCU had a part in this, but you never know how those cats will choose to spin it over time. Stay tuned...

Anyway, in real news, by now we've all seen the Frogs' home schedule for next year and have had 12 or so hours to pick it apart and plan our road trips accordingly. And while schedule breakdown duty typically falls on lyle's shoulders, he's been cursed with having to tend to his real, paying job all week so I'll carry the load. My observations follow, and make yours in the comments. As a refresher, heres' the schedule again:

Sept. 3 - at Baylor
Sept. 10 - at Air Force*
Sept. 17 - vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 24 - vs. Portland State
Oct. 1 - vs. SMU
Oct. 8 - at San Diego State*
Oct. 22 - vs. New Mexico*
Oct. 28 - vs. BYU^, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Nov. 5 - at Wyoming*
Nov. 12 - at Boise State*
Nov. 19 - vs. Colorado State*
Dec. 3 - vs. UNLV*

*Mountain West Conference game
^at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas

At first glance, there's nothing unexpected about our schedule. We knew who the home games were going to be against and how they were all terrible. We knew about BYU at Cowboys Stadium. We knew Boise would be away. The schedule sets up nicely in many ways, but as with anything there are certainly a few short comings.

  • The first thing that really sticks out is the immediate difficulty this young team is going to face right out of the gate. Having to face a Baylor team that will still have Robert Griffin - and no matter what we think of him, he'll want to beat TCU more than any other team on their schedule this year - and is brimming with confidence despite their bowl loss is going to be a tough, tough task for a first year starting QB playing behind a tragically inexperienced offensive line. Besides that, our secondary is full of new faces and while I have full confidence in our linebackers and front line being able to corral Griffin, if he develops into a competent passer this off season, it's going to be an absolute trial by fire. I'm not afraid of Baylor - I think whoever emerges out of the Brown/Pachall race will be fully prepared to take the reins of the offense, and I learned long ago not to doubt Patterson reloading the defense - but it's not going to be the cakewalk it's been the past two times we've faced them. But, if we're looking at trends, our last first year starting QB to face the Bears in his first outing had a pretty nice showing...

  • Along the same note, after facing the Bears in Waco, we then have to hit the road again and head to Colorado Springs where, as we well know, winning is never easy. A conference game this early isn't that unusual - you'll remember we opened with New Mexico a few years back, and of course we all remember the week three disaster that was Air Force in 2007 - but, depending on how week one goes, this could be a major must win game for these Frogs and their confidence. On the bright side, having the game fall this early in the season should mean that it won't be below freezing, fumble-weather, so we've got that going for us.

  • As spitpurple pointed out yesterday in the comment section of the schedule announcement post, following the opening road swing, we basically have 5 home games in 6 weeks. And while I prefer the schedule of two years ago where we alternated home and away games week in and week out, I can also appreciate the boost that having so many home games in a row can have on a team. I don't think there is anyone in our fan base who expects a third consecutive undefeated regular season, but if we are able to take down Baylor and Air Force to open things up, it's not entirely illogical to think that the Frogs can build on that momentum by taking out the likes of ULM, Portland State, SMU, New Mexico and BYU all in the Metroplex. On that note...

  • Unless Yao Padron turns into a world beating QB over night and the SMU defense decides to ply their trade, I have no doubt we will beat SMU. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited that they have to travel our way this year, although I'm not sure I like where it is on the schedule. Other than Boise, traveling to San Diego State is going to be our toughest road contest of the year, all disrespect to Baylor intended. And facing your traditional rival the week before a game like that can have a major carryover effect depending on how that game goes. Fortunately for us, San Diego State loses top receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, but QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman are still in the fold so we can't expect to just waltz in there and give them their usual punishment.

  • At first glance, the month of October looks to make or break our entire season. But upon closer inspection you'll notice that only two of the four games are in conference, and one of those is New Mexico in Fort Worth. And while the San Diego State game is sure to be daunting, as mentioned above, I don't think there's any team in Division 1 football who fears a visit from the Lobos when you consider Mike Locksley is still at the helm. But, with five non-conference games this year in lieu of the traditional four, the SMU and BYU games take on extra importance. Like I said, if there's any year where winning the conference as our main goal should be more than lip service, this is it... but can we really let SMU walk in and beat us at our place? Can we really let BYU leave JerryWorld with a victory on national television? More so than Baylor, and again, all disrespect to the Bears, BYU is our most important non-conference game, closely followed by SMU... so to go ahead and close this circular argument, with two conference games and our biggest two non conference games, October really will make or break our season.

  • And as an added bonus the San Diego State game falls on the Yom Kippur-iffic date of October 8th, which also happens to be Texas/OU weekend. I think we're all well aware how important it is for the sake of casual fans to not have a home game that weekend. Although, after the past couple of years we've become the new T shirt fan-base of North Texas so we might be surprised how little that conflict will matter going forward.

  • And then comes November where we travel to Laramie and Boise in consecutive weeks, and holy crap this should be the one that puts all of Big East travel haters back in their place because I can't think of two places I'd rather less try and travel to in the thick of winter. Heck, they're difficult places to travel to when the weather is beatiful, just ask WWHD. But let's not kid ourselves - Wyoming is terrible and to cap it off spelling bee champion QB Austyn Carta Samuels left the team this off season. So I don't care about the altitude and I don't care if there is a foot of snow on the ground and we can only fly in the morning of the game, if we lose then you can rest assured the wheels will have fallen off our season well before the final month of the season. So I guess let's talk about Boise. For one, I'm pretty excited this game falls in November rather than after Christmas because we're all going to be champing at the bit to get it over with. As much as I always hate the anticipatory build up towards a trip to Provo or Salt Lake and vis versa, I have a feeling if things shake out like we hope they will, the heart attack inducing vitriol of this trip will top anything we've experienced before. And when you consider the shady, back room dealings of why the game is being played in Boise in the first place, the wait will be exponentially more difficult. While I don't want to get into the particulars of the game quite yet - there's no reason to preview anything until spring practice is complete - you have to think guys like Tank Carder, Greg McCoy, Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and the rest of our remaining starters from the Fiesta Bowl will be more than ready to come out and pop those mouth breathers in the... mouth. The Broncos haven't lost in Boise in years, but if it's going to happen anytime in the near future, this is the year.

  • Another positive aspect of this schedule is the lack of a Thanksgiving weekend game, which for us married folk is a HUGE bonus. Believe me - if you're spending Thanksgiving weekend with your wife's family out of town, there's not a chance in hell you're cutting it short for a football game. So I can very much appreciate having our second bye week over the break and pushing back the UNLV game to the first weekend in December. On the one hand, that's typically the Big 12/SEC Championship game day, but with the Big 12 swapping places with the Big Ten in the math department - although now BOTH leagues come up short in the mathletic department - this shouldn't create any local conflicts. And on the plus side, perhaps we'll finally have a cold weather football game? Remember those? Sure, most of them happened on a Wednesday night when your asshole Professor made you stay the entire time so you had to get drunk during class in order to maintain pace, but EVERYONE loves a football game in cold weather. It's part of being American... well, that and facing the reality that the next leader of our country will come from a pool of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

  • Also related to the above post, it's nice to have a true bye week in the dead middle of the season. Sure, given the circumstances it'd probably be nice to have it after the SMU game and before SDSU, but after those two grudge matches in back to back weeks, it should be nice to have a break before getting into the second half of the season and the meat of the conference schedule.
And really, that's all I have off the top of my head. If I had my druthers, I'd like to swap the Baylor game Lousiana-Monroe and have a week between SMU and the Aztecs, but other than that I'll take it. I don't want to make any record predictions just yet because we don't even know who our starting QB will be, but I think this will be the most difficult year we'll have had since Dalton's RS Freshman season. Not because I don't have confidence in the team - like I said, Patterson has more than earned our trust by this point, and I think whoever emerges from the Brown/Pachall scrum will be more prepared than Dalton was and have more weapons around him to boot. No, I say this will be the most difficult season because this is everyone's last shot at the Frogs as a member of the Mountain West, and having current bragging rights is important to all of these teams we've treated so badly on the field in the past. We're going to get everyone's best shot; how we respond will be the tell-tale sign of the character of this team and what we can expect from them heading in the Big East.

Morning Dump

Football:
With bloom off the Rose, Frogs need growth from replacements
Star-Telegram

Patterson amused, if not thrilled, with TCU's final run through Mountain West
Star-Telegram

TCU 2011 football schedule released
Star-Telegram

TCU set to begin spring practice
GoFrogs.com

TCU's complete 2011 schedule announced
GoFrogs.com

Frogs aim to continue historic run
Rivals

It will be next to impossible to accomplish to top what TCU did in 2010
Dallas Morning News

Aune pledges to TCU
Scout.com



Baseball:
TCU hopes to end doldrums at Texas Tech
Star-Telegram

TCU hits road for weekend test at Texas Tech
GoFrogs.com

Athletic Department:

Samuels and Witte named February scholar-athletes
GoFrogs.com

Q&A with Pittsburg head coach and former TCU basketball player Jamie Dixon
Daily Skiff

Spitblood mention:

Frogs tagging ponies a college prank?
NBC DFW