Before we begin, a few notes about Saturday's game.
- In case you haven't been paying attention for the past few months, Saturday officially marks TCU's first ever Big 12 Conference game, and the first Big 12 Conference game of the season. Since Gary Patterson took over, the Frogs are 6-5 against the Big 12, beating Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor thrice, with the losses coming against Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Nebraska and Tech. The Frogs are 3-1-1 in opening games in a new Conference.
- TCU enters the game with the nation's longest win streak at 9 games.
- TCU holds an overall series record of 16-8-4 over Kansas. The last time the two teams met was in GP's first year as DC in 1997, the result of which was a Jayhawks victory in Lawrence. Like an elephant, GP never forgets. Also like an elephant, Charlie Weis is one.
- This is TCU's first 11AM game since the big win over Oklahoma in 2005. Methinks this is a good omen. Side note: Didn't the Stanford game get moved to 11AM because of a hurricane?
- DID YOU KNOW: Gary Patterson is from Kansas??? WHO KNEW??? Apparently not the media judging by the way they're playing up that angle.
- Charlie Weis' body type is still "Stay Puft Marshmallow Man."
I'll be honest - I'm pretty durned excited about Saturday's game. Not because TCU's first Big 12 game has been such a long time coming. Nor is it because I now have some real football to bridge the gap between Sportscenter and the 2:30 heavyweight games and don't have to give actual thought to watching the Big Ten Network to pass time. No, I'm excited because I quite literally may not have to get out of bed until 2PM on Saturday. Think of it - how many of you get out of bed on Saturday mornings during football season before Gameday is over outside of making a cup of coffee or the occasional bodily evacuation? So why not extend the sloth straight through 2 PM? I suggest packing a cooler before you go to bed to be placed at your bedside filled with snacks and mimosa supplies. Together we can embrace the lazy.
Things to Watch for This Weekend:
- So are we THAT good or is Grambling THAT bad? It'll likely take at least half a season's worth of data to draw any conclusions on that, but this weekend should be a pretty great measuring stick. Say what you will about the opponent, but the Frogs played about as flawless of a game as possible last week, not a small feat for a team that has been known to play down to the competition before righting the ship. But, I think we should tap the brakes on all of the blowout talk for this weekend because the likelihood of everything slotting into place like that two weeks in a row is remote. For one, we're a young team. Young team's are prone to getting overconfident, especially when they see that their next opponent after a demolishing lost to Rice at home. For another, the line of the game has dropped 5 points since it opened. This is a big one because Vegas generally has a particularly enigmatic grip on how a particular sporting event will be played. Yes, TCU is still a 3 TD favorite by their calculations, but the bettors, probably after watching what happened to Oklahoma State last week, know not to place as much importance on a season opener against a crap opponent as a homer fan would. Not to say Kansas isn't a crap opponent - because they are. OH, they are - but you can't guarantee success from a young, likely overconfident team playing in their first road game that also happens to be one of the most defining games in school history. SMU 2005 didn't hold half the significance as this weekend's game, but no matter how hard we try and scrub the memory from our brains, it still happened. TCU SHOULD win, but I don't think it's going to be as easy as we all want it to be.
- Will the Defensive Line miss Ross Forrest? For those of you who missed the news this week that Ross Forrest is done for the year with an injury yet again... well, that's it. They didn't last week, as Forrest played minimally - maybe one play - before sitting the rest of the game, but against a Kansas team that will be relying heavily on their run game, the depth could be missed. Fortunately Ross will still be a part of the team in a mentoring role, which is great news as GP credits his influence as a big reason why Devonte Fields played like a veteran last weekend. Forrest's absence is going to put a lot of pressure on Fields and Maponga to have an impact, and guys like Jon Kootz and Matt Anderson are going to have to get involved. Forrest's absence could also mean the yanking of another redshirt, this one belonging to James McFarland. Keep an eye out...
- Will this be the week Ladarius Brown gets his first catch? Perhaps lost a little bit in the shuffle from last week was the reality that TCU's newest MML (man, myth, legend. RIP Dwight Smith) has yet to register a catch as a Horned Frog. To be completely honest I'm not sure how many snaps he actually played last weekend, but based on the perfect 17/17 outing, it's safe to say he wasn't targeted. Pachall and GP have both made mention of the need to get him involved this week, so I'd be pretty surprised if he didn't get some looks against a Kansas squad giving up 236 passing yards per game.
- Is Dayne Crist as bad as football as he is at having a first name? The jury is still out, but after two games the signs seem to point to yes. After getting booted off the depth chart at Notre Dame - not exactly a hotbed of QB talent these days - Crist followed the fat man to Kansas where he hopes to be the one to return the Jayhawks to the glory days they experienced under the fatter man. It hasn't happened. For the year, Crist is 33/64 for 313 yards, 2 TDs and 3 picks. Not DISMAL numbers, but to date the Jayhawks have played Rice and one of the Dakotas, not exactly a murderers row. Ok, correction - they're pretty dismal. Like, 111th in the country dismal. They can't all be as perfect as Casey and Trevone, I guess.
- If the game goes to overtime, will Charlie Weis forfeit so he can go grab a late lunch? I'm putting the odds at +200. The odds of having a Kansas fan try to convince you that Lawrence is the best college town in the Big 12 are currently off the board.
TCU wins if... in the words of Ron Washington, if they get they heads out they butts. Not that their heads are in said butts, but you know what I mean. Overconfidence is TCU's biggest foe this weekend. Personally in this situation I think having the game on the road helps as it limits the day to day contact with frat bros telling you how awesome you are and how much you're going to kill Kansas. Plus, coaches always say its better to be on the road sometimes because you don't have lingering family members and friends, so there's that as well.
As for on the field, Kansas does have a strong running game behind Sophomore Tony Pierson. Sure, Grambling was supposed to have a dual threat attack last week and that clearly did not work out for them, but Pierson is much better than those guys. On that note, another bit of news this week was TCU losing LB Danny Heiss for the season, which shouldn't be a crippler, but LB is another spot we can't afford to sacrifice depth. The entire defense clearly held up nicely last week and should again, but going forward this could be a problem. I don't THINK it will this week, but as shutting down Pierson is probably going to be the name of the game, I hope I'm right.
Despite Charlie Weis' "decided schematic advantage" on offense, the Jayhawks defense has been the tail that wags the dog this year, at least from a scoring perspective, giving up 21 per game. Yes, they do tend to give up a bunch of yards, but if you're keeping points off the board you're doing your job, so the Frogs need to make finishing drives a habit early. I think they're up to the task.
If we're talking corrections from last week, one of the big complaints was TCU getting a bit of a case of the fumbles, so that needs to be shored up. Really, though, TCU just needs to show up ready to play. The Frogs are more talented, better coached and on a roll. They should win this game.
Kansas wins if... TCU misses Ross Forrest and Danny Heiss WAY more than anticipated, the Frogs come into Lawrence overconfident and Crist has a career day as TCU focuses entirely too much on shutting down Pierson. Kansas was really, really bad last year, yet they led Baylor by 3 TDs late in the game and Tech by the same margin, although they ultimately lost them both. I don't THINK that will happen this weekend, and even if it should I think the Baylor game last year demonstrated that TCU is capable of playing from behind, but if it does it's going to be on the Coaches and veterans to calm down the young guys and get the butterflies settled. Fortunately Kansas is coached by Charlie Weis and Dave Campo, perhaps the absolute worst secondary Coach the Dallas Cowboys have ever employed, so Pachall and/or Boykin should be able to continue what they started last week.
I wouldn't say I'm overconfident about this one, but I'm not exactly worried. I admire Kansas' dedication to the cause of hiring obese coaches, but I'm VERY skeptical of Weis' ability to right the ship in Lawrence. For one, he's been extremely self deprecating about his team's chances this week, well beyond the point of it being a bulletin board tactic. For another, his recruiting at Notre Dame was about as bad Tyrone Willingham's coaching, and Notre Dame is a MUCH easier place to recruit than a basketball school in Kansas. Most importantly though, the Big 12 North doesn't exist anymore. With Kansas having to play Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Tech, OSU every year while at the same time dropping Colorado and Missouri from the schedule and adding TCU and West Virginia makes the uphill climb pretty substantial. Weis may talk a big game, but I don't think losing to Rice is part of the schematic advantage.
The Pick: TCU 35, Kansas 14.