Making the Case That TCU's Secondary Is the Best in the Country
At 2-3, not much has gone right for TCU this season. Quarterback Casey Pachall is out until November—at least—with a broken arm, and the Frogs offense hasn't been able to consistently get things going in the right direction.
Trevone Boykin doesn't look like a quarterback who made eight starts last season. Wide receiver play leaves something to be desired, and it's becoming more apparent by the week just how much this program continues to miss former offensive coordinator Justin Fuente, who is now the head coach at Memphis.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said Monday on the Big 12 coaches teleconference that his team no longer believes in moral victories. But if there is a silver lining to what has been a rough start, it's how well the defense has played.
In the past four games, TCU has held its opponents to an average of 18.5 points. Though the Frogs are winless in Big 12 play, they did hold Texas Tech and Oklahoma to 20 points each. To put that in perspective, the Red Raiders average about 41 points a game and the Sooners 31.
Even dating back to the season-opening loss to LSU, TCU's defense played better than the score indicated. Three of LSU's drives began deep in TCU territory, and Zach Mettenberger, as he's done all year, made some serious NFL throws.
The best defenses can only do so much when it comes to defending perfect throws.
While TCU may not have the best defense in the country, its secondary is loaded with talent and experience. The group of Jason Verrett, Kevin White, Chris Hackett, Sam Carter and Elisha Olabode is the nation's best.
Olabode and Verrett are seniors who between them have played in 73 games and earned Big 12 and All-American honors. None of the five secondary players mentioned have played in fewer than 18 games.
While it may be cause for concern that three of TCU's top-five tacklers—Hackett, Olabode and Verrett—come from the secondary, this is a group that has 20 combined pass breakups and eight of the team's nine interceptions (that latter number is good enough to rank in the top 10 nationally). Hackett and Carter also have forced a fumble.
It's an active group, one Patterson thinks is the best he's had in more than a decade.
Patterson thinks his back seven on his defense is the best he's ever had in 16 yrs.— Stefan Stevenson (@FollowtheFrogs) October 8, 2013
The interesting thing about TCU's secondary is that basic stats, like pass defense and yards per completion, don't indicate this is an elite group. The Frogs rank 57th and 86th, respectively, in those categories.
But those numbers can sometimes be misleading. A defense can give up 300 yards passing if an opposing quarterback throws the ball 70 times and runs a hurry-up every play. Rather, the more telling number is that the Frogs defense is considerably better—23rd in the nation, in fact—in defensive pass efficiency.
When opposing offenses throw it, they're only completing about 54 percent of the passes. That passing efficiency number is better than many of the other teams across college football that have been producing turnovers in the secondary.
TCU, with Carter and Hackett with three interceptions apiece, is one of five teams in the FBS that has two players who have combined for six or more interceptions. The other four are Boise State, Nebraska, Northern Illinois and Washington State.
The biggest challenge for TCU's secondary will come at the end of the season when the Frogs host Baylor on Nov. 30. The Bears are No. 1 in the country in just about every major statistical passing category, and the rushing offense isn't lagging far behind.
There are no other teams in the Big 12 that can move the ball like Baylor can. If TCU's secondary can keep the Bears' passing offense in check—it has the athletes and experience to do it—and force turnovers, there won't be any question it's the best unit in college football.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All numbers obtained via NCAA.com, and all information and quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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