Not Backing Down: Predicting the TCU Season
Last year, the TCU Horned Frogs had one of their best seasons ever.
They finished at No. 7 in the country following a great bowl win over previously undefeated Boise State.
TCU finished at the top of the charts in a number of defensive categories, Their No.1 rushing defense (they held opponents to under 50 yards a game), No.4 passing defense, and No.2 scoring defense, added up to the No.1 overall defense in the country.
They were also first in time of possession at over 35 minutes a game. DE Jerry Hughes led the nation in sacks.
TCU destroyed then No. 9 BYU in one of last year's most dominating performances. The Frogs held Sugar Bowl-winning Utah in check for 59 minutes before losing on a remarkable drive by the Utes.
This year, Coach Gary Patterson has the Frogs ready for another great run at the top ten. With third-year starter Andy Dalton at QB, the Frogs look to improve on last year's No. 22 ranking in total offense.
Looking at the schedule, the Frogs face a couple tough battles, but seem capable of finally making it to a BCS bowl this year.
Coach Patterson has taken the Tom Petty song "I Don't Back Down" as the theme for this year's team.
Do not expect the Frogs to back away from any challenge or any team this year.
Sept. 12 at Virginia Cavaliers
Things are not going well in Charlottesville.
Coach Al Groh has gotten his team to only one bowl game in the last three years and his squad is picked near the bottom of the ACC.
Groh is on a hotseat this year, and might not be around much longer (though his contract has a pretty expensive buyout provision).
During the offseason, Groh fired his son as offensive coordinator and is bringing in a spread offense. Too bad the Frogs eat spread offenses for breakfast.
With the Frogs taking Week One off, the Cavs will have a game versus FCS William & Mary under their belt.
While the Frogs may not be fine-tuned starting a week late, look for them to win without too much pressure.
TCU 31 - UVA 7
Sept. 19 vs Texas State Bobcats (FCS)
While President Lyndon B. Johnson is the most famous alum of the school formerly known as Southwest Texas State, the Bobcats hope you will know all of their names in the future.
Featured in the old sports classic, "Necessary Roughness", this Bobcat team lacks a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover girl as kicker. Oh, well.
Texas State is mostly famous in Texas for being a great party school located between Austin and San Antonio, full of students who could not get into Texas, but still support the Longhorns.
The school is currently building a new stadium and plans to move up to FBS level in the near future. The Bobcats went to the FCS playoffs last year and lost in the first round.
Last year, the Frogs played FCS Stephen F. Austin. Unfortunately, those silly FCS boys started talking trash to the TCU team before the game, so TCU had to unload a 67-7 smackdown that actually could have been much worse.
And since I generally condemn playing FCS schools, I will include TCU in this mix. Come on, guys, at least try to get a Sun Belt school like North Texas. Texas State even lost to SMU last year.
TCU 49-Texas State 3
Sept. 26 at Clemson Tigers
The Bowden era is gone from Death Valley, as Dabo Swinney looks to bring back Clemson football.
Last year started off extremely disappointing for Clemson, as they took their top-ten ranking to play the unheralded 'Bama squad of Nick Saban. Wow, what a bad start to a bad season.
With Tommy Bowden gone midseason, Dabo Swinney got called to the helm for the rest of season and did good enough to win the head coaching job.
Clemson looks to unleash RB C. J. Spiller and WR Jacoby Ford on the world this season.
Eight starters will return to a defense that allowed only 17 points and 300 yards of offense per game in 2008.
This may be the Frogs' toughest game of the year and will be a real test of their BCS hopes.
TCU 20-Clemson 13
Oct. 3 vs Southern Methodist University Mustangs
The Battle for the Iron Skillet has been lopsided for some time.
These two Dallas-Fort Worth institutions have played each other 88 times, but SMU has only won once in the last 10 meetings—when the Ponys upset the 2005 TCU team for its only loss of the season.
SMU has been bad for awhile, but former Hawaii coach June Jones is being paid $2 million a year to bring SMU back to glory.
Last year Jones decided to go completely back to the drawing board and the Mustangs posted only one win, against FCS Texas State.
Of course, SMU has never been the same since the death penalty (and the NCAA has never leveled it against any other school even though other schools have done the same if not worse then SMU over the last 20 years).
SMU was known back then as the best team money could buy and the best team in Dallas, but those days are long gone.
Some Frogs fans have grown tired of this one-sided series that only hurts their strength of schedule, but the game provides bragging rights to Frog alums throughout DFW.
TCU 45-SMU 10
Oct. 10 at Air Force Falcons
The kings of the triple option look to break through the top three barrier in the MWC.
Air Force has gone bowling each of the last two years under Coach Troy Calhoun.
The Falcons had declined during Fisher DeBerry's last three years, but are definitely back to being a good team.
Preparing for Air Force is always difficult, given the small number of teams that run the triple-option today. While Air Force is generally undersized, the team is full of good football players who also look forward to a career flying jets.
Air Force will continue to give teams difficulties this year and will look to upset one of the MWC big three. Calhoun beat both TCU and Utah in 2007 and looks to do so again this season.
TCU 34-AFA 17
Oct. 17 vs Colorado State Rams
Sonny Lubick made Colorado State into a real power for a decade, though the program fell down during his last few years.
Former Rams QB and long-time assistant Steve Fairchild took the helm last year and took CSU to a bowl win.
The Rams last had a really good season in 2002 and I do not see them having a ten-win season this year, but things are really looking up in Fort Collins.
TCU has a five-game winning streak going over the Rams. Last year's game in Fort Collins occurred in severe winter weather conditions, leading to the 13-7 score. TCU held the Rams strong-running attack to 11 yards.
Given Texas fall weather, CSU will receive much help from the elements this year.
TCU 45 - CSU 7
Oct. 24 at BYU Cougars
Last year BYU came into Fort Worth with a No. 9 ranking and BCS dreams in its "quest for perfection."
Those dreams died hard, as they faced a fired-up TCU team that took BYU to the cleaners.
TCU had practiced for a year with BYU on its tackling dummy, as a regular reminder of the MWC's former top dog.
TCU looks to go into Provo and seize the MWC title. This looks like it could be one of the games of the year in college football.
Max Hall is a senior and BYU's senior QBs have been really good over the years. However, poor Max is still seeing DE Jerry Hughes in his eyes after last year's wipeout, where Hughes had four sacks and caused a whole lot of turmoil for BYU.
One of the keys to the game for BYU will be establishing the run. BYU has a tendency is rely on throwing the ball a little too much when down, leading to interceptions by Hall. BYU was down only 28-24 in the third quarter against Utah last year before Hall threw five picks.
BYU's defense should improve, but TCU should have too much for the Cougars.
TCU 31-BYU 24
Oct. 31 vs UNLV Rebels
UNLV is a basketball school. With well-funded and supported team, the Rebels have found great success on the hardwood, but so much in football.
Of course, being a commuter school in America's soul-less playground does not help.
But this Rebel team could be different. For the first time in a decade, people in Las Vegas believe that they might actually have a real football team (although it has to play far from campus in a poorly located stadium).
Led by QB Omar Clayton, the Rebels were on the brink of a bowl bid last year when they fell inexplicably to San Diego State.
In 2007, UNLV shut out Utah. Don't be too surprised if UNLV upsets either BYU or Utah this year.
TCU is 6-1 against UNLV, with the only loss from back in the days of the 16-team WAC.
TCU 45-UNLV 14
Nov. 7 at San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State has long been a team the just has not put it all together.
Based in a large city with a lot of local talent, the Aztecs just can not seem to find success.
The team has been close to signature wins for years. Last year, the Aztecs challenged Notre Dame. In recent years, they lost close games to Ohio State and Michigan.
The team has changed styles many times over the last few years, from high-powered offenses to tough defenses, just not at the same time.
SDSU has gone through coaches, with each experiment failing more than the last. Chuck Long was just the most recent failure.
The Aztecs hope that all changes this year, with the coming of Brady Hoke, fresh off his success with Ball State last year. Hoke is bringing in a great staff, highlighted by former New Mexico coach and defensive guru Rocky Long.
While SDSU will not likely challenge for the MWC crown this year, look for them to contend and become bowl eligible in the next few years.
TCU 38 - SDSU 10
Nov. 14 vs Utah Utes
This year, there is no team in the country that the Frogs want to beat more than Utah.
If the Frogs went and lost every other game, but beat Utah, many Frogs would be happy.
The loss last year in Salt Lake has caused the Frogs to circle this game. It is rumored that the tackling dummies all have Utah gear.
Good news for the Frogs. QB Brian Johnson is gone. PK King Louie is gone. And the game is in Fort Worth.
Utah fans, be ready for this one. The Frogs are looking to do to Utah what they did to BYU last year. Now that Utah is starting an inexperienced QB, look for DE Jerry Hughes and boys to ring a few bells.
TCU 42 - Utah 10
Nov. 21 at Wyoming Cowboys
Last year, Wyoming pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever, going to Tennessee and coming away with a win.
There were very few sports fans, let alone Cowboys fans, that believed it was even possible.
Wyoming has resided in the gutter of the MWC since the conference was born. Yet Wyoming once was a college football power.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Wyoming was a name to be recognized in the college football world, even playing in the Sugar Bowl, Gator Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and several Sun Bowls.
Since that time, they have occasional success, with some great teams in the late '80s and mid '90s (before Joe Tiller went to Purdue).
New HC Dave Christensen hopes to bring a high-powered offense to go with the existing solid defense.
One thing is for sure, playing in Wyoming in November is not a pleasant experience. The weather assists the team and the crazy fans (and Wyoming fans rank among the craziest) support their team in conditions to make a Buffalo Bills fan feel cold.
TCU 21 - Wyoming 3
Nov. 28 vs New Mexico Lobos
The Lobos had a solid team for most of this decade with Rocky Long, but he gave up on the team, citing lack of community support.
Now, New Mexico looks to rebuild this program. The Lobos are more of a basketball school than football school.
New Mexico will most likely fall to the bottom of the MWC this year.
TCU hopes this game will be its final game before receiving a BCS bowl bid.