1. How is TCU adjusting to life in the Big 12? Has the weekly grind been hard on the team?
Nobody really knows, because we've never lost half the expected starters in the off-season before. The drug scandal meant that we're playing the most true freshman out of everyone in the country, and the only senior on the defensive side is our excellent linebacker Kenny Cain. The weekly grind has certainly been difficult, but there's no real way to say if it would have been harder on a full strength TCU team.
2. Tell me about Trevone Boykin. Is there any reason for me to believe that he won't have a career game against us?
Well the best reason to think that he won't have a career game against you guys is that we've already played Baylor this season. Have you seen their defense? Anyway, Boykin has been what you generally expect from a high ceiling young quarterback. Moments of brilliance, moments of cringing, throws that looked impossible to complete being successful and of course throws that looked impossible that were actually impossible. Out of a two game sample size (it's fair to discount the Iowa State game since Boykin wasn't given anywhere near a full week of practice. We were planning on mixing him in at running back that week, when suddenly Casey goes for his eventful drive.) TCU fans really like what we've seen out of Boykin so far.
He's made generally good decisions with the ball in the zone read game, he's an excellent runner and an above average passer- you can see a noticeable increase in his decision making ability with each start he makes. He had more turnovers against Tech, but Tech's defense is several world's better than Baylor's and he played the majority of the game on a hobbled ankle. As it is, Boykin on the ground should scare you a lot, but Boykin through the air will be fearsome by the end of the year as well.
3. What do see as the key match-up in this game? What are keys to a TCU Victory? How might you lose?
The key match up in this game is the TCU defensive front and linebackers against the Cowboy offensive line and Joseph Randle. The frogs will end up doing whatever it takes on the ground to make sure they aren't beaten there, that's the way it's always been for Patterson and I don't expect that there will be any change going against a solid running back/freshman quarterback combination this week. If the frogs are able to stop Randle regularly without additional safety help then the TCU secondary will be able to mix up coverage and have an excellent shot at building their conference lead in interceptions. If Randle can get things going the Frogs will have to commit more and more to stop him and may end up getting burned in coverage. On defense, if the Cowboys go into press coverage and bring pressure they may be able to force Boykin into making bad decisions, but that will also open up the passing game if they can't get to Boykin quickly- TCU's starting five receivers are the one area on the team left untouched by off-season shenanigans, in-season idiocy and injuries, and trust me when I say that if they're not the best in the conference then there's a tie. The final, and most important key to a TCU win is the big obvious one- turnovers. If TCU doesn't turn the ball over against Iowa State and Texas Tech they're undefeated right now, even with all of the off-season kerfuffle. That's pretty amazing to think about.
4. What is the strength of the TCU defense? Will they be able to stop the prolific Oklahoma State offense?
TCU's strength on defense is both ends of the defensive line, Kenny Cain at Linebacker and the secondary. That seems like a lot of strengths for a team that gave up 56 last week, doesn't it? I'll explain. Last week preseason All-Big 12 Defensive end Stansly Maponga wasn't able to play due to injury (he may be able to go this week), and he is an absolute bear to block. His sack numbers are down, but he's been getting pressure and has been excellent at drawing holding penalties and attention away from the other side, where freshman Devonte Fields has been one of the best defensive players in the nation- he could stop playing this and still likely end up as a first team freshman all-american based on his sacks and TFL numbers. Kenny Cain is the senior leader who has done a great job of getting the entire defense to play smart, as well as doing all of the responsibilities of a 4-2-5 linebacker well. The secondary is a tentative strength, but I still do feel more comfortable with them than I have for some time. In the times where they've gotten burned it's been when the quarterback has had all day on a play, and you can't really expect too much from any secondary if they have to stay with a man for six seconds+. One of the big reasons we lost the game to tech last week was that, though the secondary got their hands on the ball in good position to make a pick several times (at least three come readily to mind from having only seen the game once), they weren't able to come down with any of them. This is a significant outlier for the season, as the TCU secondary has been excellent in coming down with picks and tipped balls so far this season. Will they be able to stop Oklahoma State? Not the entire game, but if they can hold the Cowboys to below thirty points that will be enough for the Frogs to win.
5. Final Score? TCU final rank in conference?
TCU 34, Oklahoma State 24. I think the frogs are able to confuse Lunt, who will be taking his first look at the varied coverage looks of the 4-2-5 and will come up with two picks, which will balance out an interception and a fumbled pitch by Boykin. At the end of the season, I see 8-5, with wins over Oklahoma State, Texas and a bowl win over... let's say Northwestern. It'll set us up nicely for 2013, which should be a very good year.
Big thanks to HawkeyedFrog over at Frogs O' War for making this happen. Be sure to check them out. I think TCU and Oklahoma State could be battling it out for years to come. This should be the first of many very good Big 12 games between the two programs.