I caught up with Melissa Triebwasser, Associate Editor of our SB Nation sister site for TCU, Frogs O’ War. She provided some excellent insight on what OSU needs to be on the lookout for on Saturday. Thanks to Melissa and Frogs O’ War for the time!
Our Q&A is below:
1. TCU has struggled at times this season and have looked great at times. What is your opinion on the Horned Frogs in general this season?
I have no idea.
This is as frustrating a TCU team as any I have watched over the past two decades. They are unbelievably talented on both sides of the ball and maddeningly inconsistent. When they put it all together, like they did in Waco two weeks ago, they can play with - and beat - anybody. Sure, Baylor was on the precipice of total destruction, but that Frog team could have beat anyone but Bama that day. But when they don't... they nearly lose to Kansas, allow OU to go all fire and brimstone for two quarters, and get run off the field on the opening kickoff by WVU. So, after a bye week, all I can say is, I know nothing.
2. TCU was projected to finish second in the conference but that isn't going to happen. Do you think that preseason ranking was fair considering what they lost from last season?
That's the easy answer of course. But Boykin was a generational talent at QB, Josh Doctson was unfair, and the defense had real leadership on the backend. Plus, a veteran o-line, a very good running back, and a special locker room chemistry. This team was too young to shoulder the burden of being highly ranked - they believed their hype a little too much, took a little too long to gel, and didn't pick up the playbook all that quickly. They've grown up a lot this year, and the play-calling is finally on the same page with the skillset of the players, so the future is bright. But, I think we all felt the program was in reload, not rebuild mode, and didn't realize just how lucky we were to have the guys we had lining up on Saturdays.
3. Kavontae Turpin is starting to get healthy again. Does his return have anything to do with TCU's success against Baylor? How does he affect the offense?
Turpin is special, and impacts the game so much whether he's got the ball in his hands or not. Defenses have to pay so much attention to him that it opens up a lot more opportunities for other players to get in on the action, and any time he goes in motion you can see the opposing sideline clench up a bit. But where he is truly a difference maker is in the return game - he can break one on any touch and completely changes field position for TCU, which positively impacts the play-calling. He didn't have a lot of called plays at Baylor, but I think he will be much more involved Saturday morning at home. What he does with the ball in his hands is certainly a big part of TCU's offensive success, but he is also such an important piece on the sideline and in the locker room. Turp is one of those special kids who keeps everyone hyped and locked in, and it was a different team when he wasn't available.
4. What are you seeing from TCU lately that you didn't see at the beginning of the season?
TCU opened the season airing it out, much to the frustration of fans. It was long before the #GiveKyleTheDamnBall movement took hold on social media, as in, run the ball with your best player - running back Kyle Hicks. The OCs stuck to their guns for a long time, before finally taking the square peg out of the round hole and putting their guys in the best situation to succeed. What that means is that instead of Kenny Hill throwing it 50 times a game, the Frogs are looking at a much more balanced attack, with more runs than passes in their last game. The recipe for success seems to be 25 passing attempts for Hill, 22-25 touches for Hicks, 8-12 for Turp, and 8-12 QB runs. That was the formula at Baylor, and seems to be the recipe for success. On the other side of the ball, the young players finally grew up, and started reacting instead of thinking. They are playing much faster, more aggressive, and most importantly, more confident. The return to full health of Ranthony Texada, who missed all of last year and the surprise return of Julius Lewis, who was expected to be out for the year, has been huge. And getting a couple big pieces back from injury on the o line hasn't hurt, either.
5. Where are TCU's weaknesses on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball? How would you scheme against them?
Kenny Hill can be a turnover machine at times, and that has definitely hurt TCU in several games - Arkansas, OU, and Tech come to mind, as does the near-disaster at Kansas. The offensive line was iffy at the beginning of the season, but has gelled and gotten healthy, and played pretty well in the last few games. The play-calling can get a little rough at times (#DeathToTheFade), and two of the best TCU receivers are two of the smallest guys on the field, and have lost some battles against bigger defenders on the deep ball.
Speaking of the deep ball... TCU has always been prone to surrendering a few of those a game, as you are well aware, and that's certainly a concern heading into Saturday against one of the best long distance connections in the country.
6. Who are the players on offense and defense to look for with the Horned Frogs?
Kyle. Hicks. The running back is the Frogs' best player, and when he is given the opportunity, he rarely disappoints. As Hicks goes, so goes TCU, and we all hope he gets many opportunities Saturday. The Frogs also have a true freshman RB, Sewo Olonilua, who hasn't gotten a ton of touches, but runs people over and racks up 7+ every time he does.
On defense, Ranthony Texada has really come on strong the last two or three games, including a pick six against Baylor. Him, the aforementioned Lewis, and Niko Small have all been fun to watch in the secondary lately. Transfer DE Mat Boesen is a pass-rush specialist, who seems to make plays every time he's on the field.
7. How do you see this game playing out? What's your score prediction?
I have been close to giving up on the season a few times, but the game in Waco renewed my hope. Say what you will about the state of that Bears program on that game day, but I saw a focus, a killer instinct, and a fluidity from the Frogs that had been lacking all season. Oklahoma State is a really good, really scary football team, but as an admitted homer, I have no problem picking against them. Thus, my prediction is 37-34 Frogs, with Brandon Hatfield getting some home field redemption with a late, tie-breaking field goal, and Texada sealing it with a pick.
We won’t hold it against you, Melissa. Thanks again to you and Frogs O’ War for taking the time to help us understand the Frogs just a little better. You can follow Melissa on Twitter @TheCoachMelissa.