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Previewing the 2017 Schedule: TCU

Oklahoma State hosts the Horned Frogs in Big 12 opener

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of the college football season growing ever nearer, excitement about what could be an historic season for Oklahoma State is growing. With that in mind, it’s time to start looking at Oklahoma State’s 2017 schedule.

After traveling to Pittsburgh the previous week, Oklahoma State welcomes TCU on Sept. 23 to open Big 12 play.


NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
When: Saturday, September 23, Time: TBD
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
Watch: TBD

2016: 6-7, 4-5 (Big 12)
Key Returners: QB Kenny Hill, RB Kyle Hicks, OL Austin Schlottmann, S Nick Orr, LB Travin Howard, LB Ty Summers
Key Losses: DL Josh Carraway, DL Aaron Curry, DB Denzel Johnson, RT Aviante Collins, DE James McFarland

When it comes to returning firepower, TCU is loaded. The Frogs return dual threat quarterback Kenny Hill, who was also second on the team in rushing yards. The team's leading rusher, Kyle Hicks, is also back after a 1,000 yard season which included 12 rushing touchdowns. Four of the five offensive lineman from 2016 are back, led by all-conference center Austin Schlottmann. Along with a rushing and receiving core that returns nearly everyone of note, the Frogs should see improvement from an offense that ranked eighth in the conference in scoring a season ago. On defense, the Frogs return a combined 251 tackles from all-conference linebackers Travin Howard and Ty Summers. Nick Orr and his team-leading four interceptions is also back in the secondary. The only position group TCU will see any inexperience at is the defensive line, where replacing Josh Carraway’s eight sacks and Aaron Curry’s nine tackles for loss could prove difficult. University of Louisiana Monroe transfer Ben Banogu should fill one of those holes after compiling 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2015. TCU only loses one defensive back from last season, and returns all the main pieces from the linebacking core. TCU ranked in the top half of the conference in all the important defensive categories, and there’s no reason that should change in 2017.


Last Time

Oklahoma State put together one of its best defensive performances in recent memories with a 31-6 thumping of TCU down in Fort Worth. The Cowboy defense held Kenny Hill and Co. under 200 yards passing, and only one touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On offense, the tandem of Justice Hill and Chris Carson combined for 300 yards rushing, on 33 attempts, and one touchdown. Mason Rudolph also ran for two touchdowns as well.


This Time

Players to watch

Offense

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Christian Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

No quarterback in the country had more dropped balls in 2016 than TCU’s Kenny Hill. When poised and under control, Hill is one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in this conference. With a solid rushing attack to complement Hill, and an offensive line that should hold its own with any in the conference, TCU’s offensive success will come down to its wide receivers. Taj Williams led the team in receiving yards (702) and receiving touchdowns (five), but the Frogs simply need more production if they are to keep up in the pass-happy Big 12. Running back Kyle Hicks actually led the team in receptions with 47. Amazingly, 18 players caught a pass for TCU last season, and only two of them are not back in 2017.

Defense

NCAA Football: Kansas at Texas Christian Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

While the defensive line might be the biggest question mark on the defensive side of the ball for TCU, the linebackers will be among the best in the Big 12. Travin Howard was All-Big 12 First Team in 2016 after racking up 130 tackles and a couple of fumble recoveries. Ty Summers was All-Big 12 Second Team, but was just as impressive with 121 tackles including five for loss. Sammy Douglas doesn’t draw quite as much attention as Howard or Summers, but the 6-foot-3, 215 pound senior is no slouch; he finished with 60 tackles, five for loss, in 2016.


Projection

This should be a fun game. Oklahoma State and TCU have played with Big 12 title implications in the past, and the conference opener with the Frogs should draw a rowdy crowd at Boone Pickens Stadium. TCU has been average defensively the past two seasons, but this year looks like the year Gary Patterson gets his defense back on track. But even with an improved defense, TCU’s secondary shouldn’t be able to hang with Oklahoma State’s receivers. The Cowboys are too good on offense to let an above average defense slow them down. TCU might be able to score some points on offense, but until someone emerges as a serious threat for Kenny Hill to throw the ball to, Oklahoma State should be able to make just enough stops to pull out a win.

Bottom Line

TCU is going to improve from its 6-7 season last year; it’s only logical with all the experience returning from last year. But it’s not often a team can transition from 6-7 to conference contender in just one year. I believe TCU is going to be good this year. I believe they can be the best team in Texas this year (PLEASE COME AT ME TEXAS FANS). But TCU might just be one year away from competing for the Big 12 title. Can they give Oklahoma State a game? Of course. Could we be in store for another 2015? Heck year! Either way, TCU has proven they can succeed in this conference, and there’s no reason they can’t make things interesting in the Big 12 title race.

OSU 45 - TCU 35