The Cowboys started the 2017 season off the right way, going 3-0 against two quality opponents and South Alabama. Now the fun begins. What is being widely regarded as the game of the week sends Ridwan Issahaku and the revitalized defense of the No. 16 TCU Horned Frogs into the sold-out Boone Pickens Stadium for a matchup with red-hot Heisman-hopeful Mason Rudolph and the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The matchup is only one of two battles between Top-25 teams, with No. 17 Mississippi traveling to Athens to take on the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs in the nightcap.
Before we get there though, let's learn a little bit about the Horned Frogs.
I’d like to thank Melissa Triebwasser over at our SBNation sister site Frogs O’ War for taking the time to answer these. And with that let’s talk Frogs!
1. How much of an impact does the absence of Kyle Hicks have should he not be ready for Saturday?
It definitely hurts. TCU looked really good behind the ground game early Saturday, and Hicks took his first touch 41 yards. As a senior, there isn't much Kyle hasn't seen, and he's a weapon in the run and pass game, as well as a capable pass protector. Darius Anderson has shown he is a burgeoning superstar in his own right, and he and Sewo Olonilua make quite the pair - and cause quite the headache for opposing DCs. Hicks being out shouldn't be the reason TCU doesn't win, should they not, but it's certainly a big chunk of the offense and taking him off the field hurts the Frogs' offense to some degree.
The #brightside to his absence is more Kenedy Snell. The former Waxahachie star scored three touchdowns in his first five touches, and has flashed that next level speed that makes him such a special player. More touches for Snell is never a bad thing - he can run between the tackles, bounce it outside, and is scary out of the slot. That should be fun.
2. This TCU defense held Arkansas to 7 points in week 2. They then turned around and let SMU score score 36 points in week 3. With those drastically different numbers in mind, how are you feeling about this defense going into this game?
The TCU defense was sooooooo ready for Arkansas. We finally have the size in the middle to shut down a rushing attack like the Hogs, and the game plan worked to perfection. With the running game rendered impotent, the pass rushers were free to attack off the edge and Austin Allen spent the afternoon picking dirt out of his mouth guard.
But SMU is a different animal, and the Frogs hadn't seen a passing attack like that thus far this season. After a rough first quarter, they shut it down though - holding Ben Hicks to a 50 percent completion rate and keeping the Ponies out of the end zone until a blown coverage late. Now, Ben Hicks is no Mason Rudolph, and while Courtland Sutton and the SMU receiving corps is really good - they aren't the Cowboys. I think the Frogs' secondary will look a lot better to start the game Saturday, but they'll have to be near perfect to slow down the passing game. The pass rush has looked really solid so far this season, and getting a good push consistently and forcing Rudolph out of the pocket could be a huge key. The linebackers have been solid - this is where the Frogs' speedy, undersized guys in the middle can actually be a positive - and the secondary is really fast, really aggressive, and pretty savvy. Remember the name Ridwan Issahaku - if there is a big momentum swinging play for TCU in Saturday's game, it's probably going to come from him.
But, with as improved this unit is as a whole, asking them to keep OSU under 35 points is a tall task. If they hold the Pokes to around 40, I think the Frogs will have a chance.
3. Kenny Hill hasn't really gotten a chance to use his legs this season. Do you think they let Hill run a bit more in this game?
Absolutely. This is one thing I think Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper have held back on through the first three games - asking Kenny Hill to use his legs in designed runs as opposed to extending plays or scrambling. That's been the case partially because he hasn't need to - the run game has been as good as it's been in a while, and the offensive line play has been really solid. But, that's an X-Factor for the Frogs, and could be a much bigger part of the play-calling than we have really seen the last two seasons.
4. What player on TCU should OSU fans be watching for on Saturday?
Well, if you don't know KaVontae Turpin by now, you probably should. After starting the season a little banged up, he looked like his old self against SMU, creating problems as a receiver, a runner, and in the return game. He's a difference maker for TCU, and is Kenny Hill's favorite target. Freshmen Jalen Reagor and Kenedy Snell look like potential future stars at receiver and running back respectively, and on defense Ben Banogu is as fast a pass-rusher as the Frogs have had since maybe Jerry Hughes.
5. What player for Oklahoma State do you think TCU will have the most problems with from either side of the ball?
The easy answer is Mason Rudolph, and he's certainly the guy that makes the offense click. I would expect that Gary Patterson will try and take away James Washington and the deep pass, which means one of the million other ridiculous wide receivers in that offense could go off for something like 11 catches for 146 yards and two scores. It's hard to say who it will be, but McCleskey's size stands out as a big potential problem.
*Editor’s note: I believe Melissa meant Marcel Ateman, not Jalen McCleskey. McCleskey stands at 5’10, while Ateman clears 6’4.
Patterson trying to decide who to cover:
6. Vice versa what TCU player do you think will give OSU fits on either side of the ball?
Turpin is the easy answer here, but I think Darius Anderson is going to be a big problem for the Cowboys. If the Frogs try and control the clock and keep Rudolph and Co. off the field, DA is going to have to have a big day. He's certainly capable - the sophomore is fast, strong and not afraid to run through and over people. He has a running style that is really fun to watch, and if the score stays close enough, he should go for 100+.
7. Feelings on the Mullet?
I love-hate it so much. Like, it's terrible. It's a mullet. There's nothing good about a mullet. But man, if Patterson grew one, I would be just as in love with it as Oklahoma State fan's are with Gundy's. It's so dang BA. How do you top a head coach with a mullet? You can't. It's brilliant.
8. What do think is the key for TCU to come out of Stillwater with a win?
Hold on to the ball. TCU has to dominate time-of-possession and can't turn it over. They'll need a big day in the return game, probably a score on defense, and to make Mason Rudolph uncomfortable with a blistering pass rush. These are all things the Frogs can do, but making it happen on the road is a huge challenge - especially in a place they have yet to play well. I think it will be a fun, competitive game that comes down to late in the fourth quarter, but TCU is going to have to put together a near-perfect game and hope Rudolph eats some bad clams or something.
Hey Mason, I have some free clams if you want any ;)
Again, thanks to Melissa for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with us. Keep an eye out for Tyler Wiederhoeft’s answers to questions from Frogs O’ War on their site later this week!