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Minnesota Football: Opponent Preview #3 TCU Horned Frogs

The first road game of the season should be the toughest task so far

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In the next three weeks as we move closer to the start of the 2014 Gopher Football season, we here at The Daily Gopher will give a quick preview of the Gophers opponents.  Next up is the Gopher's third non-conference game, and first road test,  the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.

Name: Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Enrollment: 9,925
Conference: Big 12
Notable Alumni: Chris Klein (Oz from American Pie) , Rod Roddy ( Price is Right announcer), Sammy Baugh, Andy Dalton, Davey O'Brien, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reverend Timothy Lovejoy
Bill Connelly Preview Link: Here!

Last Season:

TCU is looking to bounce back after a sub-par 4-8 overall record.  They went 2-7 in the Big 12 with their two wins coming over conference whipping boys Kansas and Iowa State.  However, they lost four Big 12 games by a combined eleven points to Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State and Baylor.  The major problem last season for the Horned Frogs was their offense which ended up 104th in the country.  The defense was much stronger as you could expect from a Gary Patterson coached team, as they finished 24th in the country.

Bill C's Wisdom and Statistical Wizardy

Key Losses:

TCU will be trying out a new quarterback this season after the loss of Casey Pachall.  He was not very good for the Horned Frogs throwing for just over 1,500 yards and only 6 touchdowns to go with 10 interceptions.  On the offensive line, TCU will be looking to replace right guard Eric Tausch and left ta ckle James Dunbar who combined for 38 career starts between the two of them.

On defense, TCU will miss the Preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in Devonte Fields.  Fields who only played in three games last year due to suspension and injury was expected to have a huge season this fall for the Horned Frogs.  However, he was "separated" from the TCU program earlier this month after being investigated for a domestic violence incident, and almost transferred to Stephen F Austin before TCU declared him ineligible.  No matter the circumstances, Fields will not be on the field on September 13th.  TCU will also need to find replacements for cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Elisha Olabode who have moved onto the NFL.  Verrett was one of if not the best cover corner in the country, and Olabode was a hard hitting safety who wa ssecond on the team in broken up passes behind Verrett.

Key Returners:

The Horned Frogs return a quarterback who got quite a bit of action behind Pachall last season.Trevone Boykin threw for almost 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore a year ago.  He is a duel threat quarterback who also ran for 405 yards and seven touchdowns.  he also played wide receiver while Pachall was at quarterback catching 26 passes for just over 200 yards.  Boykin will get playing time somewhere on the field, though it may be more at receiver after the incoming transfer of former Texas A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel.  The Horned Frogs return their three best rushers from last year led by junior B.J. Catalon who ran for 569 yards and 6 touchdowns.  We will see the majority of the carries this season as well.  Josh Doctson who was the leading receiver for the Horned Frogs a year ago also returns.  TCU's remaining starters on the offensive line return a combined 49 starts.

On defense the Horned Frogs remain strong.  Chucky Hunter anchors the middle of the defensive line ans will be one of the best defensive tackles in the Big 12.  TCU also returns a trio of juniors who rotated through at defensive end last season.  All of the starting linebackers return for TCU including run-stopper Paul Dawson.  He had 69 tackles including ten of them for a loss last year in anchoring the linebacker corps.  Marcus Mallett and Johnathan Anderson also had over 50 tackles each and will be a force to work with in the middle of the Horned Frogs defense.  In the secondary, the Horned Frogs also remain strong.  Safety Chris Hackett led the team in tackles with 71 and had three interceptions a year ago.  TCU also brings in a trio of redshirt freshmen who are highly touted and should help cover the losses of Verrett and others immediately.

Question Marks??

The major question for the Horned Frogs will be who will be playing quarterback.  Boykin opened fall practice atop the depth chart, but if he can be used more effectively as a wildcat out of the backfield and at receiver, Joeckel could see a lot of time behind center as well.  If the offense can improve from a year ago, this TCU team could bounce back in a significant way.

The next question mark is will Gary Patterson's vaunted 4-2-5 defense be as effective as it was a year ago.  They lost several important cogs, but like his good buddy Jerry Kill, Patterson has excelled at recruiting to his system and finding players to plug up holes on the defense quickly.  TCU can get good run stuffing pressure up the middle, yet have a great cover secondary.  If it plays up to its potential, it can be a top 20 defense in the country.

Enemy X's and O's

What Does It All Mean For Minnesota?

The Gophers will need to being their A-game to Fort Worth.  TCU will not be an easy game for this Gophers team.  It may have the best defense the Gophers will see all season if they are clicking together by week three. The Gophers will need to have a strong game in the trenches on both sides.  If the offensive line can't create running holes for David Cobb and the rest of the Gopher running backs, it could be a long hot afternoon in Texas.  With a 4-2-5, the Gophers will see an a look that they are not used to, and will need to make sure that Mitch Leidner and the rest of the offense study the film intently.  I'm sure Gary Patterson has no intention on taking it easy on his long-time friend.

On defense, they Gophers will need to get a good push up front and good run-stopping by the running backs.  TCU struggled run-blocking for the majority of last season, so if Minnesota can stop the run effectively and make either Boykin or Joeckel air it out against the Gopher's strong secondary, they should be able to have a chance to win.  If not, it could be a long hot day in Texas,

Final Analysis:

This is a game that I can see going either way,  It will be a tough task for the Gophers for sure.  They will have a good crowd of fans in town for the game which will help, but TCU's defense is just damn good.  Like almost Michigan State good.  If the Gophers can run the ball effectively, they will have a good chance to win this game.  If they can't however, I don't think the rest of the Gopher offense will be enough against the strong defense of TCU.  I can easily see this being a low scoring affair with both defenses having good games.  I was much more confident in a Gopher win before reading a little more into the Horned Frogs, and now am definitely conflicted.  I'll have to make a decision eventually, but for right now I'll predict a 17-13 final...with someone winning.  Just not sure who yet.