It's that time of the week again Gopher fans. The moment when the gnomes stop by to help add snark to my weekly preview. Not familiar with the format? Every weekly preview will get an assist from one of the ever multiplying number of Gopher gnomes who stop by my cube to talk Gopher sports. The four non-conference games will be previewed by the Gopher gnome bench. They couldn't agree on which individual one of them would help with each non-con game, so instead they'll do all four as a group. Our non-con opponents should be very excited!
Before the season I called this game as a win for Minnesota. So did the gnomes. After two weeks without true success in the passing game and a starting QB who left the game last Saturday with an MCL strain, I'm less sure. The gnomes are steadfast though. They think the Gophers will win. Here's hoping they're right.
Thanks to our Froggy SB Nation friends from Fort Worth, the gnomes aren't feeling too snarky. They liked the haiku contest on Twitter/the Q&A at Frogs O' War and they got to know the TCU gnome representative and found him to be a likeable fellow.
Together they made plans for next fall's gnome tailgate and made fun of the Wisconsin gnome's drunken stumblings, cheese farts, and general surly demeanor. So when I asked for an image to describe TCU they didn't give me their usual fare. Instead, I received this GIF:
Light Pre-Preview Reading
Date: Saturday, September 13th
Kickoff Time: 3 PM CT
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
TV: Fox Sports 1
Streaming Video: Fox Sports Go
Radio: KFAN (100.3 in the Twin Cities) and the Gopher Radio Network (Radio Affiliates).
Streaming Audio: Locate KFAN on IHeartRadio (or the IHeartRadio app for your mobile device)
Satellite Radio: SiriusXM 202; Sirius 117; XM 202
For the tailgate:
Where Are They From?
Fort Worth, TX
SB Nation Blog: Frogs O' War
Last Season: 4-8 (2-7 Big 12)
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.
Thoughts from our TCU friends:
Then the game rolled around and Patterson announced that Boykin was the starting quarterback and we were all fairly shocked. Boykin is a true running threat every time he touches the ball, but until he actually hit the field against Samford there calling him a dual threat would have been a kindness. Still, Boykin made the right reads, put the ball in the right places (even his incompletions were put in places where it was either our guy or no guy making the play) and suddenly the decision made a lot more sense.
Running back is TCU's deepest position, as we return a Doak Walker candidate (junior B.J. Catalon), a former five-star recruit in junior Aaron Green and a lot of youth that can give you a lot of different skills at running back. I think that a lot of what we saw in the running back mixup was wanting to get snaps for a lot of players in case something terrible happens to a presumptive starter (it happens a lot in Fort Worth). B.J. Catalon is simply too good to be on the sideline for any extended time, and Aaron Green is an absolutely explosive option out of the backfield, so I think Minnesota will see heavy doses of both of them, with perhaps a few short yardage carries for the other backs.
We'll start with safety Sam Carter, my preseason pick for Big 12 defensive player of the year this year and a likely candidate for some major awards. Playing at strong safety in Patterson's 4-2-5 asks a lot of a guy, your priority is to stop the run, but you also need to cover and blitz to keep the looks varied and Carter excels in every role, leading the team in takeaways last year and piling up tons of tackles and tackles for loss as well. DT Chucky Hunter is another returning All-Big 12 level player who is just about everything you want in a DT- strong, stocky, not too tall and has a phenomenal motor- his job will be to force Minnesota to run outside where the speed of TCU's defense is waiting- and he's very good at that job. Finally I would be remiss if I didn't mention cornerback Kevin White. Few teams could lose a first round draft pick at cornerback and not worry too much about the impact, but White has been waiting for his time in the spotlight for ages now, and he was absolutely sensational against Samford, not just in defending passes but he delivered the best hit of the game when his man was targeted for a quick screen pass.
2014 Season to Date:
1-0, with a 48-14 win over something called Samford. That's Samford with an "m". No, T. Denny didn't buy himself a school too.
Head Coach: Gary Patterson (15th year; 121-44). A non-conference coach you've definitely heard of. Gary Patterson has done an excellent job at TCU. He's led the Horned Frogs to eight 10+ win seasons, including 4 in a row of 11 wins or better from 2008-2011. That streak included an undefeated season in 2010, with the 13th win coming over our friends from the East (Hi Bert!). Reason to Hate Him? Not many. He and Kill are besties and he's a good coach who isn't a complete jerk. If I had to pick a reason, it would be for teasing Gopher fans with the chance he might come here in 2006 so that TCU would give him a raise. Scheme? TCU runs the 4-2-5, which our FOW friends have made sure to let us know is designed to stop the run first. On offense, look for TCU to be more of an Air Raid squad, a departure from past years.
Players to Watch: They've played one game against Samford. Normal giant grain of salt rule applies.
1) Trevone Boykin (QB - Junior): 29-41 for 320 yards and 2 TD's against Samford. For a QB that the FOW guys worried wouldn't be a good passer, that's a nice opener. Hopefully Minnesota's defense can force him into being more one dimensional.
2) Mike Tuaua (DE- Junior): 7 tackles against Samford, with 3.5 of them being tackles for loss and 2 of them being sacks. Potential disruptor to watch for.
3) Ethan Perry (P - Junior): What? I wanted an excuse to feature a punter for once (just because) and Ethan gives me an excuse by averaging 48.2 ypp on 5 attempts against Samford. His long was 57. That's pretty B1G.
Keys to the Game:
- Start fast: If the Gophers open on offense you coming away with at least 3 points will be huge. If Minnesota starts on defense then I don't want to see TCU run more than 6 plays or gain more than 35 yards. Set an early tone and avoid an early hole. Both of those would be huge against the team's first big test (coming on the road no less).
- Win the turnover battle. Most importantly, don't turn the ball over yourself. The Gophers are on the road and they can't afford to give the crowd extra reason to get into the game or kill drives while handing the Horned Frogs momentum.
- Show improvement in the passing game: I mean, duh.
How Afraid Am I?
On a scale of 1 to 5 "Brewsters on his face" (1 being not a afraid, 5 being very afraid)?
4 Brewsters Flat On Their Faces
More worried about this one then I meant to be.
Completely Worthless Prediction:
I want to say Minnesota wins but despite the confidence from the gnomes I'm just not feeling it today. TCU 21, Minnesota 13.