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Minnesota Football: Opponent Preview #1 TCU Horned Frogs

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Minnesota vs. TCU on ESPN in prime time. Time to start the season with a bang!

Stopping Trevon Boykin will be a tough task for the Gophers
Stopping Trevon Boykin will be a tough task for the Gophers
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In the next three weeks as we move closer to the start of the 2015 Gopher Football season, we here at The Daily Gopher will give a quick preview of the Gophers opponents.  First up is the Gopher's Thursday night opener opponent, the Preseason #2 ranked  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

SB Nation Blog: Frogs 'O War

Bill Connelly Preview: Here!

Last Season:

Bill C's Wisdom & Statistical Wizardry

What a difference a season makes.  This time last year, people were wondering how TCU would bounce back from a 4-8 season. This time, TCU is a near unanimous pick to make the College Football Playoff, and is the Preseason #2 team in the country.  The Horned Frogs went 12-1 last season, but unfortunately that one loss was a huge one 61-58 in a back and forth tussle at Baylor.  They went into the Peach Bowl and absolutely thrashed Ole Miss 42-3, taking out all their disappointment of being snubbed from the CFP.  Of course, an additional win was a 30-7 win over the over matched Gophers in mid-September.  Minnesota will hopefully perform better this year, but it will not be easy.

Key Losses:

This is why TCU will be so scary this season.  For a team that had gained the 5th most yards in the country....their offense is nearly unchanged.  They will lose tailback/receiver BJ Catalon who was only their third best rusher last season behind Aaron Green and Heisman candidate quarterback Trevon Boykin. David Porter and his 39 receptions for 392 yards has also moved on...but TCU has a plethora of targets to absorb that loss.  Four of five starting o-linemen also return with only Tayo Fabuluje and his 24 carer starts missing.

On defense is where any teams that wasnt to try and get a leg up on the Frogs will need to attack.  TCU loses DT Chucky Hunter who recorded 32.5 tackles, of which 9.5 were for a loss and 3 sacks.  The middle of the field will be open as well as both starting linebackers in Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, and backup Mike LB Jonathan Andersen all depart.  That's a combined 212.5 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and five each interceptions and forced fumbles missing from last season.  When you run a 4-2-5....that could be a big loss.  Also notable will be the replacement of three of your five starting defensive backs.  Chris Hackett, Kevin White and Sam Carter have all moved on.  Say goodbye to 13 interceptions and 22 pass breakups in your secondary.

Key Returners:

The biggest returner of all is Boykin.  He will be a preseason favorite to win the Heisman, and for good reason as he racked up 3901 yards through the air with 33 touchdowns.  Of course there were the 10 interceptions to go with them...so he can be a bit careless at times. Boykin is a threat on the ground though. He ran for an additional 829 yards and 8 TDs last season.  Running back Aaron green will be another threat.  He led TCU with 922 yards and nine TDs last season, fumbling only once in 130 carries.  TCU also returns its top two receivers in Josh Docton and Kolby Listenbee.  They combined for over 105 receptions for almost 1,800 yards. TCU's returning O-linemen account for 94 career starts....yeah that's going to be a tough task for anyone.

On defense the Horned Frogs remain strong despite their losses.  They return defensive end James McFarland who led the team with seven sacks.  In the secondary, two of five starters return in free safety Derrick Kindred who had 71 tackles, and four interceptions last season and corner Ranthony Texada who was second on the team with seven PBUs.  TCU also returns both specialists in punter Ethan Perry and kicker Jaden Oberkrom who went 76-77 on PATs and 22-27 on FGs a year ago.

Question Marks??

The major question mark for the Horned Frogs is can they stay healthy?  Last year they had no major injury issues, but this season they already are dealing with one injury as third leading receiver Deante Gray's status is up in the air for their opener against the Gophers.  TCU appears to have enough depth at the running back and receiver sports, but if Boykin goes down, all bets are off.

The next question is will TCU be able to live up to the hype and pressure that all the national prognosticators are putting on them.  Living up to the expectations of being the preseason #2 team in the country will not be easy.  Other than Minnesota their non-conference slate is a piece of cake, but road games at Kansas State and Oklahoma will loom large, not to mention the regular season finale/ potential winner take all game between the Frogs and Baylor in Fort Worth the Friday after Thanksgiving.

What Does It All Mean For Minnesota?

Frogs 'O War Previews Minnesota

The Gophers will need to have it together and fast to start the season.  Jerry Kill's teams have not been known for getting out of the box fast in their Thursday night openers, but if they sleep through the first quarter here, they won't have a chance to turn it on later.  While the Gopher defense is the team's strong suit, they will be tested hard in game one by these Horned Frogs.  If the Gophers decide not to show up, it could be a looong night for Gopher fans.  One would hope that showcasing the program on ESPN to the entire nation will help the Gophers come out quickly.  The Gophers will need to get a pass rush on Boykin, but will also need their linebackers to keep him contained.  JT Barrett showed Gopher fans last fall what happens when this doesn't happen.  I believe the Gopher secondary will be able to contain the TCU passing game, so it will be up to the D-line and linebackers to stop the rushing game and keep Boykin from showcasing why he is a potential Heisman candidate.

On offense, the Gophers will need to test the newcomers to the TCU defense immediately. Of course, it will all come down to the Gophers running game. Hopefully Nugget is ready to step in to the David Cobb role, or at least split the load with Rodney Smith.  If Mitch is the Mitch we saw against Missouri and not Wisconsin, the Gophers should have a chance.  If not, and we turn the ball over like we did in Fort Worth a year ago, the upset is not going to come to fruition.

Final Analysis:

The pressure will be on TCU to show that they can live up to their hype, and it will be on the Gophers to defend their home turf and show that they are still moving upward. TCU's offense is insane, and while the Gophers do have the talent to contain them, it will not be easy.  They will need to get a good pass rush and contain on Boykin, as previous opponents have shown that if the Gophers can't do that, they can get run over.  Offensively, the Gophers will need to establish the run, and not put Mitch in third and long situations where TCU can sit back and try to force him to make mistakes.  TCU was much better at home than on the road last season, so if Minnesota can play a perfect game, they can win, I have no doubt.  Unfortunately for the Gophers, I'm not sure they can this early in the season yet.  I hope they prove me wrong, but I see TCU winning 34-17.