Jaime Plunkett, managing editor for SBNation blog Frogs O' War was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions regarding the #2 TCU Horned Frogs. Below, you'll find the exchange of information that took place.
Q: First off, I know I personally was pulling for the Horned Frogs and a lot of Gopher nation hopped on the bandwagon after the banter we shared leading up to the match-up in Fort Worth last year. The style of play, the classy fan base, and the great turn around from 4-8 were all appealing parts of the TCU story last year. What was your official assessment of the way the Playoff Selection went down last year?
A: It's hard to deny a team like Ohio State access to the CFP when they so thoroughly obliterate Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship. That, along with Georgia Tech falling short against Florida State, doomed TCU to remain on the outside looking in. The No. 3 ranking the previous week was obviously, based on the way things played out, just for show, and the committee had no intention of putting a Big 12 co-champion in once Florida State and Ohio State won their conference championships. Patterson himself said he had a bad feeling about how things would play out before the final week of games, and he was right. Fortunately for Frog fans, Patterson did less complaining and more motivating, leading to the 42-3 shelling of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.
Pregame Must Reads
Pregame Must Reads
Q: Sorry if that brought up any painful memories... Moving on to the present, with a large majority of starters returning and a year of experience in the offensive system under Trevone Boykin's belt, will the offense be even better this year (ranked 17th according to S&P+ in 2014)?
A: I believe it will be. The only impact players lost from 2014 are WR David Porter (solid receiver, but behind Doctson, Listenbee, Gray, and Slanina on the depth chart) and RB B.J. Catalon (had a season ending concussion vs. West Virginia). The Frogs also lose their left tackle Tayo Fabuluje, but return everyone else on what was the second best scoring offense in the country in 2014. Year two under Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie should see the Frogs get more creative with the offense, not to mention more comfortable, as they start to expand their playbook to keep defenses off guard. The best thing for this offense is that Gary Patterson schemes his defense to stop it every day in practice, and that forces the offensive guys to work hard and stay on their toes.
Q: Since the defense lost several key contributors from last year's stellar edition, including most of the linebacking core, is there any concern about the defense? Or is Gary Patterson's presence on the sideline enough of a reassurance that the defense will once again be another strength for the 2015 Horned Frogs?
A: There are certainly questions surrounding the linebackers, with true freshman Mike Freeze currently topping the depth chart, but yes, fans do take comfort in the fact that Patterson is an incredible defensive mind. Keeping in mind that long-time defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas is also gone, along with 2/3 of the starting safeties from 2014, fans are cautiously optimistic about the defense to start the season. Fortunately, after Minnesota the Frogs have a pretty soft three weeks (Stephen F. Austin, SMU, Texas Tech), to break in some young starters. It's all about getting through the Gophers first, though.
Pregame Must Reads
Pregame Must Reads
Q: One of Minnesota's greatest strengths heading into 2015 is the continuity and depth of their offensive line. While TCU's athleticism was too much for them last year (only 2.5 yards per rush), do you think they'll be able to have a better performance this year against an experienced TCU defensive line?
A: The D-line is by far the most experienced unit on TCU's defense, despite the loss of Chucky Hunter to graduation. Guys like Davion Pierson, James McFarland, Mike Tuaua, Josh Carraway, and Chris Bradley will give offensive lines fits all year. It should be a great matchup, but I think the Frogs will come out ahead in the trenches.
Q: Minnesota arguably has the strongest secondary in the Big Ten. In last year's game, they performed somewhat admirably considering the short fields they were often dealing with thanks to the offense's ineptitude. They even forced Boykin to throw a pick and he only averaged 5.6 yards per passing attempt for the game's duration. Over/under 1.5 interceptions thrown by Boykin in this game?
A: The thing we all have to remember about last year's game is that it was just the second live-game experience Boykin, really the entire offense, had in the new system. With the first live-game experience being against Samford, one could argue that Minnesota was actually the first real test run for the new offense. That being said, I don't find it surprising that Boykin's numbers weren't incredibly impressive that day. I'm certain it had something to do with Minnesota's No. 12 passing defense, don't get me wrong, but I think the Gophers secondary is in for a different (not necessarily worse, mind you) experience playing against this offense in 2015.
Q: Minnesota comes into the Thursday night match-up a 14-point underdog, and rightfully so. If they are to have ANY chance to shock the college football world on 2015's opening night, what are some things that would have to happen?
A: Making Boykin one dimensional would be the key point to stopping him. He's great in the pocket, but he's at his best when he's roaming behind the line, forcing the defense to leave their lanes to keep up with him. On the other side of the ball, it's all about taking advantage of the inexperience at linebacker with Minnesota's tight ends and running game. If they can start getting momentum and keep TCU's offense off the field, they can keep the game close and have a shot at the end.
Q: Lastly, what's your "official" prediction for Thursday night's game?
A: I do think TCU pulls away in this one, but it probably won't be a repeat of the 5 turnover game you all experienced last season. I think your offense will be able to do more, but I think TCU's offense leads the way. Frogs 38, Gophers 24.
Thanks again to Jaime for the in-depth insight and for going a little easy on the final score prediction. Personally, I'll be thrilled if we score 24 points on Thursday night. We here at The Daily Gopher hope all of you at Frogs O' War enjoy the game and those of you attending in person, have a great time in the Twin Cities and enjoy TCF Bank Stadium!