TSS Top 50: No. 29 TCU Horned Frogs

TCU Horned Frogs
2015 Record: 11-2 overall, 7-2 Big 12 (beat Oregon 47-41 in 3 OT in Alamo Bowl)

1 Burning Question: Can Gary Patterson win 10 games for the third straight season?

In the Mountain West Conference, Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs were a juggernaut. From 2002 to 2011 they won ten or more games in 8 of 10 seasons. In the last four seasons, they posted a combined record of 47-5 overall and 30-1 in the conference.

Upon entering the Big 12, things got tough for the Frogs. The first two seasons saw them go a combined 11-14 overall and 6-12 in the conference. In 2014, the offense exploded. From 2013 to 2014 the Frogs saw a rise in scoring offense of 21.4 points per game. The defense also tightened up, allowing 6 less points per game.

TCU was back and it maintained that success through the 2015 season. In 2016, things get very interesting because of who the Frogs must replace. Star QB Trevone Boykin is gone. So is leading running back Aaron Green and stud receiver Josh Doctson. They also lose four of five starters on the offensive line. There is reason for concern in Fort Worth.

While TCU only returns a few starters on offense, they have a lot of returning talent on the defensive side of the ball. The defense slipped a little last season but part of that was due to injuries. That will make the defense stronger this season. The defense will hold up their end of the bargain this year, but the major question for Patterson is if he will flip the right switches on offense.

Will Patterson choose Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill or sophomore Foster Sawyer to run the offense? Hill had some impressive games at A&M before giving way to Kyle Allen in 2014. Both guys have talent and while they aren’t Trevone Boykin, they should give TCU a chance to win in 2016.

The Horned Frogs might not be as dynamic as they have been in the past two seasons but I have a feeling that they will be just fine.

2 Key Stats to Pay Attention to

3 — The number of returning starters on offense. No matter how good the Frogs have been on offense over the last few years, replacing this many starters is a huge cause for concern.

27.75% — The percentage at which opponents converted on third downs in 2015. This led the Big 12 and placed TCU 4th in the nation. The defense will need to lead the Frogs early in the season as the offense reloads.

3 Key Games That Will Make or Break the Season

Full 2016 Schedule
9/3 — South Dakota State
9/10 — Arkansas
9/17 — Iowa State
9/23 — at SMU
10/1 — Oklahoma
10/8 — at Kansas
10/22 — at West Virginia
10/29 — Texas Tech
11/5 — at Baylor
11/19 — Oklahoma State
11/25 — at Texas
12/3 — Kansas State

Saturday, Sept 10, vs. Arkansas
Record in the Last 5 Meetings: 1-4
Last Year’s Result: Did not play. Arkansas won the last meeting in 1991.

Why it matters: Bret Bielema has turned the Hogs into a formidable opponent. In game two for the Frogs, they will still be working out the kinks in their offense so it will be very important for them to come into this game focused and playing turnover free (or close to it) football. A win here likely puts the Frogs at 4-0 heading into the showdown against Oklahoma.

Saturday, October 1, vs. Oklahoma
Record in Last 5 Meetings: 1-4
Last Year’s Result: L, 30-29

Why it matters: Most experts are predicting that Oklahoma will win the Big 12. It is also a front runner for the College Football Playoff. A win by TCU here would be huge news for college football and would put the Horned Frogs in pole position in the Big 12.

Saturday, November 5 at Baylor
Record in Last 5 Meetings: 2-3
Last Year’s Result: W, 28-21

Why it matters: When your rival is going through hard times, you simply have to put them down when you play them. Baylor has gone through all sorts of turmoil this offseason. If TCU loses to Baylor it will be a very uplifting game for the Bears and could send TCU into a downward spiral with Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State on the horizon.

Kenny Hill, Sharrod Golightly

4 Key Players

Kenny Hill, QB – When he debuted for the Aggies, Kenny Hill looked like he was going to be the next Heisman Trophy winner for Texas A&M. Ultimately, things did not work out for Hill in College Station but during his stay he proved he has a boatload of talent. If Gary Patterson can harness the Kenny Hill that we saw early in 2014, then TCU could be in for a fantastic ride in 2016.

KaVontae Turpin, WR – Turpin is not going to replace Josh Doctson. That’s okay for the Frogs because the two players are completely different. The Frogs would love to find a player in the mold of Doctson to pair with Turpin but if they don’t, they shouldn’t worry too much. Why? Turpin will impact multiple facets of the game for the Frogs. He will return kicks, he will get some hand-offs, but mostly he will be a load for any opponent to try to handle in the slot.

Kyle Hicks, RB – TCU doesn’t need an All-American at running back. What the offense does need is someone that they can rely on. Hicks should be able to fill that role this year and it’s very important that he does. With the offensive line losses the Frogs have, Hicks needs to be able to get positive yardage when called upon and needs to be able to give the Frogs a change of pace.

Josh Carraway, DE – Carraway had nine sacks in 2015 and should be even better in 2016. If Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry can give him more support from the other end position…..watch out!

5 Bold Predictions

5. Kenny Hill will win the starting QB job

Kenny Hill transferred to TCU for a reason and it wasn’t to stand on the sidelines holding a clipboard. He will start the season for TCU, and I think it will be the right choice. His ability to scramble when the play breaks down will give TCU an added dimension early in the season as the offensive line learns to play as a unit.

4. The defense will be one of the top two units in the Big 12 in 2016

With only three returning offensive starters, TCU will need help in 2016 and that will come in the form of an improved defense. The Frog defense will tighten up, and in 2016, it will be second to only the Sooners in the Big 12.

3. The offense will take a dip… 

…But the dip won’t be as big as some think. Statistically, TCU isn’t going to put out the same results it did last season. The Horned Frogs will take some time to get their offensive mojo back and that will be reflected in the deflated statistics they will have in 2016. Of course, that doesn’t mean the team will have a bad season…..

2. The Frogs will win 10 games in 2016

The offense won’t be as dynamic, but TCU will still have a very good team in 2016. Right now, the Big 12 looks like Oklahoma and a lot of good teams (and then Kansas and Iowa State). The big question for the Big 12 is if those “good” teams can make the leap from “good” to “great”. I don’t think they will and because of that, TCU will reap the benefits.

1. The Frogs will finish second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma

While the consensus here at The Student Section has TCU as the number 29 team in our Top 50 poll, I don’t see it as a doom and gloom scenario for the Frogs. TCU must replace a lot of key talent, but the schedule sets up nicely for them with their toughest conference games (except Oklahoma) at the end of the season. TCU will finish the regular season with ten wins and will set itself up nicely for an assault on the conference title in 2017.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.