Jack Trice Stadium, 11 a.m. on FSN.
Weather: High of 59, low of 29. No rain in the forecast.
Line: TCU (-7)
This week in email
Richardson's healed but that ankle is something that won't be 100 percent until the offseason. I think the staff knows he's their guy long-term — I know his record as a starter is ugly, 1-9 — but he's certainly talented.
I've asked this question a few times: How different is the Sam we're seeing to the healthy one in fall camp? There's the consensus a healthy Richardson is as good a QB in the Big 12 (with the exception of Bryce Petty).
I'd agree. Sure, it's a really bad year for quarterbacks in the Big 12, but you can't convince me Richardson's not in the top half of them. So the injuries have certainly hurt his performance, the ankle rendering him a less effective scrambler and also keeping him from feeling comfortable in the pocket.
I think the season, though, and the rash of injuries has taken a toll on Richardson's game. The last few games have been ugly, notwithstanding a few flashes.
So at 1-7, I think the staff is smart to try something/somebody new. Rohach has only entered games in compromising situations with his team losing. They want to see what he can do from the get-go. Nothing to lose, as long as they've been open and honest with both quarterbacks since this flip-flopping began against Baylor.
A little bit of a different look this week. Instead of glossing over the matchups, which we post in a stats look at the bottom of the screen, I asked Jeremy Clark, publisher of HornedFrogBlitz.com, five questions:
Well, your guess is as good as mine on James playing. Earlier this week TCU said he was suspended indefinitely. Apparently that didn't make Gary Patterson too happy and he even joked on Tuesday that James would play just so he could prove everyone wrong that said he wouldn't play. My guess is he won't play, but that's just my guess. In the past if Patterson said a kid wouldn't play, he won't play. But, he mentioned to the media that the suspension was "indefinitely", meaning there wasn't a start date and end date. He said it's a different situation with James because he's a senior.
As for Verrett, he hasn't practiced this week but he will still make the trip to Ames. I think Verrett will play, there's not much he can do in practice that's going to make him better. He has a task of covering a guy and I suspect that to be Quenton Bundrage.
2. Casey Pachall posted some crazy numbers against West Virgina — 40-for-58, 394 yards, three touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. How do you assess his performance since coming back after injury, throwing in his bad outing against Texas in there?
I thought Casey played exceptional against West Virginia. He did throw two interceptions, but I thought overall he looked the best I've seen him play in two years. There were some throws that he made where he stood tall in the pocket and took a hit and still threw an accurate ball. With no disrespect to Trevone Boykin, that's just something he couldn't do and that's the biggest difference with Pachall. The most impressive thing about Pachall's performance was the fact that he kept coming back for more. I can't tell you how many times he was hurried, hit and sacked; but he picked himself off the ground every time. It was a gutsy performance. When TCU trailed 27-17 with just over 7 minutes to go, Pachall completed 13-of-16 passes in the Frogs last two drives to help send the game to overtime. Like I said, gutsy performance.
3. Brandon Carter, what's going on? Why is he in the dog house? A lot of people expected huge things from the junior wide receiver this season.
Brandon plays with a lot of emotion. I feel that with Josh Boyce leaving early for the Big 12, everyone, including Brandon, thought he would be the go-to receiver this season. It hasn't exactly worked to plan. He injured his hand against LSU and he's been criticized plenty for some key drops. He's dealt with some off the field issues this season and that appears to be a distraction. He still has the talent, but I believe in his mind he knows he's not playing up to his expectations, which is also the thoughts of coaches and fans. I believe that's why we see a lot of arguments on the sidelines.
4. What has been the toughest adjustment for TCU the first two years in the Big 12? There doesn't seem to be any deficit in talent between them and other conference teams.
It sounds cliché because it happens with every team, but the toughest adjustment is just finding depth to compete on a week to week basis. Last season they lost Casey Pachall and Waymon James very early in the season. They also had other injuries mount up and they were forced to play 28 true and redshirt freshmen. They were by far the youngest team in the Big 12, which wasn't good in their first year. This season has been a little bit of the same; Devonte Fields is gone for the season, they lost two key contributors on their offensive line before the season started; you name it, it's happened. Every team deals with injuries, but for a team still building depth through recruiting, when you lose that many key guys and are forced to play guys early you're going to see the effects.
I also think they're still getting adjusted to how they should "win" games in the Big 12. When I say that, I mean that they may have to look schematically at changes. In the Mountain West they could get away with having off-weeks scoring points and holding opponents to low outputs, but it's just different in the Big 12. While their defense has been decent, the offense has been stagnant. Where scoring 24 points in the MWC might've been good enough for a win, in the score-happy Big 12, it's not enough. I think the Frogs have seen this and got away from what made them successful which was a balanced attack. They know they have to score more points in the Big 12.
5. Both teams are playing poorly entering Saturday's game, but somebody of course has to win. What must TCU avoid doing that it's done in its most recent losses? What has been its achilles heel?
First off, the offensive line has got to play better. As I mentioned before, I can't count how many times Pachall had to pick himself off the ground against West Virginia. They're going to have to protect him against Iowa State because they won't be 100% at runningback without B.J. Catalon and possibly Waymon James.
Second, defense is going to have to play smart defense. Since the Oklahoma State game, the TCU secondary was exposed at giving up the vertical route; especially down the seam. Jason Verrett has even been tested with the deep ball and while opponents haven't been as successful against him completing passes, they've drawn pass interference calls. Without a doubt, the Cyclones will be going deep to Bundrage to test the secondary.
Third, both Sam Richardson and Grant Rohach can move the offense with their feet. TCU for whatever reason struggles with running quarterbacks this season. They gave up over 70 yards to Oklahoma's Blake Bell and 130 yards to Bryan Bennett of FCS Southeastern Louisiana. I can see Richardson getting some key plays with his feet.
Lastly, hold on to the ball. TCU had four turnovers last week that were killers. West Virginia scored points on three of those turnovers; two of which were in TCU territory. If TCU can execute and not turn the ball over, I look for them to squeak out a win in Ames. But, it definitely won't be easy.
Keys to a win
1. Aaron Wimberly, welcome back. It seems like eons ago the Cyclones had found their feature back. Aaron Wimberly rushed for over 100 yards against Tulsa and Texas in September and early October, but hasn't been himself in a game since then; missing the second half against Texas Tech, limited against Baylor, out against Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
The Cyclones will have a hard enough time moving the ball against TCU's defense, a top 25 national unit. If they can't have a fully-healthy Wimberly at their disposal — he's done everything in practice after recovering from a hamstring injury — it could be a very long day.
The Horned Frogs are stingy, but have given up 100-yard days to a running back in their last two games, West Virginia's Charles Sims shining with 6.42 yards a carry on a whopping 24 attempts.
2. Develop an early rhythm. The Cyclones' problems have been well-documented: no points have been scored off initial offensive drives and there have been four three-and-outs in eight games. Against Kansas State the Cyclones went on a nice drive before a false start penalty and a poor throw by Sam Richardson led to its end.
It's not as important to win field position battles and get points on TCU early, because the Horned Frogs simply don't have a good offense. Against Baylor and Oklahoma State, there was too much pressure on the offense to hold its own. Perhaps the Cyclones will come out feeling more relaxed against TCU, and stop slipping up in basic execution, but indications from this week in practice are that several players, including Richardson and Grant Rohach, are pressing too much.
3. Tackle. OK, at this point it's clear these keys — run, play consistently and tackle well — aren't anything groundbreaking. For a 1-7 team, you shouldn't expect otherwise. The Cyclones have done some nice things on both sides of the ball this year, but simple lapses, along with youth, have led to their struggles. Iowa State missed 17 tackles against Baylor and an undisclosed number against K-State, although the guess is it's somewhere in the ballpark of 15-20. Too many whiffs on running back John Hubert and running quarterback Daniel Sams.
TCU's starting running back Waymon James is suspended this game for a violation of team rules, but there's still talent in the Horned Frogs' backfield in B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green. The Horned Frogs aren't naturally an explosive offense, but a high amount of missed tackles will quickly make them look like one.
The hunch here is Iowa State blitzes often against Casey Pachall and TCU. Here's the two blitzes the Cyclones were successful on Saturday against TCU, both resulting in sacks.
The first of two sacks was the result of the Cyclones bringing seven pass-rushers to Kansas State's six in protection. Pretty simple. The Cyclones clog the interior of the line, Jeremiah George occupies the right tackle and Willie Scott takes the fullback Glenn Gronkowski, and Jacques Washington has a straight shot at Jake Waters.
In the second, it was straight-up six-v-six, with George's craftiness making the play work. I have him circled in red throughout this play art. At the line of scrimmage, the Wildcats are tipped off to the blitz, and they get everything protected correctly, assuming the left tackle, No. 78, is going to handle George, who appears to be coming right off the edge and through the C gap.
Nope. George ducks inside and finds a hole in the A gap. The bottom play-art actually comes in the middle of the sequence, but I put it at the bottom just because of its birds-eye view. You can see No. 78 lunge at George, who simply buzzes parallel the yard marker and rips back up the field. Jevohn Miller does a nice job occupying John Hubert there.
Quote to Note
"We've blitzed more this year than we ever have. I don't know what that means, we're 1-7." — Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham.
AllCyclones.com: TCU, 21-13
F/+: TCU, 20.1-15.9
RealTeamRPI: TCU, 32-23
Massey: TCU, 26-23
FEI: TCU, 19-13
|Matchup Preview | November 9, 2013|
|TCU Horned Frogs|
(3-6, 0-3 Away)
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-7, 0-4 Home)