Getting to Know The Horned Frogs

Jeremy Clark of answers five questions to provide a look ahead to Saturday's game against No. 3 TCU in Fort Worth, Texas

There has been some thought around Ames that TCU might try to go for style points Saturday against Iowa State to make a big statement and secure it's spot in the College Football Playoff. Is there any merit to it?

I don’t think it’s as much as going for style points, but I know a convincing win would go a long way. If TCU does come out and play well and builds a comfortable lead, then I don’t think Gary Patterson is the kind of guy that will go for style points. But, this is a situation where computers and voters don’t matter; you have to impress the human element. I was kind of surprised when they led Texas last week 34-10 with under five minutes in the game that they still threw the ball. If it’s a similar score against the Cyclones late in the game, I could see them going for another score.

There is no question that the Trevone Boykin that Iowa State saw in 2012 and the one it will see Saturday are night-and-day. How much has Boykin improved, and where has he seen the most growth since then?

You hit the nail on the head, his play has been night and day. It starts with his maturity, he’s a year older and the game has really slowed down for him. He’s making much better decisions throwing the football and has developed a much better pocket presence. Throwing the football, he’s done a great job of not forcing throws as he’s done in the past. A lot of people, including Patterson, still remember Boykin’s first pass against Iowa State two years ago. Patterson joked that he told Boykin to relax and try not to force things before going onto the field. Well, Boykin’s first throw went into triple coverage, which Iowa State easily intercepted. Let’s just say he doesn’t force those kinds of throws near as much anymore.

What’s impressed me the most about Boykin is his poise in the pocket. In recent years he would make one read and if it wasn’t available he would take off running. Now, he remains poised, goes through his progressions before making a play with his feet. Even when he escapes the pocket, he’s done an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield. Boykin has become such a better “pocket” quarterback that Patterson has said he doesn’t run enough sometimes.

What has made this TCU team so good? Is there one key thing that's springboarded the team or maybe a group of factors?

They finally got an offense that matches the intensity and tempo of their defense. They went from one of the worst offenses in the country in 2013, to one of the best in 2014. They’re averaging over 525 yards per game (200 more per game than last year), 22 more points and nearly 2 yards more per play. So, the offense is the biggest reason. They’ve always had the personnel in my opinion; it was just a matter of execution.

Defensively, they’re still as impressive as they’ve been in their previous two seasons in the Big 12, ranking fourth in total defense. The biggest difference this year is their ability to create turnovers; they’re second in the nation with 34. They’ve been able to score points off those turnovers and that’s the biggest reason we see them with 10 wins.

Iowa State's offense, when clicking, would appear to be the main area the Cyclones can have success. In what ways do most teams have success against the TCU defense?

By far the biggest thing TCU hasn’t had a great deal of success defending this year is the deep pass. They play extremely well in the red-zone, but they’ve given up big plays vertically to help opponents.

Another thing they’ve struggled with is mobile quarterbacks. They’re fully aware of Sam Richardson’s ability as a runner, but for whatever reason a mobile quarterback has seemed to give the 4-2-5 defense fits.

What do the Horned Frogs need to do to avoid an upset?

Do what they’ve done all year; get out quick and cause turnovers. They’ve done an excellent job of jumping on teams out of the gate with a quick offense and timely turnovers on defense. If they start slow, Iowa State has proven that it can hang with tough teams; Kansas State comes to mind.

Patterson has reminded his players that Iowa State beat TCU convincingly when the Frogs were ranked No. 15 two years ago and they did it at Amon Carter Stadium. They can’t allow big plays through the air and they can’t let Richardson run all day. As I mentioned earlier, running quarterbacks seem to always cause trouble for TCU’s defense; but, that comes when the Frogs rush only three to four players and the quarterback has a long time to scan the field and the defense has eight guys playing a zone. I think to rattle Richardson, they need to get to him quick and don’t let him have a long time to make a decision.

The good news for TCU is this team is much different than two years ago. Plus, it’s the last home game for the seniors and as everyone already knows, the Frogs have a ton to play for.

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