Showdown in Norman just days away between Oklahoma and TCU. With that in mind, here is HornedFrogInsider.com publisher Brad Harcastle to answer some lingering questions about the Frogs.
1. Has this team thrown in the towel? After all the injuries, has it finally just been too much for the Frogs this year?
It's really hard to say that a 9-1 team has thrown in the towel. I think last week's abysmal performance against Kansas wasn't due to a lack of effort, it was more so a result of more costly injuries, specifically Trevone Boykin. But overall, it appears that TCU may be at the point where it can no longer play at the level they were at a couple weeks ago on both sides of the ball. So has this team thrown in the towel emotionally? It doesn't seem like it, especially since this team has been able to overcome injuries all year long. But losing Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson may be too much this team to bounce back from due to the strength of its schedule that lies ahead.
2. Even if Trevone Boykin and/or Josh Doctson do play, how effective do you feel they could actually be?
Well, I seriously doubt either plays. If Boykin plays, I could see that being a disaster. His mobility would be limited against behind an offensive line who may be still be without its All Big 12 left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and senior offensive guards Brady Foltz and Jamelle Naff. Then if Josh Doctson is out, which I suspect he will be (EDITOR’s NOTE: Doctson has been ruled out), then Boykin will be without the only guy who could truly bail him out of anything. Again, I don't think Doctson plays. It looks like his wrist is preventing him from being able to secure any passes, and he wasn't targeted much against Kansas. Also, his hurt wrist also prevented him to block to his full ability. So I think both are out for this game, and either of them starting wouldn't make much of a difference unless Boykin comes back at full strength, but I don't think that will be the case.
3. Based on what you've seen, who is poised for a breakout game against the Sooners?
Sterling Shepard should have one of his better games of the year against this inexperienced secondary. TCU has relied on Corry O'Meally, who is notorious for racking up several pass interference calls in road games, to try to cover other team's leading receivers. The other corner tasked with cover other team's number one options, Nick Orr, had to leave the Kansas game in the first half. Gary Patterson had Orr playing safety last week, so a walk-on Michael Downing had to come in to replace him. Downing is a guy who gives up a lot of speed and size to a lot of guys, so if Orr doesn't play, I see Shepard having another big game. And of course Semaje Perine could also rack up plenty of yards on Saturday. TCU has a decent defensive line, but I don't see its undersized linebackers shutting him down by any means.
4. Finish this sentence. TCU upsets Oklahoma if __________________
If TCU can get a good game from its quarterback, and its defense doesn't give up big plays.
If Boykin doesn't start, either Bram Kohlhausen or Foster Sawyer will. Both have shown they are capable of managing TCU's air raid offense, but not against a team like Oklahoma. Even without Doctson, this team still has some explosive weapons on offense including: RB Aaron Green, RB Kyle Hicks, WR KaVontae Turpin, WR Shaun Nixon and WR Kolby Listenbee. If either of those guys can come in and take care of the ball and find ways to make plays, TCU has a chance.
In TCU's loss against Oklahoma State, the Frogs' defense gave up 266 yards on scoring plays alone, which was more than half of the Cowboy's total yardage. TCU has to keep everything in front of them if they want to have a chance at pulling this upset, or things can get ugly quick like they did in Stillwater.
5. Why do you think the defense hasn't been able to be what it usually is? Injuries? Youth? Combination of things? And is there a chance the group can pull it together for OU and Baylor down the stretch?
Attrition due to a number of causes. Injuries is the big one. This team lost both starting corners, a starting safety, its sacks leader from last year at defensive end and both starting linebackers. And those are just the guys we know TCU will be without on Saturday, unless Orr comes back. This season, TCU has had 23 players that have had to miss games and have started at least one in their career. Eleven of those injuries came on the defensive side of the ball. Without injuries, I think Patterson would have fielded a good, but not great defense.
It's possible but very unlikely that TCU's defense will be able to pull it together against Oklahoma and Baylor. Samaje Perine will be the best running back TCU has faced so far, and this team has struggled to contain most of their opponents’ top backs. But this defense has come up big at times and come up with some clutch stops, but I don't think they are healthy enough to shut down a back as good as like Perine, especially with Joe Mixon in the rotation.
The secondary is the most inconsistent part of this team. I don't think it is capable of shutting down, or limiting Sterling Shepard or Cory Coleman. Maybe they can find ways to keep from breaking out for long scores, but after watching Oklahoma's States James Washington do just that a week ago, I have my doubts.