1.How has losing running back Waymon James affected TCU's offense and who should SMU fans expect to be in the backfield on Saturday?
Well, it was tough to tell against Virginia because the offensive line play wasn't as strong as it's been this season. There was very little running room for any backs to get through. Matthew Tucker is the guy now who receives the bulk of the carries and although James is lost, Tucker was lauded in fall camp as the best running back they had. He's also the fastest, he's not as "quick" as James, but straight line he has more break away speed. It's not too often you can lose a running back and still rely on a guy who has over 2,200 career rushing yards and nearly 30 touchdowns, which Tucker has. Last week we saw true freshman B.J. Catalon receive some carries and he's as explosive as they come when he gets a seam. Trouble is, he didn't get much of one last week against Virginia.
2. TCU has quite a few explosive wide outs from Josh Boyce to Brandon Carter to Skye Dawson. Can you talk a little bit about each guy and what they bring and do you believe they will expose the SMU secondary?
In my eight years covering the Frogs, this is without a doubt the top receiving corps I've seen at TCU. They're athletic (6 guys run 4.4 or less) and all run good routes and catch the ball well. Boyce just set TCU's all-time receiving touchdown record last week and now has 18 for his career. He's struggled a little with drops recently, but he's still Pachall's favorite target. Brandon Carter, what can you really say about him, he just makes play after play. Right now, he's the most dangerous weapon the Frogs have. There hasn't been a safety or corner that's shown the ability to cover him and it shows with two consecutive 100-yard games. Dawson is a speed merchant who runs good routes and typically catches the ball well. He's not the biggest, but when he's in the open field, he utilizes his track speed very well. Rounding out the impressive group is Ladarius Brown, who is third on the team in receptions and Cam White. Both Brown and White are big-bodied receivers at 6-4 and 6-3 respectively. Brown is a 4.47 guy while White was timed at a 4.42 over the summer. Both give the Frogs legitimate deep threats.
3. June Jones said TCU has its best defense since he's been at SMU. Do you agree? How strong is this defense?
That's a good compliment, but I'd tap the breaks a little. The defense has made strides since last year but they still have a ton of room for improvement. They are young, very young, with only one senior starter - LB Kenny Cain. The secondary has shown the most improvement but they're still prone to give up big plays. They've given up three completions of over 40 yards the last two weeks so I know without a doubt SMU will be throwing some vertical routes; particularly to Darius Johnson, who had a big game last year at TCU. The good news for Frogs fans is the safeties have shown a much great knack at covering slot receivers and they're certainly more athletic than they were a year ago.
4. Considering SMU pulled off the upset at TCU last year, has there been a lot of talk about revenge from Garry Patterson and the team? How big of a deal is the rivalry around TCU?
If there has, it's been kept in the locker room. TCU is not downplaying the rivalry against SMU, but at the same time they're attacking it as just another game to get to win number four on the season. Last season's loss was the first loss at home for TCU since 2007, so, while they're not saying anything in the media, something tells me this game has been on their mind for quite a while.
5. If you were to pick one offensive player and one defensive player to have a big game against SMU, who would they be?
On offense, I've got to go with Casey Pachall. He's been pretty consistent all season, throwing just one interception in three games. He's completing 76% of his passes and leads the nation with a 209.92 efficiency rating. He also had a great game last year against SMU throwing for 302 yards with 3 TD and 0 INT.
On defense, I look for Stansly Maponga to finally have a breakout game. Kansas and Virginia did excellent blocking Maponga, utilizing a tight end and full back to help every time. With SMU using a more wide open offense out of the spread, it's harder to get two guys to come down and block a defensive end. For that reason, I feel he'll have a big game. He's chomping at the bits to have a breakout game.
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