When Sonny Dykes took the TCU Horned Frogs on their fabled run to the National Championship game last year, he had a lot of help along the way. The squad might have easily lost multiple games. Even the one in Morgantown might have been in the bag if just a couple of plays had been different. Even the unexpected change to the backup, Max Duggan, impacted the entire season. Duggan carried the team on his back, seemingly single-handedly scrapping to keep them in matchups like the Big 12 Title Game.
That was last year’s Horned Frogs, though. This year, there seem to be a lot of cracks in the gameplay and some chinks in the armor worth exploiting. Even in these first four games, each of the teams has had a way of showing some of the possible areas the Mountaineers could focus on if they want to get out of Ft. Worth undefeated in the Neal Brown era.
What Did Colorado Teach?
When the Colorado Buffaloes came to Fort Worth to begin the season, many expected this would be a blowout. TCU was ranked 17th in the country then and had enough returning production where they were perceived as at least somewhat of a threat. Did Colorado blow them away with some significant difference in yardage? No. Colorado had 565 yards to TCU’s 541 in the Horned Frog’s three-point loss in Game 1. The main difference? Only 55 yards were rushing for the Buffaloes. Sanders and company put up 510 passing yards and lit up the defense.
Takeaway: WVU has to incorporate passing more than 22% of the time against opponents with a more robust secondary than Duquesne.
What Did Nicholls State Teach?
Even though the final score was 41-6, the Colonels of Nicholls State had some gems to reveal in their matchup against TCU. Again, any success that the team found against the Horned Frogs was more in the air than on the ground, doubling the difference between these metrics in their 263 yards of total offense. Surprisingly, vulnerabilities were shown in the turnover game. The two teams tied for lost fumbles and thrown interceptions in the game. Combined with 2 interceptions thrown against Colorado, TCU is up to 3 turnovers from Chandler Morris in Week 2.
Takeaway: Our defense can feast on risky passes.
What Did Houston Teach?
Houston had an unfriendly introduction to the Big 12 thanks to the Horned Frogs, but we do not leave empty-handed. The Cougars put up similar numbers to Nicholls State, with 266 yards of total offense – 225 of those being through the air. Despite being bullied and outplayed throughout the matchup, Dana’s lackluster defense still grabbed an interception and recovered a fumble. TCU is up to 4 on the season in Week 3.
Takeaway: Does it seem like they might be giving up pass plays?
What Did SMU Teach?
SMU was one of the only squads this year that could put up some yards on the ground against the Horned Frogs but still favored passing 258 yards to the 158 they grabbed on the ground. Rivalry games are weird – we should know. All the metrics suggest this one should have been closer than 34-17, and it was headed into halftime with TCU only leading 14-10. You did see the rush defense breaking down as the pass coverage improved for this game. SMU put up more than 100 yards on the ground before halftime, meaning the opportunities exist to destroy the Frogs with a legitimately balanced attack.
Takeaway: The rush defense has shown up in the past games, but to improve their weak passing coverage, vulnerabilities could exist if the passing attack is covered.
TCU isn’t some wall that West Virginia is about to hit. In fact, I think that with taking the week and working on ball distribution around the field, this game might not be as formidable as it seems. The Horned Frogs are no pushovers – they have only lost one game to a Colorado team that was a lightning bolt running out of the starting line. We must be active and on it all four quarters to survive Fort Worth.
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