At the beginning of the season, the TCU Horned Frogs found themselves ranked inside the top 25 and in the Big 12 Championship contender conversation. The main theme for this former BCS buster was to "survive then thrive" with the meat of the schedule coming early. Yet after a 2-2 start to the season, much of the hype has dissipated. This downward trend can be credited to injuries forcing players into the limelight of a starting role. However, it has also led many opposing fanbases to a certain level of overconfidence.
On Saturday, TCU faces a surging Oklahoma Sooners in a land formerly known as the most difficult place to escape with a win, Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. As they make the trip, one post the Horned Frogs can lean on will be their defensive unit.
While many perceive that the Notre Dame Fight Irish defense is the best that Oklahoma will face all season, I'm going out on a limb to say...false! TCU possesses a defense built around speed to utilize the 4-2-5 that could potentially wreak havoc upon the Sooners and anything they attempt to do offensively.
TCU's Defensive Is Deceptively Better Than Advertised
Up to this point of the season, the Oklahoma Sooners have yet to face a defensive secondary of this caliber. As mentioned above, speed is the key of this defensive unit. There is no doubt that Blake Bell has exceeded expectations not only of some fans but also the coaching staff. He continues to add to his already impressive stat line of 24 rushing touchdowns. Through two games Bell has etched 638 passing yards and 6 touchdown passes on the ole resume. However, the most impressive stat may be that this kid has yet to throw an interception.
There to disrupt the timing of the passing attack will be guys like Sam Carter and Chris Hackett. With discipline in technique and solid instincts, these are two defensive backs who have recorded three interceptions each. As a unit, this TCU secondary is giving up 238 yards through the air and to their credit have 24 passes broken up with 9 interceptions.
Needless to say, the timing between Blake Bell and Sterling Shepard/Jalen Saunders will need to be near flawless or the result could suck the wind of the sails for this offense. It is not only the secondary that could cause problems for this trio, it's also the pass rush.
It is likely the Horned Frogs will remain without reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and elite pass rusher, Devonte Fields who suffered a foot injury against Texas Tech. Even without their best pass rusher, TCU has found a way to get pressure on the quarterback through the use of blitz packages and multiple looks. Defensive tackle Jon Lewis is quite the specimen consistently finding ways to collapse the pocket from the middle. He currently leads the charge with 4 sacks but has three others behind him with 2 sacks each. Shoring up the middle has become a challenge for opposing offensive lines. On the season, this is a defensive unit with 15 sacks to their name while allowing opponents to rush for 115.75 yards per game through four games.
It is not the run stopping front seven of Notre Dame, but again, the theme here for Texas Christian is speed.
Gabe Ikard and the offensive line have proven that when push comes to shove, they can hold their own. The O-Line will need keep up the momentum gained against previous opponents and protect the quarterback. Leaning on past experience with some of the talent these linemen have faced will prove valuable. But, being familiar with the 4-2-5 defensive scheme of TCU from past meetings may be even more vital as it aids in identifying blitzing defenders. So far this unit has done their job at an above average level giving up a total of five sacks.
With the odds in the Sooners' favor as the home team and the Red River Rivalry on the horizon, potential intangibles could arise. The Horned Frogs will need to be accounted for lest we forget the home opener of 2005 against this very program.