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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Big 12 Championship Q&A with Frogs O’ War

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For the second time in less than a month, Melissa Triebwasser of Frogs O’ War talks to us about a matchup between Oklahoma and TCU.

Baylor v TCU Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Three weeks after facing one another in Norman, the Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs will do battle once again. This time around, the two will play one another for the Big 12 Championship at JerryWorld, as Oklahoma has a chance to punch its ticket for the College Football Playoff. Joining us again this week is Melissa Triebwasser of Frogs O’ War — SB Nation’s TCU site.

After seeing what Oklahoma was able to do offensively in the first half, what do you think Gary Patterson and his defensive staff will do differently this time around?

I think the Frogs came out a little shell-shocked in Norman, and were playing on their heels from literally the first snap. That shouldn't be the case this time around. I would expect GP to make good adjustments, especially with how they handle the pre-snap movement, but Lincoln Riley has proven he can keep even good defensive minds guessing. The biggest change for the Frogs will be the guys on the field - which I will get to in the next question - but a healthy Travin Howard should make a huge difference against Rodney Anderson (Howard was banged up the last meeting and probably playing at about 75%), as he is an excellent tackler but has the speed to leak out in coverage and slow down the big plays on check-downs that killed the Frogs the first time around. The biggest question mark I have is about the blitz - you have to get pressure on Mayfield early, or he will scramble around and make playground plays on you all day long. But he's proven that he can diagnose a blitz and makes plays into it, so how aggressive will GP be in that area? I am just begging him not to send the corner blitz, especially in the first half.

TCU suffered a number of injuries in the game against Oklahoma, but Kenny Hill was back in time for the Baylor game last week. Darius Anderson is out, but will the others be ready to go this week?

It appears the Frogs are as healthy as they can be at this point in the season, as LB Travin Howard, safety Niko Small, and possibly kicker Jonathan Song all look ready to go. Howard and Small both played in Norman, but neither were 100%. Kenny Hill is also back, but his backup, Shawn Robinson - who is said to have a package of plays ready to go - missed last week after getting dinged up at Tech. I think he could be an important change of pace, so hopefully he can go.

Starting safety Nick Orr will out for the first half after last Friday's brawl in the Baylor game. Who will step into his place in the first half and what should we know about him?

Innis Gaines and Markell Simmons are the two main guys that will be charged with filling his role, and both guys have played significant snaps already this season, both as rotational guys and injury replacements. Gaines is a thumper; he doesn't have great speed but he brings the heat, while Simmons has really come on strong over the past two games as an intelligent, heady player with plus speed and good coverage skills. To play safety in GP's 4-2-5, you have to be smart and versatile, and both of those guys are more than capable of filling in well. The key is the health of Small - if he is 100%, I am far less worried about Orr's absence. That being said, he's a senior who has played in big games, and losing his experience and presence on the back end, especially against a guy like Mayfield, is a huge loss.

How would you describe the mood of the TCU fan base heading into this game? Are they excited to be playing in this game? Are they somewhat confident or hopeful?

Definitely more hopeful than confident. The fanbase knows a lot has to go right for TCU to pull of the victory, and a few things probably have to go wrong for the Sooners (i.e. a weird fumble, a tipped pass, INT, etc). I think most people are confident that the defense will play considerably better and expect Kenny Hill to do so as well. I would say most are anticipating a close game and to compete, but I don't think anyone feels that the Frogs aren't an underdog this weekend. That being said, everyone is excited to be playing in this game, to have a chance to win a title, position ourselves for a quality bowl game against a big name opponent, and continue to exceed expectations - something that this team has really already done.

With TCU's campus being somewhat close to JerryWorld (about 20 miles) and located in the Metroplex, what are your expectations as far as the TCU fan turnout is concerned?

I have been pleasantly surprised by the excitement around attending this game. There was a line around the block for student tickets, and it seems just about everyone I know is going. We aren't a large alumni base, so I still expect OU to outnumber TCU in the stands, but I think 35,000-40,000 fans is a reasonable expectation for the first Big 12 conference championship game the Frogs have ever played in, and the excitement to be in the game is definitely there.

If you had to recommend one restaurant or bar located in or near Arlington, what would it be?

I actually live in Arlington, so I know the city well - though I am on the other side of it. J Gilligan's is close to the stadium and is an awesome game day environment - plus the best Irish nachos - and the downtown area has some great spots that you'll be familiar with in Fuzzy's, Twisted Root, and a couple of great bars and patios.

How do you see this one shaking out? What will TCU have to do to win the Big 12 Championship? Finally, what's your final score prediction?

I keep wanting to pick the Frogs, but I just haven't been able to pull the trigger. OU clears their playoff path with a 35-31 victory, and the Frogs head to San Antonio to beat the snot out of a Pac 12 team.