1. Coming off of a historic 2022 season, the TCU Horned Frogs haven’t lived up to expectations in 2023. What pitfalls has this team experienced in Year 2 under Sonny Dykes?
It’s been a handful of things, not least among them the volume of high level talent playing on Sundays now. You don’t just replace guys like Max Duggan (well, unless you’re OU who had quite the run of Heisman-caliber QBs), Quentin Johnston, Tre Tomlinson, and Steve Avila - let alone Derius Davis, Kendre Miller, etc. I think we all understood how special those guys were but expected the next in line to step up and be good enough.
And they just haven’t been.
The offense piles up yards in bunches but tends to get constipated and turnover prone in the red zone, the defense has not been able to consistently generate pressure on opposing QBs, and the secondary - which was the most veteran laden unit heading into the season - has struggled against good passing attacks. Chandler Morris was fine before he got hurt but didn’t have the same penchant for the big play that Max did, and Josh Hoover has looked promising in spots but also very much like a RS Freshman. Playing calling, on both sides of the ball, has been suspect, and it’s very telling in regards to culture when your star CB says after the Baylor game “we are finally playing less selfish.”
It feels like the team is rounding into form over their last six quarters and finally performing up to the level we expected, but after big promises in the offseason, the fanbase is rightly disappointed that it took the better part of 11 weeks.
2. Speaking of Dykes, what is the fan base’s current impression of him?
I think the vast majority are still in his corner and have faith in his ability to lead this program. But he certainly burned some bridges when he spent a big portion of his goodwill capital to hire Kendal Briles and then talked about the talent and physicality of his time all through the spring and fall only to have them fall flat on their faces in week one. The whispers about Dykes’ penchant for teams falling off in November have gotten louder, but you don’t undo a season like 2022 in one subpar campaign.
People want to see something done in the offseason, whether that’s staff changes, home runs in the portal, or some type of shakeup, to show that he can quickly right the ship. We will likely forgive him this one bad year, but when you look at the roster for 2024, there’s concern it could be a couple bad years. And that won’t go over as well.
There has to be some level of foundation building this offseason, and with recruiting lagging and some big swings and misses in the portal last year, I am sure he feels like he’s got something to prove.
3. After sustaining an injury in early October, Chandler Morris missed over a month of action. Since then, freshman Josh Hoover has shown plenty of promise. What should OU fans know about him before Friday’s game?
I really like Josh. He’s young, and sometimes he plays young, but universally this team - from coaches to players - rave about his preparation, his work ethic, and his leadership. It’s a bit telling, to be honest.
Hoover can make all the throws; TCU’s downfield passing attack has taken a big step forward with him at the reigns. But the more important thing - as cliche as it is - he’s got the team bought in in a way it just didn’t feel like was previously happening. I ran into the parent of a walk-on at the airport after the BYU game and she raved about Hoover, how he had come in over the summer and made sure he knew every player’s name, no matter what their role was. He seems to be a genuinely lovely human being who is absolutely a talented QB that can play at this level. But he makes some freshmen mistakes and the offensive line doesn’t always do him a ton of favors. He’s going to make some wow plays Friday and also some face palm ones. But if he plays clean, he can certainly keep the Frogs in this game.
4. Emani Bailey has been the bell cow for TCU, accounting for over 50 percent of the teams rushing attempts and racking up over 1,000 yards on the ground. Amongst the skill position group, who else could potentially have a breakout game?
The two guys to watch right now are tight end Jared Wiley, who had a career game against Baylor (but haven’t we all?) and WR Savion Williams, who we all expected to take on a bigger role this season but got off to a very slow start before a career game against Texas. Hoover is a smart kid - he is going to find his mismatches and both of those guys tend to fit that bill. If one of those guys can have a big game, TCU could have a chance.
5. One the defensive side, who is most likely to make an impact this Friday?
Namdi Obiazor and Jamoi Hodge tend to make big plays from the linebacker positions, but TCU isn’t winning this game without forcing a couple turnovers, so here’s hoping Josh Newton can be a big play guy at CB Friday.
6. With the exit of Oklahoma and Texas, along with the additions of new schools in 2023 and 2024, how are TCU fans about the future of the Big 12?
I mean, it’s great for TCU. We finally are on the inside of a big realignment and have a relatively stable future. And with the 12 team playoff, a program like TCU in that conference should be able to be in the mix more often than not. I think Brett Yormark has made some really savvy moves to keep the conference relevant and as a West Coaster, I’m fired up to add the Arizona schools and Utah next year.
The basketball on both sides will be elite and fun, baseball will get a boost, and sports like women’s soccer, beach volleyball, and volleyball should all get a bump as well. I am confident in the future - well, as confident as any of us can be - and think that TCU Football, and really TCU Athletics in general, can thrive in the new Big 12.
At least until it all goes to hell again.
7. What is one nice thing you can say about OU?
So, I ended up driving to Norman at the last minute for that fateful game in 2015 when the Frogs made that amazing comeback only to lose because of a tipped two point conversion attempt.
The stadium navigation was terrible, the crowd flow awful, and the fans were so mean in the first half.
But as TCU made their run, they got considerably nicer and more respectful, sharing hot chocolate and acting genuinely respectful after a hard fought win.
Does that count?
Also, the loudest I have ever heard Amon G Carter Stadium was when Paul Dawson had that pick six of Trevor Knight in 2014 so I think of OU fondly for that reason, too.
8. What does TCU have to do to pull off the upset on Saturday?
We’re going to need an off schedule score - defense, special teams, a huge play, something - to force a couple turnovers, and have Josh Hoover just ball out.
All things the Frogs are capable of, but-
Or maybe the Sooners go a little wild at Thanksgiving and have a tryptophan hangover Friday morning? That works too.
It’s been since 2005… we’re due, aren’t we?