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1. The case for TCU
Now that's more like it.
Between 2011-13, TCU and head coach Gary Patterson suffered one of the more ill-timed slides imaginable. After going 36-3 between 2008-10 and ranking in the F/+ top eight each year, the Horned Frogs announced that they were moving up the Big 12 and immediately suffered a backslide.
It began in their last year in the Mountain West, when they were still good (11-2, 15th) but not quite as sharp defensively. And then they lost offensive coordinator Justin Fuente and key offensive personnel and went 11-14 in their first two years in their new conference. The defense was great again, but the offense fell apart, as did their F/+ ranking: 34th in 2012, 53rd in 2013.
A 4-8 record isn't pretty, no matter how you spin it. At best, you're spinning 4-8 into 'we were a couple of breaks from a minor bowl.'
But TCU was close to something far beyond that. The Frogs managed to go 4-8 while losing just one game by more than 14 points. Their adjusted record tells us that, playing against perfectly average teams with an average number of breaks, TCU would have gone something closer to 9-3 than 4-8.
The defense went from good in September to excellent in November, while the offense went from terrible to solid. TCU was good enough to be consistently disappointing.
But those things can be rectified. ... If this team just needed one extra shot in the arm, the offensive changes could be the answer.
Those offensive changes were in the coaching booth. Patterson brought in spiffy new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) and Doug Meacham (Houston), and the offense didn't unexpectedly lose anybody of consequence. After a couple of seasons of growing pains, junior quarterback Trevone Boykin proved ready to take on a major-conference offense.
And ... bang. The defense held steady (from 14th in Def. S&P+ to 13th) and the offense clicked (from 97th in Off. S&P+ to 17th).
Suddenly, TCU was a top-10 team again. And perhaps as importantly, their luck changed. In 2013, they were at plus-0.9 points per game in turnovers luck but suffered some untimely close-game bounces and went 1-4 in one-possession games. In 2014, those figures were plus-6.3 points per game (most turnovers luck in the country) with a 3-1 close-game record.
And when you're both really lucky and really good, you go 12-1 and rank sixth in the country in F/+.
The season-ending bowl romp against Ole Miss was perhaps the second-best performance of the season (behind Ohio State's pasting of Wisconsin), and it sent a message: after three seasons in the wilderness, TCU is back. This wasn't an out-of-nowhere surge; it was a rebound.
This is replicable. TCU returns most of its offense and plenty of familiar faces on defense. And this wasn't some inexplicable surge -- this was TCU's fourth top-10 team in seven seasons. Since 2009, TCU has spent more time playing elite-level football than not.
Granted, the hype is new -- No. 2 in Sporting News' preseason rankings, No. 2 per Bleacher Report, No. 2 per Stewart Mandel, No. 5 per Athlon, No. 6 per SI -- but TCU is not.
2. The case against TCU
That Patterson's Frogs are getting the benefit of the doubt is heartening, perhaps an acknowledgment that, despite only being a power-conference team for three seasons, the Frogs aren't new to playing elite ball.
Really, though, it's just a bowl bump. The Horned Frogs looked spectacular and angry the last time we saw them, and we're giving them the same boost that we gave Oklahoma last year and West Virginia a few years ago.
As good as they were when playing their best -- and wow, were the high points high: 42-3 over Ole Miss, 48-10 over Texas, 82-27! over Texas Tech -- there were dicey moments. They needed a pick six at home to survive an Oklahoma team that wasn't as good as everybody expected. They recovered six of nine fumbles and needed a last-second field goal in a sloppy one-point win at West Virginia. And even though their luck turned dramatically against Kansas (they recovered zero of four fumbles, and KU scored on a deflected 78-yard touchdown in the third quarter), needing a late comeback to beat an awful Jayhawks team is not a good look, even with bad bounces.
There's more reason for doubt:
- After a few years of untimely injuries, TCU suffered almost none last year. Running back B.J. Catalon missed five games (and was replaced by the even more effective Aaron Green), No. 4 receiver Deante' Gray missed two, and that was about it for the offense. On defense, the top nine linemen missed a combined one game, the top four linebackers missed zero, and the top nine defensive backs missed zero. That's an immaculate run that will be almost impossible to replicate.
- On average, interceptions make up about 22 percent of your total passes defensed (INTs plus breakups). For TCU's defense, that number was 33 percent last year; for opponents, it was 15 percent. Law of averages could have resulted in eight fewer interceptions for TCU and four more for opponents.
- While the offense remains mostly intact, the defense must replace its best tackle (Chucky Hunter), its top three linebackers (Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet, Jonathan Anderson), and three stalwarts in the secondary (Chris Hackett, Kevin White, and Sam Carter). These seven players combined for 53.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 18 interceptions, 29 breakups, and seven forced fumbles last year. The TCU D is only going to fall so far, but it's probably going to fall a bit, especially considering ...
- In February, longtime defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas retired.
I feel like a turncoat. A year ago, I was one of TCU's biggest advocates. Now, I'm wondering why we're ranking the Frogs quite as high as we are. They're going to be good, but there's plenty of reason to believe they won't match last year's heights.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 12-1 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 6|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|1-Nov||at West Virginia||40||31-30||W||73%||14.5||91%|
|31-Dec||vs. Ole Miss||5||42-3||W||100%||64.4||100%|
|Points Per Game||46.5||2||19.0||8|
3. A short explanation
As good as TCU's F/+ ratings were, I've heard from quite a few Frog fans regarding their team's placement as compared to that of a certain team they mopped the Georgia Dome turf with on New Year's Eve.
5. Ole Miss (9-4): 50.1%
6. TCU (12-1): 49.3%
This doesn't pass the transitive property test, but it can be explained in part by something I wrote in this year's Ohio State preview:
Only five teams put together 90th-percentile performances in at least 60 percent of their games last year.
Percentage of 2014 games in the 90th percentile or better
1. Ohio State (73%)
2. Alabama (71%)
3. Ole Miss (69%)
4. Oregon (67%)
5. Georgia (61%)
(Yes, Ole Miss. The Rebels were at 94 percent or higher in each of their first seven games before crumbling. Last three games: 23rd percentile, 96th percentile, 11th percentile.)
TCU hit the 90th percentile six times in 13 games (46 percent), which is both very good and a little bit off from these five teams. And among these six great games were five performances that landed between the 65th and 78th percentile -- good but not excellent.
The Frogs were demonstrably better than the Rebels at the end, but Ole Miss earned a lot of cachet by being the best team in the country for the first two months. So that's how you end up with something odd like that even though ... well ... scoreboard.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||46.4%||25||Succ. Rt. +||110.8||34|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||25.3||1||Def. FP+||107.0||10|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.7||38||Redzone S&P+||107.6||45|
|Q1 Rk||6||1st Down Rk||17|
|Q2 Rk||55||2nd Down Rk||28|
|Q3 Rk||11||3rd Down Rk||10|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Trevone Boykin||6'2, 205||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8491||301||492||3901||33||10||61.2%||22||4.3%||7.4|
|Zach Allen||6'3, 205||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8361|
|Bram Kohlhausen||6'2, 203||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8160|
|Foster Sawyer||6'5, 220||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8891|
|Grayson Muehlstein||6'4, 210||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8550|
4. "It starts at QB"
TCU fan HQ
TCU fan HQ
I was right in talking about how important the quarterback position would be for TCU. But I was wrong in predicting who would start.
I wasn't alone in assuming Texas A&M graduate transfer Matt Joeckel would win the job. In two years, Boykin had shown promise and athleticism but had struggled to develop.
His interception rate was a little too high (3.6 percent), as was his sack rate (7.7 percent), and while he was a solid mobility threat (987 non-sack rushing yards in two part-time seasons), TCU fell from 54th in Passing S&P+ in 2013 to 73rd in 2014, and his rushing wasn't enough to keep TCU's run game afloat (110th in Rushing S&P+ in 2014). And in the battle of known quantity vs. unknown quantity, we seem to go with the unknown every time.
The combination of experience and a new offensive system worked wonders. Boykin was the perfect template for the version of the air raid that Meacham and Cumbie created. He was given more short passes to complete, and while his completion rate improved by about 1.5 percent, the combination of short passing and infinitely more effective running opened up more downfield passing opportunities.
Boykin's yards per completion went up, and his interception and sack rates went down. And perhaps more importantly, both Boykin's and the running backs' rushing averages improved dramatically. Boykin rushed for 829 non-sack yards (6.4 per carry), while the duo of Green and Catalon (pre-injury) combined for 1,415 yards (6.2 per carry) and 19 scores.
And now, a year after he wouldn't even have been the betting favorite to be TCU's starter, Boykin enters as the betting favorite to win the Heisman. He was a little lucky in terms of dropped interceptions, and that might change (and Ohio State's starting quarterback, whoever that ends up being, is the real favorite), but his command of this offense was obvious.
|Aaron Green||TB||5'11, 202||Sr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9813||130||922||9||7.1||7.8||44.6%||1||0|
|Trevone Boykin||QB||6'2, 205||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8491||130||829||8||6.4||4.8||50.8%||5||1|
|Trevorris Johnson||TB||5'11, 221||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8553||54||302||4||5.6||5.2||46.3%||2||1|
|Kyle Hicks||TB||5'10, 200||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9165||46||160||0||3.5||2.3||37.0%||0||0|
|Deante' Gray||WR||5'10, 175||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8700||8||88||0||11.0||4.9||100.0%||1||0|
|Shaun Nixon||TB||5'10, 196||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9229|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Josh Doctson||WR-Z||6'3, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000||117||66||1022||56.4%||22.9%||55.6%||8.7||203||8.7||129.1|
|Kolby Listenbee||WR-X||6'1, 183||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8729||82||41||753||50.0%||16.0%||63.4%||9.2||230||9.1||95.1|
|Deante' Gray||WR-H||5'10, 175||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8700||50||36||582||72.0%||9.8%||72.0%||11.6||156||14.1||73.5|
|Ty Slanina||WR-Y||6'0, 193||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8731||46||32||383||69.6%||9.0%||56.5%||8.3||2||8.3||48.4|
|Ja'Juan Story||WR-X||6'4, 208||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9340||25||17||145||68.0%||4.9%||64.0%||5.8||-58||5.7||18.3|
|Aaron Green||TB||5'11, 202||Sr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9813||22||19||166||86.4%||4.3%||54.5%||7.5||-53||7.7||21.0|
|Emanuel Porter||WR-Z||6'4, 210||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8833||19||12||154||63.2%||3.7%||73.7%||8.1||8||6.7||19.5|
|Desmon White||WR-H||5'7, 150||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8089||16||14||119||87.5%||3.1%||50.0%||7.4||-42||7.7||15.0|
|Cameron Echols-Luper||WR-H||6'0, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8588||15||9||72||60.0%||2.9%||53.3%||4.8||-38||4.7||9.1|
|Kyle Hicks||TB||5'10, 200||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9165||14||12||118||85.7%||2.7%||71.4%||8.4||-20||8.6||14.9|
|Buck Jones||TE||6'4, 255||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Corey McBride||WR-X||6'1, 187||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8501|
|Andre Petties-Wilson||WR-Y||6'1, 190||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Tony James||WR||5'10, 165||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8635|
|Jarrison Stewart||WR||5'11, 177||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8619|
|Jaelan Austin||WR||6'0, 192||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8600|
|Tre'Vontae Hights||WR||6'3, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8569|
|KaVontae Turpin||WR||5'9, 165||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8505|
5. Keeping everybody happy
TCU's tempo was both an asset and a necessity. The Frogs needed quite a few snaps to get the ball into the hands of everybody who deserved it. Boykin rushed about 10 times per game, and the combination of Green, Catalon and two freshman running backs carried 25 times. Josh Doctson was targeted nine times per game, Kolby Listenbee about six, three others about four each, seven others once or twice each.
Just about everybody produced, too. Four of the top five receivers averaged at least 8.3 yards per target, Catalon was fine, and Green was a revelation. After averaging only about five carries per game before Catalon's injury, he averaged 17 carries for 108 yards over the final five games.
The distribution could get even more interesting. Catalon and No. 3 target David Porter are gone, but that's pretty much it. Green, Doctson, and Listenbee will lead the way, and Deante' Gray and Ty Slanina will play a role. But now Johnson and Hicks and receivers Emanuel Porter and Desmond White are sophomores, and redshirt freshmen Shaun Nixon and Corey McBride might force their way into the rotation. (Plus, quarterback Zach Allen might pull a Boykin and spend time running routes.)
Can TCU raise the tempo even more?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Joey Hunt||C||6'3, 295||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8755||26||2014 2nd All-Big 12|
|Halapoulivaati Vaitai||RT||6'6, 308||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9050||20||2014 2nd All-Big 12|
|Aviante Collins||LT||6'6, 295||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8398||23|
|Jamelle Naff||LG||6'4, 325||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8681||15|
|Brady Foltz||RG||6'4, 320||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8331||13|
|Patrick Morris||RG||6'3, 288||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8619||1|
|Bobby Thompson||LG||6'6, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8625||0|
|Joseph Noteboom||RT||6'5, 310||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8482||0|
|Austin Schlottman||C||6'6, 280||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8220||0|
|Matt Pryor||RT||6'7, 350||So.||NR||NR||0|
|Frank Kee||RG||6'4, 330||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8594||0|
|Ty Barrett||OL||6'5, 316||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8767|
|Ryan Griswold||RT||6'5, 270||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8227|
|Trey Elliott||LT||6'4, 280||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7944|
|Sam Awolope||OT||6'6, 265||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8713|
|Jozie Milton||C||6'2, 310||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8569|
|Cordel Iwuagwu||C||6'3, 290||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8469|
6. So many seniors
There's plenty of reason to get excited about TCU's offense in 2016 and beyond; A&M transfer Kenny Hill will join some exciting youngsters in the race to replace Boykin, and young running backs and receivers have shown flashes of brilliance.
Still, 2016 will see a blood transfusion. Boykin, Green, Doctson, Listenbee, and Gray are all seniors. So are five of the six returning linemen with starting experienced. The only non-senior who has started up front: guard Patrick Morris, who did so just once. This line was pretty good (but not great) last year but will begin as one of the most experienced in the country with 98 career starts. This offense is loaded with experience; we'll worry about next year next year.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||33.7%||5||Succ. Rt. +||122.3||8|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||35.2||3||Off. FP+||112.1||1|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.0||32||Redzone S&P+||112.2||25|
|Q1 Rk||20||1st Down Rk||10|
|Q2 Rk||19||2nd Down Rk||45|
|Q3 Rk||9||3rd Down Rk||7|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|James McFarland||DE||6'3, 248||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8820||13||35.0||4.8%||12.0||7.0||1||3||3||0|
|Mike Tuaua||DE||6'3, 253||Sr.||NR||0.7000||12||23.5||3.2%||8.5||5.0||0||4||3||0|
|Davion Pierson||DT||6'2, 305||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8400||13||22.5||3.1%||8.0||3.5||0||1||0||0|
|Josh Carraway||DE||6'4, 250||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||13||21.5||2.9%||5.0||2.0||1||0||1||0|
|Aaron Curry (Nebraska)||DT||6'2, 280||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8673||13||18.5||2.6%||3.0||2.0||0||0||0||0|
|Terrell Lathan||DE||6'5, 280||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8731||13||17.5||2.4%||10.0||4.5||0||1||1||1|
|Chris Bradley||DT||6'2, 255||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8174||13||8.5||1.2%||2.0||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Tevin Lawson||DT||6'4, 280||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8882||13||8.0||1.1%||1.5||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Bryson Henderson||DE||6'6, 275||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8510||9||4.0||0.5%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|L.J. Collier||DE||6'4, 275||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8379|
|Casey McDermott Vai||DT||6'4, 276||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8148|
|Breylin Mitchell||DE||6'4, 255||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8832|
|Joseph Broadnax||DT||6'0, 305||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8593|
|Tpia Galea'i||DE||6'5, 220||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8495|
7. A 4-2-5 isn't supposed to stop the run like this
Put as generally as possible, when you move from a 4-3 alignment to a 4-2-5, you're sacrificing about 30 pounds of run-defending girth (a 230-pound third linebacker) for extra speed in pass defense (a 200-pound third safety). That doesn't seem like a lot, but it hints at one of the issues with attempting a nickel look: run defense. When the nickel fails, it fails because it's getting pushed around.
That's not a problem for TCU. For more than a decade, Patterson and Bumpas made the 4-2-5 defense look a lot easier to implement. Despite a wonderful secondary, TCU was far better at defending the run than the pass last fall. The Frogs pulled off the tough combination of great short-yardage success and an invasive presence in the backfield.
So how much of this was because of the line, and how much was because of incredible linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet? It's a chicken vs. egg debate -- the line cleared the way for the linebackers to make plays, and the linebackers wrecked shop far beyond what a 4-2-5 linebacking corps is supposed to. And safeties Derrick Kindred and Chris Hackett did a nice job of playing both near to and far from the line of scrimmage.
Kindred's back, as are all but one lineman. Ends James McFarland and Mike Tuaua made for an active duo, and Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry joins senior Davion Pierson at tackle. But only one returning linebacker had more than six tackles, and in the post-spring depth chart, three of the top four linebackers were either true or redshirt freshmen. If he maintains his spot on the two-deep, the first play of Mike Freeze's career will be as the starting middle linebacker for a top-10 team. Considering the impact last year's LBs had, that's pretty scary.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Sammy Douglas||SLB||6'3, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8469||13||14.0||1.9%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Paul Whitmill||SLB||6'0, 230||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8768||12||6.0||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ty Summers||MLB||6'2, 230||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7744|
|Mike Freeze||MLB||6'3, 220||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8453|
|Alec Dunham||SLB||6'1, 213||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8572|
|Semaj Thomas||LB||6'2, 225||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8593|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Derrick Kindred||FS||5'10, 210||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||13||71.0||9.7%||4.5||0||4||5||1||1|
|Ranthony Texada||CB||5'10, 170||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8500||13||28.5||3.9%||3.5||1||1||7||0||0|
|Kenny Iloka||WS||6'2, 209||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8625||13||14.5||2.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Denzel Johnson||SS||6'2, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7926||13||14.0||1.9%||1||0||0||1||0||0|
|George Baltimore||SS||6'0, 205||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8609||13||6.5||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Nick Orr||CB||5'10, 166||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8377||12||3.0||0.4%||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Torrance Mosley||CB||5'10, 160||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8382||5||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Corry O'Meally||CB||6'0, 170||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7959||8||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Travin Howard||SS||6'1, 190||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8315|
|Steve Wesley||FS||6'0, 175||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8796|
|Cyd Calvin||CB||6'1, 175||So.||3 stars (5.5)||NR|
|Ridwan Issahaku||SS||6'1, 180||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8294|
|DeShawn Raymond||CB||6'1, 180||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9001|
|Niko Small||S||5'10, 187||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8482|
8. Just so much to replace in the back 7
The turnover doesn't stop at linebacker. Kindred's return gives TCU a potential All-American at free safety, a player capable of both contributing to big-play prevention and making tons of havoc plays. Corner Ranthony Texada was a revelation as a freshman, and upperclassmen like Kenny Iloka and Denzel Johnson saw some reps last year.
But in losing Hackett, Carter and White and replacing them with some combination of career reserves (Johnson, Iloka, Corry O'Meally) and unproven youngsters (corners Torrance Mosley and Nick Orr; safeties Travin Howard, George Baltimore and Ridwan Issahaku), TCU is likely to regress in pass defense. [Update: George Baltimore will miss the season with a shoulder injury.] And if the run defense falters at all without killer linebackers, or if new co-coordinators Demontie Cross and Chad Glasgow need time to get their sea legs, one could see this defense temporarily falling out of the Def. S&P+ top 15.
There are no long-term issues here. As long as Patterson is the head coach, the TCU D will be fine. But when you lose seven impressive contributors and your coordinator, you're probably going to take a step backwards in the short-term.
|Ethan Perry||6'4, 230||Sr.||64||39.2||5||27||29||87.5%|
|Jaden Oberkrom||6'3, 187||Sr.||78||61.0||30||1||38.5%|
|Jaden Oberkrom||6'3, 187||Sr.||76-77||16-18||88.9%||6-9||66.7%|
|Cameron Echols-Luper||KR||6'0, 190||Jr.||9||11.4||0|
|Cameron Echols-Luper||PR||6'0, 190||Jr.||33||10.6||1|
|Special Teams F/+||8|
|Field Goal Efficiency||10|
|Punt Return Efficiency||24|
|Kick Return Efficiency||68|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||123|
9. Tilting the field, then tilting it some more
TCU had a pretty much perfect field position team. The Frogs got some breaks in that department, but an efficient offense, a crazy-efficient defense and phenomenal special teams unit sealed the deal.
TCU's field position margin was plus-9.9, easily the best in the country. Only one other team was better than plus-9 (Memphis, coached by Patterson's former protege Justin Fuente), and only three others (Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska) were better than plus-6.5.
Luck will probably turn, and the defense will probably be a little less efficient. But the Frogs still have Ethan Perry's unreturnable punts, Jadem Oberkrom's kickoffs (and big-legged place-kicking), and Cameron Echols-Luper returning punts. The Frogs maybe need a new kick returner, but this unit will still be a strength, and even with bad luck, TCU will still be a good field position team.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|12-Sep||Stephen F. Austin||NR|
|26-Sep||at Texas Tech||53|
|10-Oct||at Kansas State||33|
|17-Oct||at Iowa State||86|
|7-Nov||at Oklahoma State||43|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||31.0% (17)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||49 / 38|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||18 / 1.6|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||+6.3|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||14 (9, 5)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||11.4 (0.6)|
10. Landmines galore
Scouting the enemy
Scouting the enemy
TCU probably won't benefit from six points of turnovers luck and minimal injuries this year. The defense will still be mostly sound but will probably suffer a few more glitches. A few more of Boykin's passes that bounced off of defenders' hands last year might stick. A road upset bid from a Kansas State or Texas Tech might succeed.
It's going to be really difficult for TCU to match last year's run at the College Football Playoff, in other words. As high as I usually am on TCU, I fear expectations might be a little high considering the turnover on D, the tricky road schedule (five road opponents projected 53rd or better) and the likely change in random fortune.
That said, TCU is still going to be top-15 good, perhaps top-10 good. Again, this isn't unfamiliar territory for a team that dominated in the late portion of the last decade, The depth of experience on offense and on the defensive line should assure that, even with more bad bounces, TCU's in position to win nine or 10 games and perhaps take down Baylor in the season finale to still win the conference.
But as I wrote in the Baylor preview, I don't think the Frogs are the safest bet this year.