What: Iowa State (1-7, 0-5) vs. TCU (3-6, 1-5)
When: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 11:00 a.m.
Where: Jack Trice Stadium
TV: Fox Sports Net
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“They are a cornered, injured animal. They are going to be awfully hungry for victory. They are going to sense blood in the water and go after it.”
That is what Paul Rhoads said earlier this week about a battered TCU program that will invade Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday morning (thanks Coach for writing my intro to this column).
But will the program that I foolishly picked to win the Big 12 this season (TCU) really smell that blood in the water? And even if they smell it, will they rally up enough vigor to actually make an attack?
I have my doubts.
We all know that Iowa State isn’t playing well right now. In fact, the last three weeks have been downright embarrassing. But if you’re a TCU fan, the following Gary Patterson quote from after last Saturday’s 30-27 overtime loss to West Virginia should concern you:
“We should have been more fired up about playing the ball game.”
That was a Big 12 home game that Patterson was referencing. That was a Big 12 home game that by all means, TCU had a great chance to win that Patterson was referencing.
How does was his team not up for that game?
I’ll tell you how. It’s because before the season had even started, bad mojo began creeping its way into the TCU locker room. Two starters left the team. Once the season started, the Horned Frogs caught a disastrous case of the injury bug. Now, November is upon us and TCU has yet to bounce back. That is how a ‘what should be’ desperate team doesn’t get up for a Big 12 home game.
Now, the obvious question: Will TCU be ‘up’ for an 11:00 a.m. kick in Ames, Iowa?
Here’s your preview.
The Horned Frogs will win if…
…Their offense keeps improving.
For an Iowa State fan reading this, here is your big concern. For all of the talk about how bad TCU’s offense has been this season, not many people are pointing out that Casey Pachall, who broke his non-throwing arm earlier this season, is back and threw for 394-yards in last week’s loss. The Horned Frogs might have lost that game but in doing so, TCU’s offense finally showed some signs of life.
“I think that any time you are dealing with a quarterback like Pachall who has won so many games, you have got a guy who concerns you as he should,” Rhoads said. “He is a good football player.”
Do not forget about the man who filled in at quarterback while Pachall was injured, sophomore Trevone Boykin. He’s now lining up at wide receiver. Boykin caught 11 passes for 100 yards last week. With Boykin out wide, TCU’s offense becomes a lot more complicated for an opposing defense.
“If he worked at receiver all of the time he would be their best receiver,” Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “He has great hands. He can go up and snatch a ball and take it away from someone. He has quick feet. He changes directions like a good wide receiver does. He is a threat to throw the double-pass. He is a threat in the backfield. He can run the ball. It gives them a lot more dimensions when he is out there.”
Like Iowa State, TCU has a major injury problem. The Horned Frogs will hardly be at full strength on Saturday morning. But do yourself a favor and don’t be so quick to fall into the, “TCU’s offense is awful” trap. Yes, they have been awful but this will only be Pachall’s second start since coming back from his injury. This group is getting better and based off of the way Iowa State’s defense has played lately, there is no reason to think that TCU won’t finally “click” on Saturday in Ames.
Quotable: TCU head coach Gary Patterson on Trevone Boykin
“I’ve never had one (a player) who could move over to receiver and do that. Fortunately for us, he played some of that in two-a-days with Casey. He is too good a player and too good of an athlete to leave on the sidelines if one guy is playing quarterback. He has prepared to be a wide receiver. He likes being on the field and not standing on the sidelines. It is definitely a big positive for us and will be a big positive going forward. I think it does show that when you can get a guy who can do that within our offense, like (Josh) Boyce last year, you can move the football. You just can’t turn the ball over. It becomes a simple thing. Four or five turnovers is how you get yourself in a situation that we were in the other day. One of the things you have is that the kids are excited. You want to make it as upbeat as you can, but you still have to understand that winning is hard. I tell them all the time. In this day and age, winning is hard. You have to be able to find ways to do it, grow up and do it as a team. We’ve been very close this season and close doesn’t count.”
The Cyclones will win if…
…A completely different team shows up at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday. COMPLETLEY DIFFERENT. That might seem harsh but if the team that showed up against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State rears its ugly head this week, Iowa State will not beat TCU.
The Horned Frogs are 3-6 and 1-5 in the Big 12. Those facts are undeniable. But through it all, Gary Patterson’s defense has remained a top 25 unit nationally. Iowa State is currently ranked 111th nationally in total offense.
Despite the fact that TCU’s defense has visibly softened over the last two weeks, this still reeks of an awful match-up for Iowa State’s besieged offense.
Here is Iowa State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham’s scouting report of the Horned Frogs D.
“When you go position-by-position, they are very athletic. They get off blocks and they run. They understand where they fit in the defense. If you watch those back end guys, people will say that they are aggressive and run downhill. They are fitting the right spots and they know whether or not they have help. As an example, you will see safeties drop out after they figure out that it’s not a run off of play action and they are falling underneath wide outs that need to help, with a cornerback as an example. That’s what they do really well. They understand where they fit in the defense and they play fast. That’s the thing that I think you have probably seen from TCU the entire time that Coach Patterson has been there.”
Three key storylines to watch for:
Who is ISU’s QB? – It is Friday and we still have no clue if Sam Richardson or Grant Rohach will get the start for the Cyclones. At the end of the day, does it really matter? The supporting cast doing its job is just as big of a deal, if not bigger as game time approaches.
Iowa State injuries – Specifically, will standout running back Aaron Wimberly see the field for the first time since Baylor? Will Iowa State’s best offensive tackle, Jacob Gannon play for the first time since Texas Tech? What about the only Cyclone offensive lineman who has started every game this season, redshirt freshman Daniel Burton? The importance of those two linemen is off the charts going up against this TCU defense.
Fast start – Iowa State has not had a lead since the Texas game. Iowa State has not scored on its first possession since the Tulsa game. That’s pretty much all I need to write.
This is a tough game to pick in my opinion. I don’t have a lot of confidence in either team. But unlike Iowa State, TCU does have one known commodity in its defense. Match that up with Iowa State’s offense and objectively; I have to go with the Horned Frogs here.
Having said that, as I noted earlier in this piece, if Gary Patterson’s troops don’t want to be in Ames tomorrow morning, this is a very winnable game for the Cyclones.
TCU 27, Iowa State 17