2007 TCU Preview

Posted May 30, 2007

Yes, TCU might be a living, breathing national title contender led by Tommy Blake and a stifling defense that should dominate the Mountain West. An early win at Texas would jump start a season-long BCS debate, but are the Horned Frogs really that good?

TCU Horned Frogs

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 TCU Offense Preview | 2007 TCU Defense Preview
2007 TCU Depth Chart
| 2006 CFN TCU Preview 

Everyone likes the Boise State story. Good program, funny field, wild play-calling, lots of wins. The Broncos have set the standard for the non-BCS programs and what they can do. Now it’s TCU’s turn in the spotlight.

Had the current BCS entry rules been in place from the start, TCU would’ve been in a big-money game in 2000 and 2005, and might have been more highly regarded by now. Like Boise State, the Horned Frogs made a splash by beating Oklahoma, but they didn’t get nearly the credit they deserved for the win in Norman two years ago, probably because they flopped the following week against SMU. This year, with an early date at Texas, there’s a chance to prove, once and for all, that they deserve more attention. More importantly, there’s a chance for Gary Patterson’s team to finally get into the national spotlight with a BCS appearance. This team is that good.

Head coach: Gary Patterson
7th year: 54-20
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 21, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best TCU Players
DE Tommy Blake, Sr.
2. DE Chase Ortiz, Sr.
3. LB Jason Phillips, Jr.
4. RB Aaron Brown, Jr.
5. OG Matt Lindner, Sr.
6. S/KR Brian Bonner, Sr.
7. PK Chris Manfredini, Sr.
8. LB David Hawthorne, Sr.
9. CB Nick Sanders, Soph.
10. C Blake Schlueter, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1


Sept. 8

at Texas

Sept. 13

at Air Force

Sept. 22


Sept. 29

Colorado State

Oct. 6

at Wyoming

Oct. 13

at Stanford

Oct. 18


Nov. 3

New Mexico

Nov. 8

at BYU

Nov. 17


Nov. 24

at San Diego St

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record: 11-2
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 at Baylor W 17-7
9/9 UC Davis W 46-13
9/16 Texas Tech W 12-3
9/28 BYU L 31-17
10/5 at Utah L 20-7
10/21 at Army W 31-17
10/28 Wyoming W 26-3
11/4 at UNLV W 25-10
11/11 at New Mexico W 27-21
11/18 San Diego State W 52-0
11/25 at Colorado St W 45-14
12/2 Air Force W 38-14
12/19 Poinsettia Bowl
Northern Illinois W 37-7

With nine starters returning from the nation’s number two defense, and 21 of the 24 players on the defensive two-deep, to go along with a loaded backfield of offensive talent, TCU has the potential to be everyone’s mid-major darling from day one.

Of course, while everyone around the program will be focusing on the Texas game, there’s still a matter of the Mountain West race. After ripping through the league for the 2005 title, the Horned Frogs blew their chance to repeat with back-to-back losses against BYU and Utah for an 0-2 conference start. The rest of the season was a breeze, as TCU won eight straight, capped off by a dominant performance over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl to set the tone for 2007. 

Set the expectations high. Demand a Mountain West title and a game against the big boys on national TV. Hope for a stunning upset in Austin. After so many years of production, its TCU’s turn.

What to watch for on offense: A dominant running game. The TCU coaches love a nice balance, but the talent and experience, at least early on, is at running back. Aaron Brown is due for a huge season, and top recruits Jamarion Cavness and Joseph Banyard are good enough to see the field right away. Throw in quarterback Marcus Jackson’s running ability, and TCU will be tempted to run, run and run some more. 

What to watch for on defense: Total, utter dominance. Patterson’s teams have almost always had strong defenses, but this one should be special. It’s asking a lot to improve on a defense that allowed just 12.3 points and 235 yards per game, but this group could be good enough to do it.
Getting into the backfield on a regular basis won’t be a problem with the return of end Chase Ortiz and should-be-in-the-NFL star Tommy Blake. There’s speed, athleticism, depth and loads and loads of experience.

The team will be far better if … there’s more boom on the punts. The lousy TCU punting average is by design, sort of, trying to pin teams deep and going for placement more than anything else, but it would be nice if there were a few bombs here and there. Bryan Courtney was good at putting it inside the 20, and now Derek Wash has to do the same while cranking up the net yardage total by a few clicks.

The Schedule: If the Horned Frogs really are as good as expected, the schedule works out well enough for a tremendous record and a shot at the BCS. The early part of the season will be all about the trip to Texas, with a chance to make a huge national splash. Home dates with Baylor and SMU and a trip to Stanford make up a not-that-bad rest of the non-conference slate. In league play, Utah has to come to Fort Worth, but a trip to BYU will likely make-or-break TCU’s title hopes. Any team that thinks it’s good enough to win the Mountain West title should be able to get by road games at Air Force, Wyoming and San Diego State without breaking a sweat.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Aaron Brown. TCU has mostly been a running back-by-committee team, but Brown might be too good to not get the ball in his hands 20+ times a game. Despite sharing the workload, and only getting more than 15 carries once last season, he was still named second-team All-Mountain West after rushing for 801 yards and nine touchdowns. This year, 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns might be a lock.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Tommy Blake. Ortiz and Blake potentially could form the nation’s most productive pass-rushing duo. Blake flirted with the idea of turning pro, but the 6-3, 250-pound all-star is back and should be in the running for All-America and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors if he plays like he did over his first few seasons.

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman QB Andy Dalton. Last season, all senior Jeff Ballard did was step in for the heralded Tye Gunn, win more than 90% of his starts with a good combination of skills, and demonstrate a knack for coming up with the big play against the weaker teams, ending those games before they even started. While Marcus Jackson is similar in size, a better runner, and a decent passer, with an 11-of-13, 148-yard, two touchdown day in the season-opening win over Baylor, Andy Dalton took over the job this fall. With several new receivers to work with, he'll have to be efficient right off the bat. 

The season will be a success if ... TCU goes 11-1. The BCS is sort of out of the team’s control if there’s a loss, but that doesn’t mean things can’t get extremely interesting. It’s asking a bit too much to win at Texas, even though the Horned Frogs have more than enough experience to pull off the upset. Even if there’s not a big-money game at the end of the year, a second Mountain West title in three seasons is more than just a decent achievement.

Key game: Nov. 8 at BYU. While the early date with Texas will get all the attention, everything this fantastic team might be able to accomplish will likely go down the drain if it can’t win in Provo. While this might not be the BYU team of last season, the showdown is late enough in the year for all the new starters to have jelled. It’s not a stretch to say this game will be for the Mountain West title.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Scoring after three quarters: TCU 334; Opponents 98
- Sacks: TCU 36 for 267 yards; Opponents 15 for 82 yards
- Penalties: TCU 93 for 788 yards; Opponents 56 for 491 yards


Related Stories
2007 TCU Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 29, 2007
2007 TCU Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 29, 2007
2007 TCU Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 29, 2007

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