The Frogs begin their 2015 campaign Thursday with an away game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
TCU enters the season at No. 2 in the AP Poll, the highest the Frogs have ever been ranked in week one. Thursday night’s game kicks off at 8 p.m. and will air on ESPN.
The national spotlight could make for a battle between the two teams as they approach the season with different outlooks, but the same goal.
After being left out of the playoffs last season, a victory Thursday will be a chance for TCU to start the year proving they truly are one of the best teams in the nation.
For Minnesota, a win will give the Gophers the chance to wreak havoc on the rankings and prove that they can contend with any powerhouse.
TCU made a mockery of Minnesota in Fort Worth last season defeating them 30-7, but 2015 is not 2014. It’s a blank slate now.
Each team is back, new and improved, and the Frogs are expecting a good fight.
“[The Gophers] are well coached and very methodical,” Patterson said. “We’ll get their best shot.”
All that matters is how the teams perform on the gridiron.
Here’s how the two teams compare:
TCU undoubtedly has the offensive edge.
The Horned Frogs boasted one of the best offenses last season under new co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie. With the core of the offense still intact and an entire year of experience under its belt, TCU’s air raid style offense has the potential to challenge any opponent this season.
After Trevone Boykin’s breakout year, the Heisman favorite may be entering the season as the best quarterback in college football. Last year he made headlines averaging 300.1 passing yards and 54.4 passing yards per game.
Patterson said that Boykin has played an integral role in the evolution of college football, both locally and nationally.
“I think TCU has been better because Trevone’s here, and he has also made college football better,” Patterson said. “He has a flair. He’s turned into quite the leader comparably to several years ago and is one of the hardest quarterbacks to defend.”
The Frogs also have running back Aaron Green and wide receivers Kolby Listenbee, Josh Doctson, and Ty Slanina to their advantage.
Last year, Doctson set a TCU record with 1,018 receiving yards. He also had 11 touchdown receptions, including this spectacular catch against Minnesota:
The offense is expected to be without receiver Deante Gray, Thursday, due to a knee injury he sustained in the offseason. Without Gray and the fact that Minnesota boasts one of the better rushing defenses in the nation, expect Listenbee, Slanina, and Doctson to be prime weapons for Boykin.
But don’t count on the Frogs to run up the score.
“Our biggest thing is to not have style points,” Patterson said. “We just want to win this ball game. To say putting up 82 points against Tech last year was planned is inaccurate.”
Minnesota, however, has holes to fill and questions to answer about their offense.
The Gophers won’t have running back David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams, two leaders from last year’s offensive squad. Williams’ eight touchdowns and 569 receiving yards led all Big 10 tight ends last year. Cobb’s 1,626 rushing yards were fourth best in the conference.
Berkley Edwards and Rodrick Williams are the frontrunners to replace Cobb, but no announcement has been made as to who will start.
Another big question for the Gophers is how starting quarterback Mitch Leidner will fare. Last year Leidner had a 51.5 completion percentage, costing Minnesota multiple victories. Having had an entire offseason to develop, his performance on Thursday could play a deciding role in his future as starting quarterback.
Without a doubt, TCU’s defense is expected to be revamped and faster than ever before.
What the Frogs may have lost in experience from players such as Marcus Mallet, Paul Dawson, and Chris Hackett, they’ve gained in eager and athletic youth.
Mike Freeze, a freshman outside linebacker, has been one of the most hyped additions to TCU. If he lives up to expectations, Freeze could shine in his first game.
But youth means inexperience.
As they take on unfamiliar opponents, the Frogs must rely on the leadership of seasoned players such as linebackers Sammy Douglas and Mike Tuaua, safety Derrick Kindred, and defensive end James MacFarland.
Despite any concerns for week one, Patterson is confident in the potential of his defensive unit.
“This defense, every week, is going to keep getting better and better and better,” Patterson said. “I still uphold that we’re faster than we were. We have youth in some places where we wish we were older at. I’ve pushed them, so we’ll see how they do.”
Minnesota’s defense, though, is a formidable force.
Last year cornerbacks Eric Murray, Jalen Myrick, and Derrick Wells led the gophers’ defense to be one of the best in the Big 10. Despite losing Wells, Murray and Myrick’s growth and leadership could boost the Gophers’ game.
Patterson said that he was impressed with Murray’s performance against TCU last season.
“Defensively, 31 (Murray) was probably the best corner we played against last year,” Patterson said. “Over four shots with Kolby last year against him we were 0-4.
Minnesota’s defense is one of the best in the nation at stopping the running game which could pose a hurdle for Boykin and Green.
Final thoughts and predictions
It’s hard to have clear cut expectations for TCU vs Minnesota. The Frogs are obviously the favorite on paper, but the first game of the year for every team is full of unknowns.
“The unknowns scare the coaches more than anything else,” Patterson said. “This game is going to be full of surprises, even for our offense.”
The amount of preseason hype that TCU has been getting this summer puts both a load expectations and a target on their back.
The Frogs know that this game won’t come easy. Minnesota will be looking for revenge and will play to the best of their ability.
“There are new skill players,” Patterson said. “They have nothing to lose. Every trick play that they have, they will run them.”
TCU will enter a hostile environment, too. Not only is TCU the highest ranked team to ever play in the TCF stadium, but the Minnesota State Fair in Minneapolis this week will draw thousands of fans from across the state.
The Frogs will have to be mindful of all the factors, but TCU has what it needs to embarrass any opponent.
TCU owns one of the best offenses in the nation. They have confidence from beating four ranked opponents last season and finishing 12-1. And Coach Patterson has found ways to continually mold his defense into a powerhouse.
Minnesota isn’t a bad team, though. The Gophers will put up a bigger and better fight than last season, but with the Frogs’ experience and explosive offense, purple will reign.
Prediction: TCU 38, Minnesota 21