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October 12, 2012

Friday Night 20: Previewing TCU vs. Baylor

TCU renews its rivalry with Baylor on Saturday night in Waco. The Horned Frogs (4-1 overall, 1-1 Big 12) are coming off a 37-23 loss to Iowa State at home last week, while the Bears (3-1, 0-1) were off after losing 70-63 two weeks ago at West Virginia.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Net. In the meantime, here's 20 observations, thoughts and notes leading up to kickoff:

1. It's odd how things come full circle sometimes. Last year, TCU lost to Baylor in the season opener, but found a quarterback in Casey Pachall, who rallied the Frogs from a three-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter before falling short. Thirteen months later, TCU is faced with a little more uncertainty at quarterback heading into Waco. Will Boykin step up like Pachall did last year? He might need to if the Frogs want to leave for home with a win.

2. One more thing on Pachall: After that loss last year, his first career start, he stood outside the visitor's locker room and talked to reporters extensively when, really, he didn't have to. Might sound simple, but those are the kind of things that made Pachall so enjoyable to cover the past year or so. If he needs the help Patterson said he does, I sure hope he finds it.

3. As for the TCU Recovery and Support Group, which Patterson pledged $100,000 to on Tuesday, donations to the program can be made by contacting the university's Student Affairs office.

4. Patterson said running back Matthew Tucker (ankle) will still be a game-time decision on Saturday. Tucker didn't play last week against Iowa State after suffering the injury during the SMU game. Tucker practiced both Tuesday and Wednesday, and Patterson said he's improved over the course of the week.

5. If Tucker can't go, freshman B.J. Catalon and senior Aundre Dean will likely have to shoulder most of the load again. Catalon fumbled twice in the first half last week, but bounced back and finished with 86 yards on 13 carries. Dean caught a touchdown pass and finished with 53 yards rushing. Those aren't overwhelming numbers, and Catalon's turnovers caused trouble for TCU early in the game, but really, I thought the two filled in nicely, especially considering the matchup they faced going up against ISU linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein.

6. In regard to those linebackers: As advertised. Knott finished with a game-high 13 tackles and added an interception, while Klein had nine tackles, including a sack. More so than that, Knott and Klein did what all great defenders do: Disrupt the ballgame. Constantly.

For Trevone Boykin, facing Knott and Klein could've been the best way to prepare for the rest of the season, because he probably won't come across a more talented combo than that.

Consider: Early in the game last week, Boykin, with the pocket collapsing quickly, was able to scramble out and complete some tough throws on the run, making plays when there really wasn't anything there to begin with. Pretty soon, though, Knott caught on and began pursuing Boykin outside the pocket, putting him under more and more pressure. Meanwhile, Klein continued to wreak havoc on the other end of the defense. Boykin likely won't face that problem Saturday, so even if his offensive line isn't being overly-protective, he'll probably still be able to create some plays and improvise a bit more.

7. Patterson had high praise for Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, saying the senior has been better than Robert Griffin III, last year's Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Honestly, it's hard to argue with Patterson. Griffin was more mobile, of course, but Florence has established himself as an efficient pocket passer - two weeks ago he nearly outscored West Virginia's Geno Smith, the early Heisman frontrunner.

8. Florence has some help, though. Three of his receivers are NFL-caliber, Patterson said. Terrance Williams, a senior, already has 667 yards receiving and six touchdowns. Tevin Reese (424 yards, 4 TD) and Lanear Sampson (311, 3) aren't half bad either. All three guys have touchdown catches of longer than 50 yards.

9. TCU had a 13-game winning streak heading into Waco last year - that would've been the case again this year had the Frogs not lost to ISU.

10. Watch out Luke Shivers: Laderice Sanders might start doing his best impersonation of you. Shivers, who graduated last year, was known for his near-even touchdown-to-touch ratio. Last week, Sanders, a freshman fullback who came to TCU as a linebacker, scored a 1-yard touchdown on his second career carry.

11. Should be nice conditions for football Saturday night. Forecasts call for highs of 86 degrees during the day with a few clouds and a 14 mph south wind.

12. Saturday could be a huge day in the Big 12. West Virginia and Kansas State, both undefeated, are facing possible trap games - the Mountaineers at Texas Tech and the Wildcats at Iowa State. As for Oklahoma and Texas, well, what else is there to say? A lot of hate, a lot of history and a whole bunch of physical play - and that's just what you'll find walking up to the stadium. On the field, the Sooners and Longhorns are vying for that third poll position in the Big 12, should West Virginia and Kansas State win.

13. The Big 12 is incredibly deep this year. Nine of the league's 10 teams have a legitimate shot at a bowl game.

14. Will we see the Frogs' shiny helmets this week? Patterson debuting them at his presser last week turned out to be a tease as the Frogs stuck with the purple matte versions against ISU.

15. Media members weren't allowed Tuesday to ask TCU players about the Pachall situation, but Josh Boyce seemed visibly down about the whole thing. Boyce is in a tough spot. He's arguably the most veteran offensive player, but when it comes to leadership he can only do so much at receiver.

"I think I've always kind of been one of the leaders on offense," he said. "It's just the quarterback -he's the everything. But I don't feel any pressure. I just have to help out the younger guys."

16. Before we pass too much judgment on Boykin, remember this: He started practice last week working with the running backs and it wasn't until Thursday, the Frogs' last full practice of the week, that he switched to quarterback. It'll be interesting to see how he does with a full week of reps under him.

17. Patterson said Tuesday that Boykin and Matt Brown "are going to be our guys" at quarterback. I asked Patterson on Wednesday how involved he sees Brown being on Saturday.

"I don't know," he said. "Right now, it's Trevone Boykin."

18. My guess: Brown sees the field as quarterback at least a few plays on Saturday, if only to mix things up. But I believe Patterson when he says Boykin is the main guy right now.

19. Key to the game for the Frogs: Slow it down. At this point, TCU doesn't have the experience on offense to get into a back-and-forth shootout and still come out on the high end. If the Frogs can keep the game in the high-20s/low-30s, they would take a ton of pressure off Boykin.

20. Last year in Waco, Greg McCoy set the TCU single-game record for return yards, seemingly gashing the Baylor kickoff unit every time he'd bring the ball down. Skye Dawson is averaging 30.2 yards a return. Even if he doesn't catch a pass at receiver, he can still be a crucial part of the Frogs' offense if sets it up with prime field position possession after possession.



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