Friday Night 20: Previewing TCU vs. Kansas State

TCU hosts No. 2 Kansas State and Heisman favorite Collin Klein on Saturday night. Get ready for the Frogs' 6 p.m. kickoff with 20 notes, thoughts and observations:
1. OK, so TCU became bowl-eligible with its win last week. That means the Frogs will spend at least a portion of their Christmas break somewhere like San Diego or San Antonio or, maybe with three more wins, Arlington. But it also means they'll be able to get more practices in, valuable learning time, especially for younger players. Don't think Gary Patterson hasn't thought about this.
"This December, this getting ready for a bowl game, will be more of a pre-spring ball. It just won't be "yeah, we're getting ready for a ballgame." We're going to be growing guys up. It's going to be tougher than what a normal bowl game practices are, especially early."
2. Defensive tackle David Johnson will likely be out for the rest of the season with an injury, Patterson said.
3. Kenny Cain missed a portion of last week's game after hyper-extending his knee, but he returned to the game and should be good to go Saturday against the Wildcats.
4. Filling in for Cain was sophomore Marcus Mallett, who was TCU's defensive player of the week Patterson said. The sophomore racked up seven tackles, two of which were for loss. He also added a pass breakup, providing TCU with a little bit more pass coverage at linebacker.
5. I was asked earlier this week during a radio interview if Patterson, a KSU alum, had any extra motivation or placed any extra meaning on this week's game. I said no, because, really, Patterson doesn't tend to get into all of that, and if he did he hasn't let us in on it. But I'll say this: Patterson knows how special of a coach Bill Snyder is, probably more than most do, because Patterson saw first-hand how bad the KSU program was before Snyder took over. Patterson's senior season, 1982, was the Wildcats' first bowl trip. Ever. In 93 years of playing football.
6. With the time change, it should be dark by kickoff Saturday night, adding even more to what should be a great atmosphere.
7. There's a slight chance (30 percent) of rain Saturday night, but temperatures should remain in the high-60s.
8. Collin Klein is the best player in the country, and that has little to do with stats. He's a winner. Plain and simple. Right now, a little less than a month until the Heisman Trophy is presented, Klein is the clear cut favorite for the award. That likely will be very apparent late Saturday night, regardless of the game's outcome.
9. Keep an eye on who returns punts Saturday night for the Frogs. Skye Dawson has kept the job most of the season, but after muffing a punt in the first half last week, true freshman Deante' Gray, who returned his first career punt for a touchdown, handled the duties on the Mountaineers' last punt of the game. My guess: Patterson sticks with the senior, who, despite some clamoring from fans, is the Frogs' most steady option at the position.
10. Jason Verrett has to be the best player on the field Saturday night for TCU to win. He was that guy last week against the Mountaineers, holding Stedman Bailey (who, albeit, was not 100 percent) to one catch in regulation and blocking what could have been the game-winning kick in overtime. Verrett got beat one play - Bailey's 25-yard touchdown catch in overtime - but he owned the rest of them. If he can shut down the Wildcats' vertical passing game, which he did against Geno Smith, then that will take a load of pressure off of TCU's linebackers who will have Klein to worry about all night.
11. Same could be said for Sam Carter, who was taken out of a portion of last week's game, forcing the Frogs' linebackers to shift their coverage more onto Tavon Austin. The result was obvious, as Austin sparked the WVU offense most of the game. Carter should be good to go Saturday.
12. Patterson isn't settled on six wins, but he also isn't ignoring the rash of injuries and defections his team has suffered so far.
"I'm not happy, but from what everything we've gone through with the true freshman quarterback, we just lost David Johnson, you just go down the list of all the things," he said. "I'd hope maybe I was 7-2. Maybe stole one more. But that's just how I think."
13. Patterson said he knows one thing: He'd rather it be a week-to-week struggle against tough teams than breeze through an easy schedule and not get respect.
"I would rather be like this all day long than win 12 games," he said. "I'd rather be 6-3 every week. Because I thought we got more respect for losing in triple overtime against Texas Tech than we did going 10-0. That doesn't mean that team wasn't better or couldn't play, it just means it was perception."
14. Will Klein play? That's the question that hasn't officially been answered yet, and probably won't be until Klein trots onto the field (or doesn't trot onto the field) Saturday night. There were reports earlier in the week that Klein suffered concussion-like symptoms, not being able to remember scoring a touchdown against Oklahoma State. Then there were the reports that Klein's mother said her son was 100 percent. Bill Snyder hasn't revealed much, telling media he expects and hopes Klein will play.
15. If Klein, the Heisman frontrunner, doesn't go, then the playing field becomes a little more even for the Frogs.
16. For as intangible of an impact Klein tends to have, there are some key stats that really illustrate how efficient and effective he is. Klein leads the nation in quarterback rating at 174.4, and he only has two interceptions to go with 12 touchdowns passing. On the ground, he averages five yards a carry and has rushed for 17 touchdowns.
17. Tyler Lockett is KSU's Tavon Austin. At 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, he isn't the biggest guy, but he's returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this year (to add to the two he returned as a freshman last year), and he has 34 catches for 528 yards receiving.
18. Not only does KSU have the best offense in the Big 12, the Wildcats also have the most unique approach with a focus more on the running game, both with Klein and John Hubert, as opposed to a spread passing-oriented system. How will TCU attack that? Well, the general approach to slowing Big 12 offense usually involves slowing the game down. Doing that would likely play into KSU's hand, so it'll be interesting to see the Frogs' approach on defense.
19. Trevone Boykin did a better job against West Virginia at creating plays and converting first downs with his legs, especially in Mountaineer territory. Really, that was the thing that had hampered him against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. When he got pressured, he was able to get outside the pocket but his passes were either errant or thrown away. Boykin didn't do that as much against WVU, his 94-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce being the biggest example of that.
20. For as big of an opponent Utah was in 2009, Saturday's game against the Wildcats will be the biggest, at least opponent-wise, since No. 2 Texas came to Fort Worth in 1970. No other visiting team since has been ranked higher. The Longhorns that year were, of course, coached by Darrell K Royal, the UT icon and wishbone innovator who passed away this week at 88. Raised during the Dust Bowl, Royal came from the humblest of humble beginnings in Hollis, Oklahoma, about an hour west of where I grew up in the southwest part of the state. RIP.