12 years after their last matchup, BYU and TCU are rekindling an old conference rivalry Saturday in Forth Worth. We caught up with Anthony North of Frogs O’ War to preview the Horned Frogs and what we could expect Saturday. You can read the questions we answered over on their site.
VTF: BYU and TCU are rekindling an old rivalry. Do you think this will be a rivalry again? How does the fanbase view BYU?
FOW: I do think that old flame will burn bright again. With the number of Cougar fans in the DFW area, there is always a strong presence whenever BYU is playing in town; that proximity and familiarity creates an atmosphere that will lead to mutual sports disdain again. I personally very much still consider the Cougars as a rival in the new Big 12 - as a TCU student at the height of the TCU-BYU-Utah battles at the top of the Mountain West, those losses were as devastating and the wins as satisfying as nearly any in TCU’s Big 12 era. It will certainly be a tier below the rivalries TCU has with Baylor and Texas Tech, particularly for the current students and younger fans that only know the Big 12 version of TCU, but once both teams are fighting for position at the top of the conference in the future, the rivalry will grow anew.
VTF: After an all-time year last season, TCU is 3-3 and on a two-game skid. What’s the vibe around the program, and do fans think TCU can turn things around this season?
FOW: There is a risk that motivation could dwindle as the losses have accumulated in frustrating fashion this season. To go from that extreme high in 2022 to now looking at bowl eligibility as a toss up proposition halfway through the 2023 season is quite the tumble and the disappointment is undeniable. Horned Frogs fans remain optimistic that the players TCU will send onto the field are capable of performing, but there has been a consistent drumbeat of displeasure with the coaching decision making, particularly that of both the Offensive & Defensive Coordinators. Another hapless home loss on Saturday and Frog fans will have the pitchforks out.
VTF: What are the offensive and defensive strengths on both sides of the ball? What areas is TCU vulnerable?
FOW: On the positive side offensively, running back Emani Bailey has been a breakout star for the Frogs, replacing the production lost with Kendre Miller & Emari Demercado now in the NFL. He is averaging 115 yards per game while averaging 5.7 yards per carry as the team’s true bell cow back. Although TCU has been able to accumulate huge yardage totals, it has found unique ways to trip over its own feet rather than find the end zone. TCU has been laughably bad at converting red-zone opportunities into points: turnovers, 4th down failures, botched FG attempts, and just utter ineptitude in opponent territory has doomed the Frogs all season.
Defensively, the TCU secondary got embarrassed on the national stage in Week One as Shedeur Sanders threw for over 500 yards, but since then the DBs have impressed, allowing just a single TD in the five games since. The vulnerability in this two game losing streak has been a lack of pass rush; TCU was leading the nation in sacks going into the WVU game, but hasn’t recorded one in the last two contests, generating very little pressure on opposing QBs.
VTF: Redshirt Freshman Josh Hoover will make his first start at QB. What are the expectations for him?
FOW: Hoover looked rough through much of his early opportunities this season: trouble controlling snaps, fumbles, bad interceptions, easy sacks. But he settled in a bit towards the end of the game last week, throwing a TD pass and had two more sure TDs that were dropped. With a full week of practice and gameplan install built around Hoover at the helm, I’d expect him to perform at a much improved level to what we’ve seen from him previously this season. The question will be: when the script ends or when the protection breaks down, will he be able to handle the heat to make the right play and not give away multiple costly turnovers. There are some Frogs fans that consider Hoover to be a better QB than Morris, but I’d say that’s a bit of wishful thinking and the cliche of “everyone’s favorite player is the backup QB.” That said, a backup QB replacing an injured Chandler Morris last season went on to do just fine.
VTF: What is your prediction for the game?
FOW: With the new QB behind center anything is possible in this one: he could come out and light the world on fire or toss the season into the garbage can. I still think TCU will find ways to score points; Hoover’s deep ball may actually be better than Morris’, leading to some big plays while the offense will also work to scheme quick passes to avoid a hungry pass rush and the need for multiple reads. The TCU defense bends but does not break, getting to Kedon Slovis for a couple of sacks and maybe a turnover or two, and forcing FGs instead of TDs. TCU then turns to Emani Bailey to chew yards and minutes to grind out the game to pick up a much needed win and continue the TCU winning streak over the Cougars. Frogs win 24-20.