TCU must not be taken lightly
Prior to the season, this weekend’s matchup pitting Oklahoma against TCU was expected to be a nationally anticipated game with large-scale implications, but how quickly things can change in college football.
While the contest still holds impact in the race for the wide-open Big 12, beating the Horned Frogs is now expected of the Sooners as they look to continue their undefeated quest at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Norman.
The 11th ranked Sooners (4-0) will face a TCU team (2-2) that has swallowed a heavy dose of adversity throughout the first month of the season. Obstacles that coach Gary Patterson’s team may not have foreseen.
Injuries, suspensions and a strong early schedule have displaced the squad from the top-25 rankings, a place familiar to the Frogs in recent years.
In their second season as a Big 12 member, TCU was picked preseason by the media to finish third in the conference. The team also received nine first place votes — one more than OU.
But since then, little has gone right for the Fort Worth, Texas squad.
Senior, and former starting quarterback Casey Pachall has been sidelined with a broken arm. Furthermore, reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Devonte Fields, has faced a suspension and a foot injury, and his status is unknown for Saturday.
And on top of that, TCU has faced two current top-20 teams, and lost to each — No. 10, LSU and No. 20, Texas Tech.
But falling into a trap versus a capable conference foe isn’t on OU’s agenda. Sandwiched between an emotional victory over Notre Dame and next week’s Red River Rivalry, the Sooners aren’t sleeping on TCU.
“They played a tough early schedule, but again we’re very aware of them and what a good football team they are,” coach Bob Stoops said.
And after last season’s tight, 24-17 affair in Fort Worth, OU can’t afford to be comfortable on Saturday.
“Everything is all on TCU, period,” the coach continued. “Again, around here, we’re expected to beat everybody. So you only beat everybody by being ready for everybody.”
OU’s preparation starts with how to attack one of the top defenses in the conference. Patterson’s squad leads the Big 12 in forced turnovers (12) and sacks (15). Those marks put the Frogs top-ten nationally in both categories.
This defensive dominance has been Patterson’s trademark during his 13-year tenure as head coach. Under him, TCU has fielded the nation’s top defense five different seasons — more than any other program.
“They’re really good, one of the best coached defensive teams in the country, year in and year out,” junior quarterback Blake Bell said.
And for how he and the rest of the OU offense plans on attacking the Horned Frogs:
“We’re going to have to be really accurate with the ball and we’re going to have to be specific in our routes to really have success,” Bell said. “Running the ball, again, will be very important.”
TCU has struggled through the first quarter of the season, but this year’s Sooner senior leaders are adamant to not allow a let-down on Saturday. Senior linebacker Corey Nelson made this point clear.
“The focus this week has to be 10 times better than it was last week,” Nelson said. “We have to be even more focused than we were against Notre Dame because we cannot let TCU come in here and beat us. That’s when teams get beat – when you take teams lightly.”