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Know Thy Opponent 2019: TCU Horned Frogs

The final non-conference game of 2019 should be a good one.

NCAA Football: Cheez-It Bowl-Texas Christian vs California Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 season has some very fun non-conference games. First, we have a trip to Nevada for one of those weird, late night west coast games. Then we host Vanderbilt, a team we haven’t played in over 75 years. Finally, we get TCU, the program that has busted through the hawse hole of the Group of Five into a Power Five conference and has more than held its own. The Horned Frogs have not played Purdue since 1970, but they have been a solid program for over a decade now. They won a Rose Bowl over Wisconsin after the 2010 season and won 11 games as recently as 2017. In 2014 they finished third in the AP Poll after a 12-1 season that had a 42-3 stomping of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.

Not only is this the toughest non-conference opponent Purdue has this season, they are the toughest non-conference opponent in quite some time when you consider sustained recent success. This will be a tricky night home game where TCU has a bizarre week off after opening the season August 31stagainst and FCS team. With plenty of time to prepare for us it will be a tough matchup.

TCU Horned Frogs

2018 Record: 7-6, 4-5 Big 12

Bowl Result: Beat California 10-7 (OT) in Cheez-It Bowl

Blog Representation: Frogs O’ War

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 2-0

Last Purdue win: 15-0 at Purdue on 9/19/1970

Last TCU win: None

Head Coach: Gary Patterson (167-63 in 19thseason at TCU)

Last Season for the Horned Frogs

TCU has been remarkably consistent because they have one of the longest tenured coaches in college football with Gary Patterson. He started as the bowl game coach after the 2000 season and has been there ever since. He has technically coached TCU as part of four conferences (WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Big 12) and has only missed a bowl game twice. The Horned Frogs have finished in the top 10 six times under Patterson, including as high as second after going 13-0 with the Rose Bowl win in 2010. In 11 of his previous 18 seasons the Horned Frogs have won at least 10 games.

By comparison, Purdue has technically had six head coaches in this time (Joe Tiller, Danny Hope, Patrick Higgins, Darrell Hazell, Gerad Parker, and Jeff Brohm) and we are still waiting for our second 10-win season ever.

After going 11-3 in 2017 last year was definitely a down year for the Horned Frogs. After blowout wins over Southern and SMU they lost to Ohio State 40-28 at JerryWorld. That started a skid where they lost 5 out of 6, only beating Iowa State 17-14. Rock Bottom was a 27-26 loss to Kansas on October 27th. It was only the sixth Big 12 win for Kansas in the last 10 years and first since 2016.

TCU recovered from this to beat Kansas State 14-13 before losing West Virginia. They then beat Baylor and Oklahoma State before winning what may have been the worst bowl game ever.

The 2018 Cheez-It Bowl is one of those games that was so hideously awful that it was somehow entertaining. The final score was TCU 10, California 7, IN OVERTIME. That is merely the surface of how bad this game was. Both teams combined to throw six first half interceptions. TCU’s Grayson Muehlstein threw interceptions after: 1. Receiving a forward pass from another player and 2. After crossing the line of scrimmage. Both times Cal obviously declined the penalty and kept the ball. Muehlstein and Cal’s Chase Forrest made history by both being power 5 QBs that were seniors and at their original schools that never started games before the bowl game. It was so bad that Muehlstein was briefly benched for a guy who had drop foot and literally DID NOT HAVE FULL CONTROL OVER ONE OF HIS LEGS. That’s note isn’t even the craziest thing, as the SID for TCU tripped over a yard marker, fell onto the field of play, and was flagged for a sideline interference penalty.

That’s like Chris Forman getting a technical for tripping an IU player on a fast break.

TCU Offense

The TCU offense was really, really bad last year and injuries as the season went on only made it worse. The bowl game was an example of that, as TCU threw for 28 yards and had four interceptions, yet somehow won a bowl game. They finished the season 91stin offensive S&P and were 101stin passing. It is hard to say who will start, as they have Ohio State transfer Matthew Baldwin, Michael Collins, Justin Rogers, Max Duggan, and grad transfer Alex Delton from Kansas State. Of all these options Delton and Collins have the most experience, but that amounts to a little over 1,000 yards passing each.

In the backfield leading rusher Sewo Olonilua returns after rushing for 635 yards and 2 touchdowns, but 194 of those yards came in the bowl game as they relied on him heavily. Darius Anderson (598 yards, 3 touchdowns) is also back as the No. 2 guy, so expect a healthy dose of him and Olonilua. Olonilua is a question mark though after being charged with something rhyming with Smellony Rug Confession.

TCU does have an excellent receiver in Jalen Raegor. He caught 67 passes for 1,061 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, easily leading the team. He also rushed for 170 yards and two score, so like our own Rondale Moore, they try to find creative ways to get him the football. The offensive line was pretty good last year, giving up only 16 sacks, and the return of most of the starters up front will help whoever wins the quarterback derby. Lucas Niang at tackle was an all-Big 12 pick and is one of four returning starters up front that includes Austin Myers, Wes Harris, and Kellton Hollins.

TCU Defense

The defense was pretty good against bad teams last year, but struggled to keep afloat a bad offense for most of the season. It was the defense that definitely kept the team in it in wins over Kansas State (14-13) and Baylor (16-9). It held opponents under 20 points seven times, and when you do that it is much easier to win, especially with a crappy offense. Since a bad offense is pretty atypical of Patterson teams the Horned Frogs can take a big leap forward this year.

Garrett Wallow at linebacker is the top returning tackler. He finished with 72 tackles and three sacks. Montrel Wilson is also a solid linebacker that will be a major contributor coming off of injury.

Up front, Corey Bethley, who had five sacks last season, is the most experienced player, but there is plenty of hope with young players expected to step up. Ochuan Mathis, Adam Plant, and South Carolina grad transfer Shameik Blackshear all expected to play a large role on the defensive line.

One of the more fascinating matchups will be cornerback Jeff Gladney on Rondale Moore. Gladney was an all-conference corner in the Big 12 with 13 pass breakups and two interceptions and is an NFL prospect. The rest of the secondary is a question mark, but Gladney is a very good player to build around.

TCU Special Teams

For the past three years Cole Bunce and Jonathan Song have split kicking duties and that is expected to continue in 2019. Song won the bowl game in overtime and was 9 for 12 on the year with a long of 46 yards, while Bunce was only 4 of 9. Jordy Sandy is expected to take over punting duties as an rugby-style punter.

In the return game TCU must replace KaVontae Turpin, who was an excellent returner. He had both a kickoff and a punt returned for a touchdown and averaged better than 26 yards per kick return.

Game Outlook

This should be a very interesting game because both teams will be relatively young in several areas. Both teams also signed big recruiting classes that were near the bottom of the national top 25 rankings, so you’re going to have a lot of young, talented freshmen all over the field. The obvious huge question mark is at quarterback. According to Frogs O’ War they list FOUR quarterbacks on the most recent depth chart. For a team that alternated quarterbacks for much of 2017 and at one point in 2012 we alternated three, even I think that is excessive.

Purdue’s defense gained a ton of experience last season and now has some actual depth that will push the starters. The Auburn disaster in the bowl game aside, the Purdue defense did relatively well for most of last year despite zero depth. It now has that, and it is high quality depth, too. Against an offense that struggled for most of last year and doesn’t have a quarterback yet I like that.

Way-too-Early Prediction

I think the experience of Elijah Sindelar is a difference here. Yes, he did not play much last year because of injury rehab, but we saw what he could do late in 2017. If he is fully healthy again I think he gives Purdue a huge advantage at the quarterback position. TCU has the defense to make this a lower scoring struggle, but at home and with the better QB I like our chances. Purdue 24, TCU 17