1. TCU is known for having strong defenses, and Hog fans have been warned about the quality of the Frogs' defense throughout the offseason, but then TCU gave up 41 points to South Dakota State. What happened? Is this group as good as years past?
First of all, SDSU was really good. TCU certainly didn't play up to their lofty expectations, but that QB and WR could play at any level, and Weineke will be playing on Sundays. So it's not like they were catching breaks, they just executed so well. That being said, the Frogs certainly struggled, especially on the back end. The success of Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 is predicated on the safeties being able to get guys lined up and make adjustments on the fly. When GP has had guys like Sam Carter and Derrick Kindred - heady veterans that knew the playbook inside and out - it's worked brilliantly. When he has young guys who don't have a ton of snaps under their belts in game situations, you end up surrendering 41 points to an FCS school. The combination of guys not being lined up right, with our best corner playing for the first time in a year after blowing out his knee last season, with a pretty vanilla pass rush up front, and a QB and WR who were playing the game of their life made for a perfect storm of suck. I think Arkansas is such a better matchup for this group - the Razorbacks probably aren't going to try and take the top off every third play, and TCU won't have to spy Allen quite as much as Taryn Christion. If they can play disciplined up front and hold the edge, it should look much more like a TCU D.
2. Arkansas faced Kenny Hill in 2014 when he was with A&M. How has he gotten better since then?
Hill looked hesitant in the first half, throwing off his back foot and forcing the ball into tight spots. He was behind his receivers on multiple occasions, and his two long TD passes were both more about incredible plays by his receivers than great throws on his part. But he was much more confident and settled in by the second half, and looked less like a guy who hadn't played an in-game snap in almost two years. He showed good pocket awareness and did an excellent job at keeping his eyes up field when he broke contain.
It's hard to say how his game has changed, because we haven't seen a whole lot of him yet, and he definitely looked rusty in game one. That being said, he has a pair of excellent coaches, and they seem very confident in his mechanics and abilities in fall camp. The biggest difference right off the bat is his maturity - he has definitely grown up and it's obvious he has the respect of his teammates. I think he knows this is his last chance, and he has the opportunity to vault himself right back into the national conversation if he can perform well on the field and keep his nose clean off of it. If he can do a better job of stepping into his throws and leading his receivers, he has enough talent around him to make him look good.
3. TCU lost three All Big 12 offensive lineman after last year. How do you feel about this year's line and does the fact that defensive line is a strength of Arkansas concern you?
I was actually pleasantly surprised by how the offensive line played Saturday. They aren't quite where they need to be, but for the most part, Hill had a clean pocket to work from, and when things did break down, he used his feet effectively to buy time. While the Frogs are replacing a lot up front, a plethora of injuries in 2015 meant that a lot of guys played, and that's especially true along the o line. There's only one senior on the depth chart, but it seems to be a unit that works well together and can run and pass block effectively. They'll have a much tougher challenge Saturday night, but I think between the skill level of the group and the ability of Hill to burn an overly aggressive pass rush with his feet, TCU will be okay in that area.
4. Jaden Oberkrom was a very successful kicker for TCU last year. How do you feel about the new kicker?
I would rather not talk about this.
Oberkrom was an absolute rock for four years, a guy who was capable of scoring once the Frogs crossed the 50. He just didn't miss big kicks. We thought we had a suitable replacement in sophomore Jonathan Song, another big-legged kicker who was exceedingly reliable in high school and got some garbage time snaps as a true freshman. But, he's hurt. So TCU turned to a pair of walk-ons late in fall camp, and Saturday was a bit of an adventure. I'm not sure familiar with Arkansas' returners, but they'll get chances, as neither TCU kick off specialist is going to boot it through the end zone. True freshman Ryan Graf went 8/8 on extra points and made his only field goal - albeit one that bounced off the cross bar - but if it comes down to needing a kick late, I don't think fans will feel especially confident.
5. Bret Bielema has famously resisted going to a spread offense and the Hogs are known for being a throwback power football team. Does that concern you at all?
I have always loved the way TCU plays against power teams. Patterson's defense has been generally consistent in stopping the run - it's teams that try and air it out over the top that get them in trouble. I think this is a pretty good matchup for the Frogs in that sense, and if they can control the line of scrimmage from the defensive end, and not give up too many big runs on first downs, that will play right into their hands. We didn't see a whole lot of creativity last week - the combination of young players, first game jitters, and an FCS opponent probably led to a pretty simple game plan. But how poorly they performed overall gave GP plenty of ammo this week in practice. They'll play much smarter this week, and that should open up things as far as pressure in the backfield.
6. Arkansas has scheduled several series against former SWC teams in recent years (Texas Tech, Texas, pre-SEC A&M). Is that aspect something the TCU fanbase takes any interest in?
Though the Frogs are glad to be in the Big 12, there is absolutely a segment of the fan base that is still incredibly bitter at how the SWC broke down. I wasn't around for the glory days of the Southwest Conference, but have lived through the nomadic journey since then, so while I don't have a direct tie to this particular rivalry, I totally understand the hard feelings felt by the older generation and those raised in Texas.That, coupled with how poorly the Frogs played against Arkansas when they were conference mates, gives this home and home series an extra bit of salt. Mostly though, it's an opportunity to go against the SEC - and any time you can take it to the MIGHTY SEC - it does a lot for your perception nationally. Getting another skin on the wall, especially after playing to your expectation in week one, is critical for this TCU team.
7. How do you see the game playing out?
Gary Patterson has been spittin mad at practice all week, and that usually bodes well for how the defense responds. Arkansas is going to score - but the key will be can TCU put enough points on the board early enough to keep the game from coming down to a single score late. If the Razorbacks are able to keep things close, the run game could wear down the smaller Frog linebackers and make things a little hairy. And again, the kicking game is still an unknown at this point. But... I think TCU will play a good first half, score a couple of quick touchdowns, and give themselves some breathing room down the stretch, finishing something like 31-21, Frogs. It should be a good game, but I think it's a good matchup for this particular TCU team overall.