TCU Horned Frogs vs SMU Mustangs Preview
Might it be remembered as the night the Dallas/Arlington metroplex truly became divided when the TCU Horned Frogs (1-0) travel crosstown to take on the SMU Mustangs (0-1) in the latest “Battle for the Iron Skillet.”
The Texas Christian vs. Southern Methodist rivalry dates to 1916, with long winning streaks had by both teams against their neighbor. New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes is thrust into the middle of the longstanding heated rivalry faced with ending a six-game losing streak to TCU. Dykes’ return to the sideline as head coach after his four-year stint with Cal (2013-16) did not go as planned in Week 1. The Mustangs could not stop North Texas quarterback Mason Fine, surrendering 444 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 46-23 loss.
The Horned Frogs opened the season in style downing FCS member Southern 55-7 using their suffocating defense to keep the Jaguars’ offense off the field. Sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson nearly surpassed his 2017 season totals as a backup, finishing the game with 182 passing yards and three touchdowns while rushing for two more scores.
TCU at SMU
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: TCU -22
Three Things to Watch
1. TCU’s rushing attack
The Horned Frogs’ stable of backs should be fresh for the Mustangs. Emari Demercado led TCU with eight carries for 57 yards against Southern but returning leading rusher Darius Anderson was able to get some work in, toting the pigskin eight times for 36 yards. Another back to watch for is Sewo Olonilua. Olonilua was explosive against the overmatched Jaguars, gaining 43 yards on just five carries.
A win over SMU is needed, but the most important thing is for the offense to punish Southern on the ground, especially with Ohio State on tap for next week’s matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. A delicate balance between gelling the offense and getting the backs off the field is to be had.
2. SMU’s secondary
The Mustangs’ lack of effectiveness against the pass in Week 1 was somewhat surprising with four starters back in the secondary. North Texas starts the 2018 season off as the second-leading passing squad in the FBS ranks meaning SMU statistically has the second-worst pass defense. If Robinson can maintain his 71 percent completion rate, the Mustangs are in big trouble.
On the bright side for SMU, the Mustangs only allowed 68 rushing yards against the Mean Green. Stopping TCU’s rushing attack and Robinson’s ability to pick up yards on broken plays will be a big challenge.
3. The Dykes and Ohio State effect
It is worth noting that SMU head coach Sonny Dykes spent the 2017 season as the offensive analyst for the Frogs. With his years in the game as a coach and his first-hand knowledge of the team, there is no other coach in the country better suited to beat TCU from a knowledge base… but can he? One thing that might help Dykes, is TCU looking ahead to the Buckeyes? No. 4 Ohio State hosts Rutgers in Week 2 and is perhaps looking ahead to the non-conference showdown against TCU. Dykes may have to keep his guys focused as well with a Week 3 road trip to No. 21 Michigan (0-1) looming.
Former SMU head coach Chad Morris did not leave the shelves bare of talent, but the Mustangs are still in transition in a new philosophy. If they got caught sleeping on North Texas, maybe a more competitive game is to be expected on Friday?
Over the last five meetings, TCU has kept SMU at arm’s reach with the closest margin of victory being 19 points in 2015. Look for TCU to push the overall series to a 50-39-7 mark notching a seventh consecutive win in this series.
Complete Big 12 preview for the 2018 season.
Oklahoma has a few key players to replace from last year’s squad, but coach Lincoln Riley’s team is the pick to win the Big 12 this fall. The Sooners have claimed the conference title three years in a row and hold an edge over Texas, West Virginia and TCU in the 2018 Big 12 predictions. The Mountaineers will have no trouble scoring points behind quarterback Will Grier, but the defense will be key in whether or not this team contends for the conference title. After eight teams reached bowl eligibility last season, it would not be a surprise to see the conference reach that level or if nine programs hit at least six victories in 2018.
Playing with a chip on their shoulder after last year’s 1-11 finish, the Bears should be able to get off to a better start and make a run at their eighth bowl bid in nine years. But staying healthy will be the key.
Coach Matt Campbell was a year ahead of schedule in getting Iowa State back to a bowl game. The program seems poised to maintain its momentum. The Cyclones should be better in the trenches on both sides of the football, and across the board, this is a deeper and more athletic team than the one that went 8-5 a year ago. Another trip to the postseason seems likely in Ames, and finishing in the upper half of the Big 12 is possible.
KU finished just 1-11 in 2017, with its only win coming in the season opener against FCS opponent Southeast Missouri State. Coach David Beaty’s record stands at 3-33 in three seasons, with his only FBS win coming against Texas in 2016. The stakes will be high in 2018. If KU struggles to start the season, the moves could come in a hurry.
K-State coach Bill Snyder has enough returning talent and experience to remain a factor in the Big 12, but it won’t be easy with two new coordinators and uncertainty at key positions. The Wildcats started slow in each of the past two seasons before finishing strong and winning bowl games. They will need to play well from the get-go, especially with Mississippi State on the schedule, to reach higher levels this season.
In Norman, they’re used to replacing All-Americans and continuing to win big. So downgrade the Sooners with caution. Sure, the coaches would like to be more settled at quarterback. And the schedule doesn’t offer the opportunity to ease into things, with UCLA visiting in Week 2, followed by the Big 12 opener at Iowa State the following Saturday. Still, if Kyler Murray or Austin Kendall takes hold of the quarterback position, the Sooners will again have the look of a Big 12 favorite and CFB Playoff contender.
Outside the program, all focus centers on replacing QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington, understandably. Inside, however, there’s a quiet confidence, with 12 returning starters and plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
A quarterback must emerge, but Oklahoma State coaches are excited about their options. The schedule offers two comfortable games – Missouri State and South Alabama – to get the quarterback some confidence, before Boise State arrives in Stillwater for an intriguing non-conference clash. If all goes well early, it could signal business as usual for the Cowboys.
Like always, TCU will field a good defense. But coach Gary Patterson and his staff have assembled what looks like the best offensive skill talent they’ve ever had. If the offensive line comes together, TCU will be closer to pairing an offense that can keep up with the Big 12’s best with a defense that can win games on its own. The last time that happened, in 2014 and ’15, TCU won 23 of 26 games, shared a league championship and nearly crashed the CFP.
Texas improved from five to seven wins in Tom Herman’s first season. Getting to a bowl game was a nice first step. Herman also established a culture and added some elite talent in his first full recruiting class. To challenge Oklahoma for supremacy in the Big 12, the Horns will have to show significant improvement on offense and hope that Todd Orlando’s defense doesn’t drop off too much despite key personnel losses.
Texas Tech’s defense got key stops consistently for the first time in years in 2017, but the offense often wasted away those opportunities, particularly in the red zone, where short-yardage situations and field goal tries often ended in disaster.
To take a step forward, the Red Raider offense simply has to get tougher on the ground, the quarterback — whoever wins the job — needs to be steady, the kicking game must take a huge step forward and the defense needs to stay on course. A veteran offensive line and a healthy kicker in Clayton Hatfield should help, but the quarterback’s success or failure will weigh the heaviest on this team’s season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s job depends on it.
WVU fans were downright giddy for the 2018 team until departures and injuries hit the Mountaineer defense in the spring. Now, there’s a wait-and-see approach while defensive coordinator Tony Gibson tries to patch the holes.
With Will Grier and perhaps the nation’s best receiving corps, WVU will score. The only question is whether they’ll have to score 50 per game to cover for the defense.
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NCAA Football 2017 Season
Big 12 Conference Preview
The race to win the Big 12 in 2017 took an interesting turn this offseason. The Sooners will be under the direction of new coach Lincoln Riley after Bob Stoops retired in June. Riley will continue to direct Oklahoma’s high-powered offense, which is good news for the Heisman hopes of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma State and Texas are expected to contend also. Kansas State, West Virginia and TCU completes the top 6. Iowa State and Baylor are two sleeper teams to watch in 2017. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks
Kansas St. Wildcats
The Wildcats will have serious experience and firepower on offense this season. If they can develop a few players on defense and improve against the pass, they could be one of the Big 12’s biggest threats to dethrone Oklahoma.
Oklahoma St. Cowboys
There are a lot of optimistic references to 2011 in Stillwater, with the look of this team bearing an obvious resemblance to that squad — at least on paper — with the array of offensive playmakers and the promise of an opportunistic defense. Now, can it look and perform like that squad, which won the Big 12 and finished decimal points out of the national championship game?
The Cowboys will have to manage trips to Pittsburgh and West Virginia, but the rest of the schedule sets up nicely. And they’ll have to find a way to beat Oklahoma, which has blocked their path the past two seasons.
Tom Herman is 22–4 as a head coach and is 6–0 against teams ranked in the AP top 25. He may also be a master of timing. At Houston, he took over a veteran team coming off an eight-win season and went 13–1 in his first year.
Now, Herman takes over a Texas roster returning 37 of the 44 in the two-deep from last season, stocked with back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes under former coach Charlie Strong. On his way out, Strong said whoever was coaching the Longhorns in 2017 would win 10 games.
Texas fans can’t take any more hype, only to be let down again. But things may be set up for Texas and Herman to crash the Big 12 party this season thanks to UT’s veteran roster, including experienced offensive and defensive lines and a laser-accurate quarterback in Shane Buechele.
The Sooners enter 2017 as the favorites to win a third straight Big 12 championship. Still, the push is for much more. QB Baker Mayfield and the standout offensive line give them a shot, although reliable weapons must develop, and the defense must prove capable.
There will be a challenging road schedule that features a September 9th visit to Columbus to meet an Ohio State team that thumped Oklahoma in 2016. And there are trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State, two of the other top contenders in the Big 12. And, if all goes well, there’s a rematch with someone in the resurrected Big 12 Championship Game.
West Virginia Mountaineers
As head coach Dana Holgorsen said throughout the spring, West Virginia has talented players. Will Grier at quarterback, Ka’Raun White at receiver and Justin Crawford at running back comprise a trinity that’s tough to beat. Offensive line coach Joe Wickline should be able to build a decent front with guard Kyle Bosch as the anchor.
On defense, though, questions swirl around the line and at corner. Expect the opposition to test the WVU front early and often in 2017. Also, uncertainty at corner might give blitz-happy defensive coordinator Tony Gibson pause. In addition, there’s concern as to whether those in key positions coming off injuries will return to prior form.
Overall, though, WVU has plenty of confidence coming off a 10-win season and enough talent to challenge in a watered-down Big 12.
TCU Horned Frogs
The Air Raid-based Frogs will go as far as their quarterback takes them. Improvement from Kenny Hill is a must if TCU wants to return to its winning ways, let alone compete for the Big 12 championship. There are tools to work with on offense, but the best of them may still be a year away from making a legitimate impact. At least head coach Gary Patterson is likely to put out a sound defense. Experience is on his side this year, and that typically has meant good things.
Considering all of the turnover and culture change this program is undergoing, finishing above .500 and earning a bowl bid would be an impressive debut for new head coach Matt Rhule and the Bears. There are too many holes and question marks for Rhule to match the back-to-back 10-win seasons he had in his final two years at Temple. But Baylor — which returns 10 starters from a team that went 7–6 — is good enough to reach a bowl game for the eighth consecutive season.
Iowa St. Cyclones
The Matt Campbell era got off to a rough start, with a Week 1 loss to Northern Iowa followed up by a lopsided defeat to rival Iowa. But by the end of the year, Iowa State was competing with the best of the Big 12.
Now comes the most difficult task for the second year head coach: winning some of those games and getting Iowa State back to the postseason for the first time since 2012. To make that happen, the Cyclones will have to show significant improvement in the trenches — on both sides of the ball.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger understands that his offseason contract extension and raise for head coach David Beaty — 2–22 in his first two seasons — will look questionable to some. Beaty’s pay raise — he went from $800,000 annually to $1.6 million in 2017, with a $100,000 bump each season — is further proof, however, that Zenger sees progress outside the team’s wins and losses. Beaty has improved the team’s roster numbers after a scholarship crunch his first season and also built up some positive recruiting vibes. In 2016, bowl eligibility is unlikely given that the rebuild is still in its early stages, but improving on a two-win season should be an expectation, especially after Zenger gave Beaty the offseason vote of confidence.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech has a lot to prove in 2017. There are glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed — specifically the run game, offensive line and one of the worst defenses in college football. Even in an area where Texas Tech typically succeeds — throwing the football — the Raiders are tasked with replacing arguably the best quarterback in school history (Patrick Mahomes) with a player who has never started at the collegiate level.
All of this uncertainty on the field will add to the uncertainty with the coaching staff. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is back for the fifth season at his alma mater, but the former record-setting quarterback is no doubt in a precarious position. A 13–23 record in Big 12 games simply is not good enough.
NCAA Preview 2016
NCAA fantasy football is getting closer. Are you excited as i am? Get ready to play CFB at FanPicks (click to play). With the impending kickoff in Sydney, Australia August 26th, FanPicks will cover every NCAA conferences and their teams for the 2016 season. If you’ve missed the ACC Coastal NCAA preview, click here. The NCAA BIG 12 is composed of ten programs which have won 18 national titles including three since it’s inception.
Oklahoma leads in BIG 12 championship title with nine. Not only are the Sooners the greatest school within the conference, but they also have the third-most national championship title since the poll era (1936-present) with seven. The 2005 Rose Bowl BCS Championship was the last BIG 12 conquest. The Texas Longhorns were crowned champions. Labelled “The game of the century”, the Longhorns defeated USC 41-38.
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Baylor shocked many with the decision to fire head football coach Art Briles. He helped turn an underwhelming program into a national power. Shortly after the decision, Baylor released the full findings of an investigation into the football program and athletic department’s handling of various sexual assault accusations against members of the BU football program. Baylor has lost a bunch of promising recruits in the wake of that sexual assault scandal, but the Bears suffered their biggest roster hit when talented sophomore QB Jarrett Stidham announced he was transferring.
Iowa State’s Mike Warren emerged as one of the top running backs in the league last season, finishing fourth in the Big 12 with 1,339 rushing yards despite getting just nine carries in the first two games. The new coaching regime is very familiar with Warren, and not just because he gained 126 yards when the Cyclones faced Toledo last September. Warren originally committed to new coach Matt Campbell and Toledo out of high school before later flipping to Iowa State.
LaQuvionte Gonzalez, the 5-10 junior receiver transferred from Texas A&M with a 4.4 speed and a 41-inch vertical, could provide a big-play threat for the Jayhawk. Kansas coach David Beaty was his position coach at A&M and promises to get creative with Gonzalez to get him the ball in as many ways as possible. In 16 games with the Aggies, he had 26 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns.
KSU has been at its best when coach Bill Snyder has been able to have a quarterback that is a dual threat and is the catalyst for all things successful in the offense. So when the team was down to Joe Hubener to run the offense last year after injuries to Alex Dalton and Jesse Ertz, the offense sputtered badly as Hubener completed below 50 percent of his passes but did show dual threat ability. If the spring game is any indication, things are totally up in the air. With Ertz and Dalton back, the battle is on, but it was the forgotten Hubener who showed the best in the spring game, throwing for over 300 yards and having significantly more accuracy. No matter who gets the mantle of the starting gig, he’ll have to be big, big, big for KSU to achieve whatever goals they have in sight.
Oklahoma is the overwhelming preseason pick to win another Big 12 title. With quarterback Baker Mayfield among seven returning starters on offense, the Sooners got 24 of 26 first-place votes in the preseason media poll released last Thursday. Mayfield’s fearless attitude and fiery approach instantly rubbed off on the Sooners, who averaged 47.6 ppg after an Oct. 10 2015 loss to Texas. After finishing fourth in the Heisman voting, Mayfield should start this season on the short list of MVP front-runners.
Oklahoma State’s hopes of returning to Big 12 title contention rest on quarterback Mason Rudolph’s shoulders. After a solid season splitting time with J.W. Walsh, Rudolph is finally the unquestioned leader of the offense. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound junior passed for 3,770 yards, 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He had six 300-yard games (three with more than 400 yards), but his 71.5 adjusted QBR leaves plenty of room for improvement.
The TCU Horned Frogs look like a team that could be one of the best in the Big 12 and possibly in the country this year. However, it looks like they will go forward without possible starting running back Shaun Nixon. TCU head coach Gary Patterson announced today that Nixon suffered an undisclosed injury and would miss the entire 2016 season because of it. Despite that, TCU’s offense has been among the nation’s best since co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie arrived two seasons ago. Quarterback Kenny Hill is expected to thrive again this season.
Texas benefited from Baylor University’s scandal. With recruits leaving the program here and there, the Longhorns were able to land five-star Devin Duvernay. A blazing-fast wideout who has been timed at 10.27 in the 100-meter. Duvernay’s big-play potential should help a very young UT passing game as it adapts to the new scheme of offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
In his first season as the full-time starter, quarterback Patrick Mahomes finished fourth in the country with 357.9 passing yards per game last year. He also tossed 36 touchdowns (tied for the Big 12 lead with Baker Mayfield) while rushing for 456 yards and 10 scores. The Red Raiders graduated key players at every other position offensively from last year’s dynamic scoring attack. But with Mahomes, Texas Tech could still feature its best offense yet under coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Mountaineers Quarterback Skyler Howard had an inconsistent 2015 season. He passed for 3,145 yards and 26 touchdowns, but despite a QB-friendly system, he also threw 14 interceptions and surpassed 300 yards just twice. Accuracy was an issue, as he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four of his 13 starts, and his 55.3 adjusted QBR was seventh in the Big 12. But there is reason for optimism. Howard ended the season by setting Cactus Bowl records with 532 passing yards and five passing touchdowns in a 43-42 win over Arizona State.
NCAA Football Preview
Top Transfers 2016 season
While college players have been transferring to new schools for years, it seems like they’re having a much bigger impact on the college football landscape now than ever before. A large reason for this is the graduate transfer rule that allows players to move to a new school after receiving their degree and not have to sit out for a season. To start off the 2016 NCAA Football preview (play at FP), here are five of the top transfers for the upcoming season.
5. Duke Catalon, RB, Houston: Catalon had originally committed to Texas out of high school. He became a four-star member of Texas’ 2014 recruiting class, but never really gained traction in Austin. He redshirted his inaugural season on campus, then, for whatever reason, he decided to transfer and moved on to Houston where he sat out last season.
Now, Catalon is in a prime position where he could play a large role in an offense that was very dangerous last season. Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. was the show for the Cougars. He prepares to be that again in 2016 with some reinforcement. Kenneth Farrow, Houston’s second-leading rusher last season behind Ward, is now holding a position with the San Diego Chargers. This opens the door for Catalon to step in and have a major impact in Tom Herman’s offense.
4. Hardy Nickerson Jr., LB, Illinois: Cal hasn’t exactly been recognized for its defense in recent years. When the Bears did make a tackle, odds are it was Hardy Nickerson dragging the ball carrier to the dirt. Nickerson had 112 tackles for the Bears last season, and 245 in his Cal career.
Nickerson has now transferred to Illinois, where his father, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Hardy Nickerson, is now the team’s defensive coordinator. Junior steps into a situation where he’ll be sorely needed, as Illinois lost its three leading tacklers from last year, including two linebackers. Illinois will need Nickerson to continue being the tackles machine he was at Cal.
3. Kenny Hill, QB, TCU: Kenny Hill showed up at Texas A&M as a four-star recruit in 2013. He saw a little bit of time as a true freshman behind Johnny Manziel. The following year Hill began the season as the Aggies starter. He threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in A&M’s opening game versus South Carolina. With a incredible month of September, his name started to be tossed around as a Heisman candidate. He even got fitted with the nickname of Kenny “Trill”. In October, it all came crumbling down. The losses started piling up, and eventually Hill lost his starting gig after a 59-0 stomping against Alabama.
Hill transferred the following season, and after sitting out last year, he seems to be the apparent heir to Trevone Boykin at TCU. It will be large shoes to fill, but if Kenny “Trill” shows up again for the Horned Frogs, they’ll once again be a major factor in the Big 12.
2. Dakota Prukop, QB, Oregon: For the second year in a row, Oregon is counting on a graduate transfer from FCS to fill it’s QB slot. Last season it was Vernon Adams making his way to Eugene from Eastern Washington, and this year Dakota Prukop comes from Montana State. During his two seasons as a starter at Montana State, Prukop threw for 5,584 yards and 46 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,743 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Ducks will need him to keep on being productive if they want to compete for a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff berth this season.
Last year, Vernon Adam wasn’t able to enroll at Oregon until mid-august, which left him a month to get himself acquainted with the new team. The Ducks won’t have the same issue with Prukop this year. He has been at Oregon since January, so he’ll have gone through spring and fall camp before the season begins.
1. Trevor Knight, QB, Texas A&M: It looked like Trevor Knight was on his way to becoming another star quarterback for the Sooners a couple of years ago. In Oklahoma’s 45-31 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2013 season, Knight threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns. After that game however, things were not good anymore. Knight struggled a bit in 2014, throwing for 2,300 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in nine games before suffering a scary neck injury. That injury cost Knight the rest of the season. He lost the starting job to Baker Mayfield. Mayfield later led Oklahoma to a Big 12 title and a CFP berth.
Following that, Knight chose to transfer to Texas A&M. The move was made right after both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray left the Aggies. He’s now poised to take over the reins of Texas A&M’s offense. He’ll also have plenty of explosive weapons surrounding him. If Knight can limit the turnovers that plagued him in 2014, the Aggies offense could become a major force in 2016.
Top 10 WRs
With the NFL Draft now less than a month away, I present to you my first edition of my top 10 positional rankings.
You will notice I have 12 players listed here, but that’s just in honor of the depth this draft class possesses at the receiver position. While there are no Calvin Johnson’s or Julio Jones’ in this group, there are more than a handful of legitimate prospects with the potential to become impact players at the next level.
Laquon Treadwell is the consensus number one, and though many will point to his stop watch time (4.65) with doubt, it’s his fluidity and game tape that put him in pole position.
Baylor’s Corey Coleman has been under heavy scrutiny for his apparent lack of overall skills. He ran a limited route-tree in college, so word of bad route-running and only possessing straight-line speed has surfaced. He also has drop issues, especially in the middle of the field. He ran a 4.37 at his Pro Day and scored 20 TDs through the first eight games of the 2015 season, so going deep is no issue. The issue is that he didn’t score any in the next four games and never came close to 100 yards again. If college teams can figure out how to shut him down, NFL defenses will without breaking a sweat. But if he lands with the right team, those same defenses will be sweating just watching the film on him.
Will Fuller also has the speed (4.32) but as one scout and former NFL receiver said “I hear the DeSean Jackson comparison and I can’t get there. DeSean was faster, tougher and more reliable than Fuller. I’m not saying Fuller can’t play, but I don’t think he’s DeSean.”
Josh Doctson is of a different mold. More of a possession type receiver with the ability to go up and snag the ball out of the air. The Minnesota Vikings seem really interested in what TCU product has to offer, as would he be a great compliment to their young receiving core. An immediate starting job on the outside seems to be in Doctson’s future.
Sterling Shepard rounds out my top five (for this edition anyway). The Sooner may leave something to be desired in terms of measurements, but definitely leaves nothing on the field in terms of effort. The 5’10 slot man not only comes with a ferocious hunger to make plays, but the talent to execute them. I see shades of Steve Smith all over this one.