No team from a non-BCS conference has been as good as TCU, but the Horned Frogs are still looking for their signature victory in a BCS bowl game. TCU fell to Boise State in last year’s controversial match-up of BCS busters in the Fiesta Bowls. With a bitter taste in their mouths from the way their magical season ended in 2009, the 2010 season should be a year to finish the job right for TCU.
The Horned Frogs will have a favorable schedule to help them march back to a BCS game but it will be the experienced roster that will take the field that gives TCU an edge in the Mountain West once again in 2010. Only one school in the Mountain West returns as many starters on offense and defense as TCU (San Diego State). TCU will welcome back nine starters to a defense that led the conference in points against (11.3 per game) and total defense (230 yards against per game).
The offense is not half bad either. TCU brings back seven starters from the Mountain West’s top offensive unit in 2009. Scoring an average of 43.6 points per game combined with their terrific defensive numbers meant TCU was outscoring their opponents by an average of 32.3 points per game. If that is not a formula for success I am not sure what is.
Andy Dalton on a mission
Quarterback Andy Dalton leads TCU’s explosive offense. Last season saw Dalton achieve career numbers in his third year as starting quarterback. By the end of the season Dalton had passed for 2,756 yards, eclipsing the 7,000-career passing yard mark, and 23 touchdowns and a QB rating of 151.83. All are career highs. He threw just five interceptions in regular season play before turning the ball over through the air three times against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Entering his senior season Dalton will look to make amends more than any other player on the team. He will not have to do it all alone though. I asked TCU Examiner Stephen Francis for some other players to keep an eye on at TCU and he rattled off a few names that figure to help out Dalton and TCU’s quest for a possible national championship.
There is no shortage of talent on TCU’s roster, but here are some players you should be familiar with in 2010. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley is at the top of the list. Few players can match the electricity Kerley can provide on any given play. He has the ability to score every time he touches the ball, so if Dalton completes a pass to Kerley you better hit record on your VCR or DVR. As if stopping Kerley, TCU’s leading receiver, on offense was not hard enough, teams will have to contain him on kick returns as well. Kerley was second in the Mountain West in kickoff returns in terms of return yardage (TCU did not have too many kickoff returns with their stingy defense). Kerley averaged 26.6 yards per return last season.
On defense there are two players worth watching. Francis mentioned linebacker Tank Carder and safety Tejay Johnson to me. Carder has a football name and as Francis suggests, he is playing a natural position for a guy with a first name of Tank. Last season Carder broke up ten passes and recorded 11 tackles for a loss. Last season he was second on the team in total tackles with 89, and he is the leading tackles leader returning to TCU this season.
Johnson is the third leading tackler returning for TCU’s defense this season. In 2009 Johnson had 59 total tackles and tied the graduated Daryl Washington for the team lead in interceptions with three. His efforts earned him second-team All-Mountain West Conference honors.
BCS Busters? Yes
This TCU team is built to reach the BCS for a second straight season. History may be against the Horned Frogs though as no school labeled as a “BCS Buster” has reached the big money games in two consecutive years. With the players returning to the team this season though and with a schedule that plays their toughest games on the road (SMU, Utah) the formula for a BCS run is in front of them. The Horned Frogs should also start the season in the top ten of the major polls, putting them in prime position to jump any BCS conference teams that stumble along the way.
BCS Championship? Don’t count on it
The idea of TCU playing for the BCS Championship is not out of the question and nobody would stamp “insane” on your forehead for saying TCU will play for all the marbles. The odds, and the polls, may say otherwise though. If not for a bizarre regular season last year that saw Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State all go in to the bowl season with unblemished records, there is a chance TCU would have played for the championship. As fortune would have it TCU was paired against Boise State in what some believe was a farce of a match-up.
Though TCU should be a favorite on a weekly basis in the 2010 regular season, one small mistake anywhere during the season could ultimately be enough for TCU to stay out of the big game at the end of the season.
TCU Examiner Stephen Francis has posted his entire responses to the questions I asked him about TCU. He also took the time to answer some questions about the Mountain West Conference. I highly recommend you take the time to soak in the information he has organized. You can also follow Francis on Twitter for the latest TCU sports news and conversation.
2009 Capsule – 12-1 overall, 8-0 Mountain West. Lost to Boise State in Fiesta Bowl.
HOME games, * Mountian West games
September 4 – Oregon State (Arlington)
September 11 – TENNESSEE TECH
September 18 – BAYLOR
September 24 – @ SMU
October 2 – @ Colorado State*
October 9 – WYOMING*
October 16 – BYU*
October 23 – AIR FORCE*
October 30 – @ UNLV*
November 6 – @ Utah*
November 13 – SAN DIEGO STATE*
November 27 – @ New Mexico State
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