It's been a pretty eventful week for the TCU Horned Frogs program in the news, especially considering the Frogs are only 3-2 on the season.
First, head coach Gary Patterson made headlines when he called out the SMU football program and head coach June Jones following a 40-33 overtime loss, TCU's first to the Mustangs since 2005. The loss also dropped them out of the AP and USA Today Coaches polls for the first time since 2008.
Then, the big news came down Thursday that the members of the Big 12 (sans Missouri) voted to invite TCU to be the replacement for Texas A&M, who is leaving for the SEC in 2012.
Fans and alumni have obviously been rejuvinated by the latest news, as some feared the Big East, whom TCU was planning to join, was on the verge of collapse. But while it is a big moment for Frogs fans, there still is a 2011 football season to be played.
The Frogs this week face off against San Diego State (3-1, 0-0) at 9 p.m, whom TCU was able to eek at a 40-35 win at Amon Carter Stadium last season. While former head coach Brady Hoke is now with Michigan (who handed SDSU their first loss of the season, 28-7), much of the talent on offense that gave the Frogs fits last season remains.
As has been the case for the 2011 season, the story for TCU will be how its defense performs. The Frogs surrenedered over 400 yards on defense for the third time this season. To put things in perspective, TCU gave up more than 200 yards five times in 2010. So, it's safe to say they're having some struggles.
Things won't be getting much easier as they will go up against Aztec quarterback Ryan Lindley, who has put together a nice little college career. He's thrown for more than 3,000 yards in back to back seasons, and has been a key member of the Aztecs' resurgence over the past three seasons.
On the ground, sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman has already amassed 626 yards rushing on just 98 attempts for an average of over six yards per carry. Not many people mention Hillman when discussing the elite running backs in the country, but the kid broke the almost all the SDSU freshman rushing records that were formerly held by some dude named Marshall Faulk.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Aztecs on offense has been the play of wide receiver Colin Lockett. The sophomore switched over from defense, and has already become Lindley's favorite target. He's shown the ability to make the big play, with a touchdown this season of 68 yards and a hefty 17.1 yards per catch.
While the run defense hasn't been particularly great, the secondary has by far been the weakness of the defense. It's hard to figure out how much the unit has suffered from the loss of linebacker Tanner Brock for the season, but it certainly can't help. For TCU to be able to contain the Aztec offense, the defensive line needs to put more pressure on opposing QBs. Outside of Stansly Maponga, there hasn't been another defensive lineman who has consistently gotten through the offensive line.
If the line can pressure Lindley with any consistency, it should make things better for the No. 101 pass defense in FBS.
On offense, it would be nice to see offensive coordinator Justin Fuente open things up a little more for quarterback Casey Pachall. Outside of a few mistakes, Pachall has earned the right to make some tougher throws down the field to their playmakers, Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson. And Ed Wesley will take over at running back after missing the first three games of the season. The Frogs will have to take advantage of every opportunity on offense they can get, because this TCU defense, if the earlier results are any indication, will get torched Saturday night in San Diego. It's certainly a lot of pressure to put on Pachall in his first year as a starting QB. But, with the Big 12 calling, he's going to need to get used to it. It's only going to get harder from here.