Ezra Hood is the managing editor of SB Nation's excellent TCU blog Frogs O'War. You can follow him on Twitter @frogsowar and @purplewimple.
1) Do you agree with Patterson's decision on how to handle Pachall's DWI? I think kicking Pachall out for the season is unambiguous and appropriate. Patterson's story about why he delayed and came to his eventual decision seems BS-free. He and Kelsey's donation to TCU's addiction group has a hint of distraction in it, but it also may be a sincere gesture of compassion, so I don't want to sully it further than I have. TCU is going to be fine in 2013, whether or not Pachall returns and whether or not he prompts a QB controversy next season.
2) How does the offense adjust to missing Pachall as well as Waymon James? The offense has to adjust more with the loss of James than the loss of Pachall. Pachall doesn't throw many interceptions, but he gives it fewer dimensions. Boykin is going to make more mistakes, and throws a more interceptable ball, but he gives the offense a sixth runner, which is a headache for defenses. What the offense needs-and until Iowa State hadn't shown-is inside running from other players than James. Until the Iowa State game, the offensive line was performing pretty dismally, and neither Tucker, Dean, or Catalon had shown much inside. So it looked like the loss that really stings was James. And then came a much improved performance Saturday against a pretty good defense, and without Tucker, no less. Aundre Dean ran like we've never seen in a game and B.J. Catalon tore up the inside. The O-line was blowing holes for the run game. It was a beauty we hadn't seen all year. So maybe TCU is going to be fine on the ground; Tucker will be back, and maybe the ground game can make up for the freshman mistakes Boykin makes.
3) After a disappointing season last year, how do you think the defense will hold up against the meat of the Big 12 schedule coming up? In a word, poorly. The Big 12 is the cream of the crop, offensively. TCU's defense, especially its defensive line, is underperforming, and it's really going to show in these next few weeks. Unless the d-tackle and nose tackle can start drawing double teams, DEs Stansly Maponga and Devonte Fields are going to be kept behind double teams, and opposing QBs will continue to have all day to pick apart the middle of the field. That's been the story of the year to date, against much less potent offenses. Turn that up a few notches, and it spells a long second half of the season for the Frogs.
4) What's going to be the key to beating Baylor on Saturday? Turnovers and rattle Nick Florence. TCU gave Iowa State the win by giving them short fields with interceptions and fumbles. If Iowa State can turn gifts from TCU into a win, Baylor surely will. I'm halfway confident TCU can cut the turnovers down. I'm less confident the Frogs can do the second thing; TCU has yet to rattle a QB (except Garrett Gilbert). TCU must either start or start losing. Hit Florence early and often. This would be a new and wonderful thing to see from the Frogs' D.
5) Do you think Art Briles can be as successful as Patterson has been? No. But I also think Gary Patterson can't be as successful in the Big 12 as he was outside of it. So we have to divide CGP's career at TCU, and compare apples to apples. I think Briles and Patterson now are in very similar gigs, and will have very similar records from here on out (give TCU a pass in 2012; it's a complete rebuilding year).
6) Where does Baylor rank among TCU's rivals? Tied for the top with SMU. I've been reading and writing about TCU's very early football history, and Baylor was unambiguously TCU's biggest rival in first three decades of the 1900s, if not longer. TCU's proximity to SMU slowly changed that, but both rivalries have fallen on hard times recently. Now that Baylor and TCU are conference mates, I expect the TCU-Baylor rivalry to out-shine the TCU-SMU rivalry soon and strongly. Games like last season's barn-burner help speed that along.
7) Give me a non-homer prediction for the game. I think this one plays out kind of like last year's: Baylor wins, but there are some lead changes; TCU is going to play Baylor with more intensity than its seen since the ULM game. If ULM had TCU's talent, it could have won. TCU will give Baylor a run for its money, but give away the game with turnovers. Baylor 42, TCU 39.