FORT WORTH, Texas – TCU finished an otherwise disappointing 2018 season on a good note and it brings back plenty of firepower along with an urge to contend in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs begin their potential turnaround when they host Arkansas-Pine Bluff of the FCS on Saturday night.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN. LINE: No line
After beginning 2018 ranked 16th in the Coaches Poll and opening 2-0, TCU endured a 2-6 stretch before rebounding to win its final three contests - including a Cheez-It Bowl victory over California that secured the program's 14th winning season in 18 years under coach Gary Patterson. "Obviously, for us as a group, we're excited to get back, everything we went through at the end of the season, really excited about the group, great chemistry," Patterson told reporters at the Big 12 Media Days in July. "We were young a year ago." Patterson has yet to name a starter at quarterback in a battle that's down to Kansas State transfer Alex Delton and freshman Max Duggan. Perhaps both will get some looks against the Golden Lions of the Southwest Athletic Conference, who suffered through an eight-game losing streak last season while allowing 45 points or more seven times.
ABOUT ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF (2018: 2-9)
Coach Cedric Thomas is focused on improving a defensive unit that ranked last among SWAC teams in points allowed (43.2) and yards allowed (558.1), and part of the process involves him taking over defensive play-calling duties. "I just said if the ship's gonna go down, it's gonna go down with me here driving it," Thomas told reporters. "I know a lot of these offensive guys and they [are] great minds, and I just kind of said, 'Hey look, this is who I am.' So I said let me get in the lab this spring and take it by storm. We're excited about the growth and me calling the plays." The offense will try to keep pace behind quarterbacks Shannon Patrick, a junior, and sophomore Skyler Perry, a tandem that shared duties last season and combined for 2,402 passing yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions.
ABOUT TCU (2018: 7-6)
Either Delton or Duggan will likely lean heavily on senior running back Darius Anderson, who has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons but appears primed to make a big impact in his swan song. "Jet is the fastest I've ever seen him," Patterson told reporters of Anderson while utilizing the player's swift nickname. "I've never seen Jet run like Jet's running right now." Fellow senior Sewo Olonilua, who led the team with 635 yards on the ground last year, is also in the mix and gives the Horned Frogs an ample ground attack one season after it tied for last in the Big 12 with 14 rushing touchdowns.
1. This is the first meeting between the programs.
2. The Horned Frogs ranked second among Big 12 teams in scoring defense (23.1) and sacks (35) last year.
3. TCU plays three of its first four games at home, including its Big 12 opener against Kansas on Sept. 28, but then has a stretch with five of seven conference affairs on the road - including visits to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
PREDICTION: TCU 52, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 13