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TCU Preview from CFN

TCU's preview from College Football News

There’s no talk of being a BCS buster like there was last off-season. There’s no real consideration for the Mountain West title with BYU the prohibitive favorite. There’s no buzz after an extremely disappointing 8-5 season. That might be just like TCU likes it.

After 22-3 in its first two seasons after moving over from Conference USA, TCU appeared to be the Mountain West’s dominant program. It can get back to that point in a hurry by doing what worked in the first place: tough defense, consistent offense, and more tough defense.

The defense has the potential to be fantastic and the offense could be far better with experience at quarterback and a healthy Aaron Brown to hand off to. But more than anything else, the team needs its swagger and its us-against-the-world attitude it had when it entered the league.

The Horned Frogs should be able to sneak up on everyone; no one in the Mountain West thrives on being disrespected like they do. This is when they’ll be the most dangerous.

What to watch for on offense: The line to make up for plenty of problems. The front five is loaded with veterans with four returning starters and a decent player in Preston Phillips ready to step in at left guard. There's a great mix of all-star talent, dependable all-around blockers, and decent depth. If the running backs are healthy, the ground game should be dominant.

What to watch for on defense: More of the same. After finishing 15th in the nation in total defense, the production should be fantastic again as long as the ends can crank out consistent production in the backfield. The back seven in the 4-2-5 alignment will be a brick wall. New Mexico likely has the league's best cornerback tandem, but Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders aren't far behind. It's possible LBs Jason Phillips and Robert Henson, along with SS Stephen Hodge, will all be first team all-stars.

The team will be far better if … the passing is more efficient. QB Andy Dalton will get plenty of time behind the veteran line and he has a great young receiving corps to get excited about. Now he has to connect on a consistent basis. One of the league's least efficient passing attacks needs to get just a little bit better for the offense to him. The running game will be there, and now there needs to be a complement for it.

The Schedule: It's not too bad, but the Horned Frogs have to be good on the road and can't slip in non-conference play against SMU with the Oklahoma game coming the week after. Winning the season opener at New Mexico is a must and play Utah on the road won't be a picnic and the trip to Colorado State could be a beartrap coming just five days before the showdown against BYU. The other major battle, at Utah, also comes mid-week being played five days after a trip to UNLV. On the plus side, there will be 16 days between the Ute game and the season ender against Air Force. The key will be surviving 11 straight weeks before getting a week off in mid-November.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Aaron Brown. The only question is whether or not he can stay healthy. Unable to be a workhorse runner thanks to injuries, he finally appears to be ready to deliver on his immense potential. At 6-1 and 196 pounds, he has good power to go along with his home-run hitting speed. As long as he's fine, the offense should keep things moving.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Jason Phillips. The leader of the defense and a steady producer in the middle, he's a rock to build around. He doesn't miss any tackles and he's one of the main reasons the run defense has been so tremendous. While he's not a pass rusher, he makes plenty of plays behind the line.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Jerry Hughes. While he's not going to be Chase Ortiz, Hughes has the job of replacing the star pass rusher and keeping the production rolling. He has the tremendous speed and athleticism to become a statistical superstar, but he has to find the full-time motor that Ortiz had.

The season will be a success if ... the Horned Frogs win the Mountain West title. They're not all that far removed from dominating the league, and if everyone stays healthy, and if the quarterback play improves a bit, and if the pass rush dominates again, there's no reason to not be in the hunt for the whole ball of wax all season long. It helps to get BYU at home, but the schedule, overall, isn't going to make things easy.

Key game: Oct. 16 vs. BYU. If the Horned Frogs can't win this one, the later date at Utah will probably be meaningless for their Mountain West title hopes. They came close to pulling off the win in Provo last season, and they'll be primed and ready to battle their new rivals in what could be the biggest game of the league's season ... at least until the Cougars and Utes hook up.

2007 Fun Stats:
- 2nd quarter scoring: TCU 157 - Opponents 58
- Sacks: TCU 41 for 295 yards - Opponents 23 for 189 yards
- Fumbles: TCU 29 (lost 16) - Opponents 13 (lost 5)