Fearless TCU vs. Minnesota prediction, in-depth game preview
By PETE FIUTAK
The TCU Horned Frogs open the 2015 season with a chance to make an out-of-conference statement in front of a nationally televised audience. Waiting for Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs at TCF Bank Stadium is Jerry Kill and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Kill has turned around the Minnesota football program, but can his Gophers hang with Trevone Boykin and the No. 2-ranked team in the country after being manhandled by TCU last year? Below is the TCU vs. Minnesota prediction, as well as an in-depth game preview.
Why You Need To Care
Three key narratives continued on after the 2014 college football season closed up shop.
1) The SEC was overrated. This wasn't actually true, but poor performances in the biggest bowl games made for easy conversation, partially helped because 2) TCU was awesome, making a statement aimed directly at the entire College Football Playoff process in the 42-3 annihilation of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, and 3) the rise of the Big Ten at the end, particularly Ohio State's run to the national championship.
Going into a new season, either Part Two or Three will keep rolling on.
You want to talk about cranking up the juice for a conference, imagine what the Big Ten types will do with a win over the No. 2 team in the country to start the season.
Minnesota lost its bowl game in a better-than-the-score 33-17 fight with Missouri in the Citrus Bowl, but starting things off, it has a chance to come up with the type of victory on Thursday night that changes around programs. Win this, and Goldy and the Big Ten will almost certainly be the No. 1 topic on Friday morning, no matter what Jim Harbaugh and Michigan do against Utah.
However, if TCU is 2014 TCU again, then it's going to be another fun ride.
TCU is ranked second in just about every preseason poll of significance with almost everyone of note back from a team that ripped apart everything in its path – at least offensively. This year, it has to keep up the production as the hunted, and it has to come out roaring.
Despite the blowout victory over the Gophers in Fort Worth, the 30-7 win marked the Horned Frogs' lowest scoring output of the season. The TCU offense was fine, but the 427 yards were well below the season-average of 533 per game, while the Gophers killed themselves with five uncharacteristic turnovers. Can Minnesota hold up and not screw up at home?
Can TCU walk into TCF Bank Stadium and prove that it's business as usual? Can Trevone Boykin kick off a possible run in the Heisman chase, and can the Horned Frogs look like real, live national title contenders against a rock-solid, mid-level Big Ten team?
The season could see its first giant curveball before the first Saturday, or this game could be a confirmation.
The winning side will get to keep on with its talking points with the next several weeks likely shaped by what happens.
Minnesota doesn't have the pop or the firepower whatsoever to keep up any sort of pace. Mitch Leidner is a veteran quarterback, but he doesn't have tight end Maxx Williams to throw to anymore and the leading returning receiver has just 13 catches.
Yeah, ha ha, TCU can win by outscoring Minnesota, obviously, but that might happen in the first quarter. This isn't a Gopher team built on winging the ball around the yard, and while it proved last year it could find ways to make comebacks and battle in shootouts, it was almost always on its terms – at least when the results turned out positive.
It's all about ball control for the Gophers, and while the O line is good, and Leidner can channel his inner Tebow at times when he has to take off, there's no David Cobb to pound away with anymore. If TCU can come up with 14 points on its first two drives, consider the tone more than set – consider that the foundation for a possible blowout for the second straight season.
If you wanted to try to put together all the right parts for a decent Power 5 team to beat TCU, Minnesota has most of them. The corner combination of Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray should be among the best the Horned Frogs will face all year, getting helped by Theiren Cockran and a pass rush with the potential to bother Trevone Boykin all game long. Minnesota didn't sack Boykin last season. Expect that to change.
No, David Cobb and his 1,629 yards might not be around anymore, but the Gophers should have a good rotation of backs to go along with Leidner to control the game, control the clock, and keep the high-powered TCU offense on the sidelines.
Throw in the rust factor with the first game of the season – with no preseason, it's always easier to come out and slam the ball with the ground game rather than get the high-powered passing game revved up – and there's a formula for Minnesota to pull this off.
Minnesota junior quarterback Mitch Leidner, this is your moment. While all the pregame hype and attention will be on Boykin, Leidner is a seasoned veteran now with a whole bunch to prove after last year's loss. It wasn't all his fault the Gophers were blown away, but he completed just 12-of-26 passes for 151 yards with no touchdowns and three picks, while being held to just four yards on the ground. Third down conversions will mean everything, hitting on just 3-of-16 chances for a season-low 19% against the Horned Frogs. To win, Leidner has to own third downs.What's Going To Happen?
Be very, very careful here. Minnesota has the right makeup, the right setting, and the right team you'd want to put together to handle what's coming, but TCU really is good. The offense will get frustrated, but the defense will erase the Gopher receivers while the new starting linebackers will shine picking up the slack. Minnesota will play well, but the dam will break late in the third quarter on one big Boykin touchdown pass to take control.TCU vs. Minnesota Prediction
Drum roll, please ... the TCU vs. Minnesota prediction is ...
TCU 34, Minnesota 24Broadcast: 9:00 ET, ESPN
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