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July 21, 2008

TCU a thorn in OU's side once again?

Currently, three teams in the nation have a winning streak against the Sooners on the hallowed grounds of Owen Field.

Notre Dame (4 straight), Southern Cal (2 straight) …and TCU?

That's right; it's not a type-o. The Horned Frogs of Texas Christian have beaten the Sooners in their last two trips to Memorial Stadium with a 20-7 win in '96 and a 17-10 win in 2005, which still stands as Bob Stoops' only non conference loss at home.

Not only that, the Frogs could practically call Norman their second home, holding a 4-1 record overall at Owen Field.

That being said, no one needs to make the Sooners aware of how good the mighty "Purple and Black" out of the Mountain West are.

All kidding aside, Frogs Head Coach Gary Patterson, now in his eighth season, has been nothing short of magical since taking over for Dennis Franchione in the 2000 Mobile Alabama Bowl. TCU is 62-25 under Patterson and has gone bowling six-of-seven seasons. Barring any drastic injuries, this season should be no different.

September 27, the Frogs head into Norman once again to wrap up the Sooners non-conference schedule for 2008.

After a down season a year ago, TCU's offense returns five starters and 2 more who would have started if it weren't for injuries.

Leading the way for the Frogs will be sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton. Despite being overshadowed in this region by the Big 12 stars, Dalton had a huge freshman season, finishing second in school history for passing yards in a season (2,459). His additional 411 yards on the ground showed while he's not Vince Young, he's definitely not Graham Harrell.

OU's d-line vs. TCU's o-line might be the most even matchup in the ball game. Four starters return for TCU to a line that a year ago gave up 23 sacks. While it was a rough year, the returns make it the most experienced o-line since 2004.

That experience is what TCU hopes will pay off in the running game, where two starters will be returning.

Senior Aaron Brown will start for the Frogs in the backfield. Brown entered the '07 season having the second most yards ever by a TCU running back (1,559), but was injured in the season opener last year and missed his junior campaign.

Brown's injury gave way to Joseph Turner, who made four starts in the replacement role rushing for 763 yards. OU's young linebacking core will definitely get a workout with the rotating backs.

TCU's greenest position by far, will be at the wideout spots. Two sophomores and a senior who have a combined three starts will be Dalton's new targets. While his receivers are young, Dalton will have one safety net in senior tight end Shae Reagan. Before being injured, Reagan started six games last season averaging 17.5 yards per reception.

TCU's 4-2-5 defense, normally the Frogs bread and butter, will be their question mark in 2008.

OU's strength on the offensive line should be their biggest mismatch in the game with only one man returning on the TCU defensive front.

The Frogs will have to replace the best pair of defensive ends in school history, and only senior tackle Cody Moore, who had 25 tackles and 3 sacks, returns at the tackle position.

Another good in-game matchup will be the Frogs linebackers against the Sooner backfield. Having an extra member of the secondary taking on a linebacker role in the 4-2-5 scheme, TCU should be faster and more athletic.

Starting at linebacker will be seniors Jason Phillips and Robert Henson. Phillips, a two-year member of the All Mountain West Conference team, had 87 tackles a year ago and will most definitely be a preseason All-American candidate.

Henson, while only starting one game a year ago, finished fifth on the team in tackles with 57.

TCU's secondary against OU's wide receivers will be another matchup the Frogs could turn into a stalemate.

Bradford will have his favorite receiver, Juaquin Iglesias back along with Manuel Johnson and Jermaine Gresham as receivers, but TCU will return 3-of-4 defensive backs in an already loaded secondary.

Both senior cornerbacks Rafeal Priest[/d] and [db]Nick Sanders are three-year starters. The two combined for three interceptions and 76 tackles in 2007.

TCU's other returnee in the secondary is Stephen Hodge, who along with Phillips at the linebacking position, will be the only two potential NFL players on the defense. Hodge led the nation at the safety position with nine sacks.

Finally, TCU will be another team the Sooners face who are extremely young at the place kicker and punting positions, as they send out freshman to man both positions.

TCU will definitely be outmatched in talent, and even before a snap, the Frogs will be at a disadvantage. No longer is TCU overlooked by their opponents. The Frogs are alive and well on most everyone's radar.

Along with that, the Bob Stoops seniors who played in 2005 and Sooner fans haven't forgotten what happened 3 years ago. Trust that they will make sure TCU knows that.


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