Return from 16-day break brings touted contenders

The wait is over: The Frogs return to the field. The return will not be an easy one as the team welcomes a bowl-eligible conference opponent on a three-game winning streak. Here are the probable starters for Saturday’s home game between TCU and New Mexico.

QUARTERBACK

TCU: Andy Dalton, redshirt freshman

New Mexico: Donovan Porterie, sophomore

Advantage: Even

Consistency issues have troubled Dalton throughout the season. His four interceptions against Utah following the great game at Stanford epitomizes this season for the Frogs. Luckily for him, he takes on a Lobo defense also struggling with inconsistencies. Porterie’s completion percentage has fluctuated during the course of the season, and he has had only two multi-touchdown games this season.

RUNNING BACK

TCU: Aaron Brown, junior

New Mexico: Rodney Ferguson, junior

Advantage: TCU

Let’s hope the extended time off following the 59 rushing yards in the loss to Utah will light a fire under Brown. He needs more than 11 carries if the Frogs expect to get win No. 5 – especially with the improvement in New Mexico’s second-half defense in the last two games. Although Ferguson is coming off a monster 146-yard, two-touchdown performance against Air Force, he needed 41 carries to get there. Utah’s Darrell Mack wore down TCU’s rush defense on 32 carries, so expect New Mexico to pound the run and try to keep the Frogs defense on the field.

WIDE RECEIVERS and TIGHT END

TCU: Marcus Brock, Ervin Dickerson, Donald Massey, Derek Moore, Quinton Cunnigan (TE)

New Mexico: Marcus Smith, Travis Brown, Jermaine McQueen, Chris Hernandez, Chris Mark (TE)

Advantage: New Mexico

Decent games from Dickerson and Moore gave Dalton options across the middle and to the sidelines. With that being said, when your quarterback hauls in the longest reception of the night, you’re in a little bit of a trouble. It would be nice to see if the coaching staff is ready to let freshman Jeremy Kerley get a little more involved with the offense. Smith and Brown are probably the most electric receiving duo in the conference, combining for close to 177 receiving yards a game. Though there is a significant drop-off after the big two, containing both of them will be a nightmare.

OFFENSIVE LINE

TCU: Matty Lindner, Blake Schlueter, Marshall Newhouse, Giles Montgomery, Nic Richmond

New Mexico: Vince Natali, Devin Clark, Anthony Kilby, Sylvester Hatten, Bart Miller

Advantage: Even

Aside from a couple false-start penalties on Newhouse and Richmond, it was a pretty clean game from the men up front. The line should have its way against a mediocre New Mexico pass rush. The Lobos line comes in with a couple starters playing hurt and Miller making his first collegiate start. Clark is as menacing an offensive lineman as there is in the conference.

DEFENSIVE LINE

TCU: Chase Ortiz, Matt Panfil, Cody Moore, Kelly Griffin

New Mexico: Michael Tuohy, Tyler Donaldson, Jeremiah Lovato

Advantage: Even

The TCU unit came on strong last game against Utah, giving the team a chance to stay in the game. Although Panfil has been great as a starter, he faces his toughest test to date in Clark. The three players on the line for the Lobos bring experience, and tend to break up a lot of plays.

LINEBACKERS

TCU: Jason Phillips, David Hawthorne

New Mexico: Cody Kase, George Carter, Major Mosley

Advantage: TCU

Good news: Daryl Washington’s blocked punt has successfully re-entered the atmosphere. He along with the other linebackers continued to make big plays, but also broke down on a couple plays that might have turned out to be the difference in the game. New Mexico’s unit brings a lot of experience, but not nearly as much talent as TCU’s collective group.

SECONDARY

TCU: Brian Bonner, David Roach, Steven Coleman, Nick Sanders, Rafael Priest

New Mexico: OJ Swift, DeAndre Wright, Blake Ligon, Glover Quin, Clint McPeek

Advantage: TCU

Looking back on the Utah game, it’s amazing the Frogs didn’t get the win. Breakups by Bonner and Sanders along with a Torrey Stewart interception made for a pretty good night. They face two big, experienced receivers who have a knack for making game-changing plays. At 5 feet 9 inches, Swift might be undersized at cornerback, but is coming off a 7-tackle, 2-fumble recovery performance against Arizona.

SPECIAL TEAMS

TCU: Chris Manfredini, Derek Wash, Brian Bonner, Donald Massey

New Mexico: John Sullivan, Jordan Scott, Marcus Smith, Ian Clark

Advantage: New Mexico

Manfredini made it a one-score game thanks to a clutch 41-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Utah game, following his 22-yard miss. This showed he has the level of confidence to bounce back and do what he does best. Sullivan and Scott might be the best kicker-punter duo in the conference, with Sullivan tied for first in the NCAA in field goals made per game and Scott registering first in the conference in net punting average.

HEAD COACHES

TCU: Gary Patterson, seventh year (58-24, 35-18 in conference)

New Mexico: Rocky Long, 10th season (55-50, 36-26 in conference)

Advantage: Even

At 1-3 in conference play, Patterson will try to keep the Frogs’ bowl aspirations afloat against a New Mexico team having won its last three games. It should be fun to see what the offensive staff has adjusted in order to increase the time of possession and keep the Frogs defense off the field. Long has the Lobos rolling and bowl-eligible. The Frogs face a team having won its last three on the road.