Loss of offensive stars dampers TCU's outlook versus Oregon
After the first half of the season, this was not a matchup that many would have expected for the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2. Yet here we are, with the Oregon Ducks bouncing back from a tough start to the season to close the regular season out with six wins in a row, with their last loss coming on Oct. 10. The TCU Horned Frogs were very much in the College Football Playoff picture into November, but losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the late season Big 12 headline games condemned them to not just miss out on a College Football Playoff spot, but also a “New Year’s Six” bowl appearance. Still, this represents something of a marquee matchup, and isn’t the worst fall back for them to end the year.
The big news for TCU is the recent arrest and suspension of quarterback Trevone Boykin (+38.0). Boykin was hurt towards the end of the year, but was our highest-graded quarterback for most of the season before the late dip. The loss of their signal caller on offense is compounded by the lack of wide receiver Josh Doctson (+25.6), who also misses the bowl game, this time through injury
Oregon’s marquee player this year has been defensive end DeForest Buckner (+65.2). Up there with Ohio State’s Joey Bosa as one of the best defensive players in the nation, Buckner has been a one-man wrecking crew at points this year, including winning a one-on-one matchup with Stanford’s standout guard Joshua Garnett when the two teams met on Nov. 15. What makes Buckner so special is his ability to make an impact against the run and as a pass rusher. A complete player at the college level, he had 43 tackles resulting in a defensive stop this year. As a pass rusher, he registered 11 sacks, 14 hits, and 39 hurries, with a +38.1 pass rushing grade.
Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (+10.4) certainly ended the season well, but the key player on the Ducks’ offense is running back Royce Freeman (+32.0), one of the best running backs in the nation for the second year in a row. He’s rushed for over 1,000 yards after contact this year, forcing 73 missed tackles as a runner, the third-most in the nation behind San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette. He’s been a solid receiver, too, picking up 24 catches and forcing eight missed tackles on receptions.
With Boykin suspended, it’ll be between Bram Kohlhausen (-2.5) and Foster Sawyer (-5.0), or possibly both, to get the job done at quarterback. Neither impressed much in limited duty in 2015, and while Boykin had 15 touchdowns and two interceptions on throws of 20 yards or more downfield, the combination of Kohlhausen and Sawyer managed two touchdowns and one interception, albeit on a much smaller snap count.
A year after linebacker Paul Dawson was their defensive stand out, safety Denzel Johnson (+16.7) has stepped up to become the Horned Frogs’ best defensive player. A do-it-all safety who’s most comfortable in the box, Johnson has recorded 43 tackles resulting in a defensive stop this year, tied for fourth amongst all safeties. He’s chipped in with seven pressures on limited work as a pass rusher, and in coverage he has given up 37 receptions for 281 yards, with an interception and four pass breakups.
In an exciting bowl season, the Alamo Bowl has the potential to be one of the most interesting matchups, on paper. Plenty of big players on both sides of the ball, but I like running back Royce Freeman to have a huge game for Oregon as they just edge it out in Texas.
Prediction: Oregon 38, TCU 31