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TCU Horned Frogs Vs. LSU Tigers Free Pick 8/31/13

TCU Horned Frogs (0-0) at LSU Tigers (0-0)

College Football: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm (Cowboys Stadium)

The Line: TCU Horned Frogs +5 --- Over/Under: 43 See the Latest Odds


#12 LSU and #20 TCU square-off at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Texas Saturday night for a massive week one clash.

This is without a doubt the opening week’s barnburner and for TCU, it could be their stiffest test until they travel to Norman to face the Sooners in week 6. For LSU, it’ll just be another showcase opener between two top 25 teams, which the Tigers have done well under Les Miles, taking out the 18th ranked North Carolina Tarheels in 2010 and throttling the 3rd ranked Oregon Ducks in 2011.

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TCU Horned Frogs Vs. LSU Tigers Free Pick 8/31/13

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, this looks to be a competitive matchup. For the Horned Frogs, everything hinges on the play of Sr. QB Casey Pachall, who started 2012 on fire, passing for 948 YDS and 10 TDS before being arrested for DWI and subsequently suspended from the team. At 6-5, 230, Pachall is a legitimate NFL prospect with a cannon of an arm.  Pachall won’t have a stable of fleet-footed targets at his disposal, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles an LSU secondary that’s sure to be stout. Jr. WR Brandon Carter is TCU’s leading returning receiver with 36 catches for 390 yards and 6 touchdowns last season.

The Horned Frogs will also have some questions to answer in the backfield. The return of Sr. RB Waymon James from a season-ending knee injury in week 2 could hold some significance, but the true measure of his health remains to be seen. Soph. RB B.J. Catalon, who became the starter in James’ absence, is TCU’s leading returning rusher with 582 yards as a true freshman.

Defensively, the Horned Frogs are without their biggest playmaker, Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year Soph. DE Devonte Fields, who was suspended from the team for TCU’s first two games for an unspecified rules violation. LSU is a run-oriented team so they probably won’t put the ball up that often, but Fields’ absence will still have a huge impact. TCU led the Big 12 in total defense and run defense last season, though, and return virtually everyone.

LSU should once again not miss a beat this season. Head coach Les Miles has developed a conveyor belt type of program in Baton Rouge, where one blue-chipper is followed by another so there’s never really any drop off. Questions still abound at the QB position, however. Sr. QB Zack Mettenberger has been the man for the past two seasons, but the Tigers could be the best team with the worst passing game in the nation. LSU ranked 94th in the country in passing yards per game with an average of 200.5 per contest and Mettenberger passed for 2,609 YDS and 12 TDS with 7 INTS on 58.8%, mediocre at best, but in Miles’ system, it hardly mattered.

This team has so many NFL-caliber running backs it’s ridiculous. Soph. RB Jeremy Hill is the leading returning rusher, with 755 YDS and 12 TDS last season, but Miles likes to throw just about everyone into the fold. Gone to the NFL are Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, the Tigers’ third and fourth backs last season. But there’s still Hill, Sr. Alfred Blue, Jr. Kenny Hilliard (last season’s number 2 RB), and Jr. Terrence Magee.

On the defensive side, seven starters are gone, but Miles uncanny ability to reload is no more evident than what he’s been able to do year in and year out with this unit. The defense finished eighth in the nation last season in total defense, a step down for LSU, but still pretty good by normal standards. Sr. LB Lamin Barrow is the Tiger’s returning leader in tackles with 104 in 2012 and Jr. DT Anthony Jonson, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season, the unit’s best next-level prospect.

As far as the numbers, TCU went 7-6 straight up last season 5-8 against the spread and LSU, conversely, went 10-3 straight up and 5-8 against the spread. LSU has won ten straight season openers, six against power conferences.

This is hands down the most intriguing week 1 matchup. TCU should have a slight edge offensively and LSU would have to be favored on the defensive side. Pachall couldn’t have picked a tougher game for his comeback, though, because LSU has a habit of making QB’s weak in the knees and forcing them to abandon any delusions of grandeur through the air. LSU comes through defensively and covers in a tight one.

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