Oregon St.-TCU Preview

Nothing short of reaching another BCS game and winning it would

satisfy TCU fans and players this year. If last season taught

people anything it was to not underestimate the Horned Frogs.

Sixth-ranked TCU opens the season with an early test as it takes

on No. 24 Oregon State at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night.

The Horned Frogs, who began the 2009 season ranked 16th, went

12-0 before losing 17-10 to undefeated Boise State in the Fiesta

Bowl.

While TCU had hoped to face an opponent from an elite conference

in its first BCS game, it ended up suffering its worst offensive

game of the season, falling short of its goal of a BCS bowl

victory.

“All last season, we were like, ‘OK, we deserve to be in the

BCS, we deserve to be there,'” receiver Curtis Clay said. “When we

did get there, we didn’t show the nation that we did deserve to be

there.”

Eager for redemption, the Horned Frogs have a good chance to

stay among the nation’s elite this year as they field yet another

prolific offensive unit. The only departures from a team that

averaged 456.7 yards and 38.3 points were All-Mountain West left

tackle Marshall Newhouse and leading rusher Joseph Turner. However,

the Horned Frogs’ signal caller returns for a fourth season as

starter.

Andy Dalton’s next victory will make him the winningest

quarterback in TCU history. He is already among the winningest

active quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 29-8

record. He threw for 2,756 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight

interceptions last season.

“I feel like we should be better this year,” Dalton said.

“Obviously the bowl game didn’t go as well as we wanted, but that’s

not what defined the season. See everything we accomplished.”

There are bigger concerns on defense, where the Horned Frogs

lost All-American end Jerry Hughes and linebacker Daryl Washington,

who were both picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.

Starting cornerbacks Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders graduated.

However, TCU does return 24 of its 30 defensive letter winners

including junior linebacker Tank Carder – whose 89 tackles last

season trailed only Washington – and Wayne Daniels, who had 5 1/2

sacks and nine tackles for loss.

Unlike last season, when TCU didn’t face a ranked opponent until

visiting then-No. 16 BYU on Oct. 24, the Horned Frogs are facing a

tough test right out of the gate in a nationally televised

game.

“For the longest time, we were saying we deserve to mentioned

with those top-tier teams,” Clay said. “I think now that we are

being mentioned, it’s very important this season to show that we

deserve to be here.

“We were always trying to prove everyone wrong, and now I think

our goal is to prove everyone right.”

A game at Cowboys Stadium against a top-10 opponent will make

for quite a debut for new Oregon State starting quarterback Ryan

Katz, who spent last year backing up Sean Canfield. Canfield

graduated after throwing for 21 touchdowns and completing a

school-record 67.9 percent of his passes.

“The transition at that position always provides a mystery,”

coach Mike Riley said. “The guys will have to give Ryan a lot of

support, but this kid is going to be a good quarterback.”

Katz – a sophomore – has appeared in only four games, which

means the Beavers may look to more experienced offensive players

such as junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers to take the lead.

The 5-foot-7 Rodgers finished 11th in the FBS with 1,440 rushing

yards and his 21 TD runs ranked third in the nation. He and older

brother James, who had 91 receptions for 1,034 yards and nine

touchdowns, are two of the eight offensive starters returning from

last year’s team. Oregon State also returns eight starters on

defense.

While they don’t have experience at quarterback, the Beavers are

optimistic they have enough proven players to make another run at a

Pac-10 title. Only a loss to Oregon in the regular-season finale

denied them their first trip to Pasadena since 1965.

Oregon State wrapped up an 8-5 season with a 44-20 loss to BYU

in the Las Vegas Bowl.

“I think we can do it because a lot of guys bought into staying

in Corvallis in the summer, more guys than we’ve had in past years

– just combining and coming together in the summer to work on

timing and everything else,” Jacquizz Rodgers said. “I think it

will be a great year for us.”

This is the first time these programs have met.