TCU receiver Josh Boyce knows how badly Baylor wants to take down the Horned Frogs on Friday night.
He and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III played together in high school, and the two traded texts throughout the summer about the season opener for both teams. Baylor was embarrassed 45-10 last season, and Griffin was totally stymied in the game, going 16-of-28 for 164 yards while gaining just 21 on the ground.
"We know there will be a lot of motivation from them," Boyce said.
TCU should be just as motivated. The No. 14 Horned Frogs are going into their final season in the Mountain West with their share of doubters, after losing Andy Dalton and several other key players to graduation. This is the first time since the 2006 season that TCU will play a game without Dalton, who guided TCU to 25 straight regular-season wins.
In fact, TCU has the second-longest winning streak in the nation at 13 games and the longest road winning streak in the nation at 11 going into the opener. But the Horned Frogs face a doozy of a challenge to open the season. Not only will they be facing what should be an improved Baylor team on the road, they then have to travel to Air Force, which always presents a challenge because of its unique ground attack.
"For us, like any team, the first game of the season is always the toughest -- especially when you go in with a new quarterback," coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday. "We have quite a challenge ahead of us in the first two weeks. We've been talking about it since January as a football team: What do we need to do to get where we need to get to? Now that time is getting a lot closer."
Casey Pachall takes over for Dalton at quarterback. Though he missed a few days during fall camp with a sore shoulder, Pachall is ready to take over on offense. But he will not be expected to do everything. TCU has a talented backfield, with Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and Waymon James. There is talent at receiver, too, with Boyce, Antoine Hicks and Skye Dawson, and several true freshmen who could make an impact as well.
The biggest question is on the offensive line, where there are four new starters. When asked how that group has come together, Patterson said, "We'll see. Like anything else, you find out at your first ball game. We've lost four tackles to NFL camps in the last two years and we have younger guys there. That question will be answered against a really good front in Baylor."
Indeed, Patterson praised the hire of new Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and expects to see a much different group than the one from last season. Still, TCU has owned this series of late. TCU has won the last three meetings against Baylor, the longest string since a run of eight straight victories from 1964-71.
Once again, the TCU defense should be good even with several new starters. All-American Tank Carder returns at linebacker, and he was among the players who helped contain Griffin last season.
"I’m pretty confident they’re going to come out with a chip on their shoulder," Carder said. "They’re going to be ready to go."
So will TCU.