Big 12 Previews

TCU vs. Duquesne: Preview and Prediction

NCAA Football: SMU at Texas Christian

Here is everything you need to know about the TCU Horned Frogs season opener in our Duquesne vs. TCU preview.

Game Info

7 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

TV: Big 12 ESPN+

Radio: Horned Frogs Radio Network, WBAP 820 AM, SiriusXM 83.

Fun Fact: TCU is opening a season with four straight home games for just the second time (1979) in its history.


Key players


QB Joe Mischler: Mischler is the third straight Dukes starter that has transferred from an FBS school to Duquesne.  He earned First Team All-NEC selection in the spring after throwing for 1,195 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions in five games for the Dukes. That left him fifth in FCS in passing efficiency (159.3). Mischler was also 20th in passing yards in FCS last season. Just a sophomore, Mischler is the Dukes’ present and the future at the position.

S Leandro DeBrito. He is one of five All-NEC selections back on the defensive side of the ball, and he led the Dukes in tackles last season with 37, along with an interception and a pair of pass-breakups. The senior is one of the most experienced defenders for Duquesne and should call the shots on gameday.

RB Garrett Owens. He earned Second-Team All-NEC honors last season after rushing for 411 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 82 yards per game. Owens should give the Dukes a formidable 1-2 punch with NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year Billy Lucas, who rushed for 297 yards in a solid tandem with Owens.  


PR Derius Davis: Davis has the potential to be one of the Big 12’s biggest X-factors this season. He’s coming off leading the Big 12 with a 14.5-yard per return on punts, which was also fifth-best in FBS. He also scored two touchdowns on returns and he already has three punt returns for touchdowns in his career. Now, can Davis make a big impact in the passing game? He has just 34 catches for 464 yards and three touchdown receptions in three seasons. If he can produce his career numbers THIS season, then Davis elevates the Horned Frogs’ offense.

CB Tre’Vius Hodges Tomlinson: Yes, he is the nephew of TCU legend LaDainian Tomlinson, but he’s carving out his own reputation in Fort Worth after earning All-Big 12 and All-America honors as a sophomore last season. He also finished last season as Pro Football Focus’s top-rated cornerback. He has a chance to be the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and, entering his third season of college football, enhance his potential to go to the NFL Draft early.

DE Ochaun Mathis: Mathis made just one visit during his college recruitment, and he committed to TCU practically on the spot. In 2020, he had nine sacks, the most by a TCU defensive player since Mat Boesen had 11 1/2 in 2017. He also had 14 tackles for loss. Like Hodges Tomlinson, Mathis is entering a season in which he can elevate his reputation with NFL scouts and, by extension, help the Horned Frogs contend in the Big 12.


Key storylines


The Dukes went undefeated in Northeast Conference play last spring but lost to Sacred Heart in overtime in the NEC Championship game, which determined who received the conference’s automatic berth into the FCS playoffs. The Dukes have finished better than .500 every season since 2015, with a trip to the second round of the FCS playoffs in 2018. Duquesne’s last game against an FBS opponent was on Sept. 22, 2018, when the Dukes lost to Hawaii, 42-21. All 22 starters are back, and 17 of them earned All-Northeast Conference accolades. Duquesne has never played TCU, and hasn’t played a game in the state of Texas since the late 1930s.


The Horned Frogs went 6-4 last year, with a 5-4 record in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs were bowl-eligible and had a berth in the Texas Bowl before COVID-19 protocols canceled the game. TCU is mired in a three-year rut where they haven’t won more than seven games, after a four-year run in which the Horned Frogs won at least 10 games (2014-17). So, the Horned Frogs are looking to finish a season ranked for the first time since 2017, when the Horned Frogs finished No. 9 overall and reached the Big 12 Championship game before losing to Oklahoma. To many, the Horned Frogs are a dark horse candidate to usurp the favored teams to reach the Big 12 title game (Oklahoma and Iowa State).

Prediction: TCU 45, Duquesne 13

Duquesne is a solid FCS program and they should provide some competition for TCU, especially if the Dukes can score early. But, TCU is out to make a statement early this season, especially on offense. I expect quarterback Max Duggan to have a good game right out of the gate and for the Horned Frogs to be in control for most of this game.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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