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TCU Horned Frogs vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview and Prediction

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Gary Patterson and his TCU Horned Frogs have big plans for the 2015 season. After being left out of the College Football Playoff somewhat controversially last season, TCU begins 2015 ranked No. 2 in both major polls and have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate under center in Trevone Boykin.

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In Minneapolis, Jerry Kill's Minnesota team is the sexy pick of many pundits and publications to win the Big Ten West and possibly do some big things in the postseason.

The two programs will meet on opening night with both looking to make a huge statement to their respective conferences and the nation. A blowout win by the Horned Frogs should be enough to let us all know they are the team we thought they were. On the other side of the coin, if Minnesota can play TCU tough throughout — possibly pulling off an upset — it'll let everyone know the Golden Gophers truly have arrived and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015.

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TCU at Minnesota

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN

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Spread: TCU -14.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Trevone Boykin vs. the Minnesota Secondary

The Gophers should feature one of the stingiest defensive backfields in the nation in 2015. Both of their corners, Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, were named to the Bednarik Award Watch List — the only cornerback duo in the nation to accomplish that. They'll have two exceptional senior safeties playing between them, making life that much more difficult for Boykin. If the secondary can set the tone early on, frustrate Boykin in the passing game and make him one-dimensional, Minnesota's front seven is talented enough to make things interesting. If not, this game could become a track meet that the Gophers may not be equipped to keep pace in.

2. Special Teams Setting up Field Position

TCU punter Ethan Perry is built more like a linebacker than a punter. He has a leg capable of flipping the field quickly and forcing the Gophers to travel long distances for points. On the other hand, don't go anywhere after TCU scores, as the Horned Frogs will be kicking off to Minnesota's Jalen Myrick — one of the best kick returners in the Big Ten — capable of doing his own field-flipping. If this game is close, a big play by Berry or Myrick could be the difference.

3. Can Minnesota's Offense Stay on the Field?

The Gopher defense is talented enough to go toe-to-toe with TCU's electric offense. The key for the Gophers will be sustaining long enough drives to give their defense enough breathers to keep the game close into the fourth quarter. We'll get to see right away how much Mitch Leidner has progressed as a quarterback and a leader, especially without Maxx Williams and David Cobb as safety nets. If Minnesota can't move the ball early, this one could get away from them by halftime.

Final Analysis

TCU is about as talented as teams come, but Minnesota's physicality and persistence will test Patterson's squad. The Gophers won't fold and will likely hang around for the better part of three quarters. In the end, the speed of the Horned Frogs on both sides of the ball combined with the lack of a go-to offensive playmaker on Minnesota's offense will be enough for TCU to pull away and close out a sound and respectable road win in a lower scoring game than most are expecting.

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Prediction: TCU 27, Minnesota 13

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.