Riding some much-needed momentum, Texas is looking to start Big 12 play off on the right foot on Saturday in Austin against in-state rival TCU. Texas is coming off a big win against USC, and for the first time, looked like the team that was hyped before the season.
TCU’s week wasn’t as good as the lost to Ohio State following a disaster of a third quarter. It’s not all bad news for TCU though, as the Horned Frogs have owned the Longhorns in recent history, winning the last four meetings and out scoring Texas 153-33 in the process.
With a wet weather forecast looming Saturday, ball security will be off the utmost importance in this one. TCU fans have already seen how sloppy a game can get in a big rain storm having played SMU in similar conditions. If it does rain as much as predicted, then both teams are going to have to be calculated with any risks they take with the football. I expect to see some turn overs in this game. Its just a matter of who it is going to be that coughs it up.
This is a bit of old versus new, as in an old power versus new power. Both of these programs have talent. Tom Herman has put together a couple of stellar recruiting classes in just a short time, and he wasn’t exactly handed a bare cabinet to begin with. Gary Patterson on the other hand, and consistently improved TCU’s recruiting rank as the program’s prestige has risen, and now they are pulling in top-25 classes. That may seem like given, to recruit better as you have success, but it’s actually something very few coaches have pulled off.
Both programs have plenty of talent, it’s what they are doing with said talent that has differentiated them over recent years. Despite top-10 recruiting classes, the Longhorns have had difficulty cracking the top half of the conference. Meanwhile, TCU is competing for Big 12 Championships more often than not. The power dynamic between these two schools has completely flipped and Texas is desperate to regain their position of prominence.
The Longhorn’s biggest problem is on the offensive side of the ball. They are struggling to find an identity, and so far this season, has struggled to put drives together. Last week against USC, Texas only had three drives that went longer than 8 plays. That’s not great for a team that gets the ball on their own 28 yard line on average. Typically, one first down isn’t enough to go 72 yards.
Texas converts on third down a pedestrian 44.1 percent of the time, and over half of those are classified as “third and long”. This stat has to improve this week for Texas.
Coach Patterson has called Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger “the X factor” for the Longhorn offense, and considers Ehlinger a running back playing quarterback. That may be true. Ehlinger is the Longhorn’s third leading rusher and only one actual running back on the roster has as many rushing touchdowns as Ehlinger at two. Compare that to the passing game were he’s completing just 57.6 percent of his passes, and averaging just 7.3 yards per attempt, and you could argue he has been more effective with his legs than his arm.
That’s unfortunate, considering the Longhorn rushing attack has been more effective when an actual running back has the ball. Tre Watson, Daniel Young and Keaontay Ingram all average significantly more yards per carry than Ehlinger.
Texas will will need to protect Ehlinger and move the ball against TCU to keep this one close. The Longhorns have to keep themselves out of third and long situations and give Ehlinger easy conversion opportunities.
On the other side of the ball, the defense draws a tough assignment this week. TCU’s Shawn Robinson is a play-maker at quarterback, and he has a natural ability to scramble and keep plays alive. The good news, for the Longhorns, is that Texas is equipped to deal with this challenge. Texas has the 39th-ranked defense in the country and holds their opponents to just 3.63 points per scoring drive which is good for 29th in the nation.
Gary Patterson is one of the most respected defensive minds in the country. The Frogs had a bit of a set back last week against Ohio State; giving up 525 total yards of offense. I firmly believe this game will come down to TCU’s defense, and I am eager to see if Patterson can get his guys refocused against an offense that was improved last week, but let’s be honest, are you convinced they aren’t a cheap insult away from having a total meltdown? In other words, if things start to go wrong for the Longhorn offense on Saturday, the momentum they built against USC will be quickly be forgotten.
Texas was able to score at a high clip last week as the Trojans struggled to make open-field tackles. However, this is an area where TCU really excels on the defensive side of things. TCU tackles well in space, and keeps opponents from making second effort plays.
I expect the TCU defense to come out and play like their hair is on fire. They proved last week that they can hang with anyone in the country, and are looking to get back into the win column.
On offense, TCU relies on getting their play makers the ball in space, and they are having success on the ground. The Horned Frogs rank third in the conference in rush offense. With a 90 percent of rain forecasted for Saturday, an effective run game will come in handy.
This game is intriguing. There are a lot of similarities between the Horned Frogs and Longhorns. Both have highly-touted defenses and the run is the strength of both offenses. With a weather forecast that could create slip n slide conditions on the field, this game looks like it could be a sloppy affair. It may come down to which defense breaks first.
Texas Keys To The Game
Feed Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray The Ball – Brown is back from injury this week and gray leads the team with 607 rushing yards. Its going to be wet and i expect a sloppy game so production from these guys will be huge
Avoid Penalties – Right now Texas has been pretty disciplined so far this season. The longhorns are averaging around 5 penalties a game contrast that to TCU who is averaging a little over 7 flags per game for 102nd in the country. I anticipate yards to be hard enough to gain with out mental errors. Making sure neither team makes those mistakes and extends drives will be big time.
Take Your Shots Deep To Mike Davis – With likely very few opportunities to score in the passing game Saturday timing is everything. So far this season Davis has 516 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 21 catches. He has shown the ability to take the top off of the defense at times. Finding him downfield in this game may spell success for the longhorns.
TCU Keys To The Game
Defense, Defense, Defense – For a TCU team that prides itself on being physical defensively, Gary Patterson and company find themselves licking their wounds after a defensive collapse against Ohio State last week. After giving up over 500 yards of total offense to the buckeyes, I expect TCU and Patterson to be at full lather on Saturday. If they can stuff the run and get to Sam Ehlinger, this TCU defense will find themselves in position to win. TCU had only one sack against Ohio State last week. That will need to improve.
The Offensive Line – The TCU offensive line is young. They gave up 3 sacks last week against a big and talented Ohio State Front. That being said they really did surprisingly well for such a young group. Its unlikely they will face any other team this season with more talent and depth along the defensive front like Ohio State. That is a huge stepping stone for this offensive line unit. I expect them to continue getting better and to control the line of scrimmage in this game. If they do, TCU will win.
Finding A Kicker – TCU comes into this contest ranked last in the Big 12 in the kicking game. They have made just two of four field goals so far this year. Against Ohio State, Kicker Cole Bunce kicked the opening kickoff out if bounds and missed a 31 yard field goal wide right on TCUs first offensive possession. Gary Patterson substituted in Jonathan Song, who went on to make four out of four extra point attempts. With just a three point spread and a close game expected to play out, this game could come down to one field goal either way. TCU will need to have their kicking game on point Saturday. They will certainly need it.
College football is ready for Texas to be back. Unfortunately, they are going to have to wait awhile. Last week was a big win, but they have to turn right around and face an even bigger test. The Horned Frogs are also laser focused as no team wants to suffer back-to-back losses. In the end, TCU’s ability to score on special teams may be all it takes to give them the edge. A momentum changing score may put Texas in a situation where they feel like they need to keep up, and Ehlinger trying to do too much is historically not a good thing. Robinson has had a couple of gaffs himself, but TCU is just too much and pulls away late.