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2019 Season

Preview: Horned Frogs Eye Upset Of Visiting Longhorns

Both TCU and Texas enter this one needing a win to get past their struggles. Who pulls it out?

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Getty Images - Tim Warner

TCU and Texas meet for the 90th time this weekend in a game that should be close if the Vegas oddsmakers are any guide. The Horned Frogs have dominated this series since they joined the Big 12 in 2012, winning five of the last seven contests. Texas holds the all-time record for wins, however, with 63 wins to TCU’s 25.

The Longhorns began their season with an eye to returning to the Big 12 championship, but have not always looked the part of title contender while going 3-1 in conference. Texas’ 50-48 win last week against Kansas – a team that has yet to win a Big 12 game – required a last second field goal by sophomore Cameron Dicker to secure the victory. A win for the Longhorns would keep their title hopes decidedly intact, and make them bowl eligible for the third time straight.

TCU returns to their home field after taking a loss to Kansas State last week in Manhattan. The Horned Frogs sit at 3-3 on the season, having struggled with inconsistency to start their 2019 campaign. TCU entered the season with questions at quarterback and with replacements needed on the defensive side of the ball. Those issues have continued to plague the Horned Frogs, who’ve shown flashes of quality play, but have not seen results in the win column.

A win in Fort Worth would give the Horned Frogs their best victory of 2019, and it would also potentially give them some momentum in conference play. Gary Patterson’s teams rarely stay down for long, and they could provide quite the test for an injury-riddled Longhorns team.

Game Details

  • When: Sat, Oct 26, 2:30 PM CT
  • Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
  • Forecast: Mostly Sunny, High of 66°F
  • Stream: Fox Sports Go
  • Betting Line: UT -1 O/U 56.5

No. 15 Texas Longhorns

Texas’ offense has received less attention than it’s probably deserved this season. The Longhorns are averaging 40.9 points per game, which would be their best offensive output since 2008 if that number were to hold for the rest of 2019. The primary reason for that improvement is junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who’s thrown more touchdown passes this season than any other Big 12 signal caller.

Ehlinger has two senior weapons to throw to in Devin Duvernay (who currently leads the Big 12 in receptions per game) and Collin Johnson, who has the kind of physical attributes they like in the NFL. There are younger players, like Brennan Eagles and Jake Smith, who are also capable of making plays at wideout.

Although they’ve had success, Texas has been less prolific on the ground than they have through the air. The Texas running game is powered by sophomore Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson, who was converted from quarterback and is now averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Ehlinger also supplements Texas’ yards on the ground, helping the Longhorns put up 173.9 yards per game.

Most of Texas’ woes have come on the offensive side of the ball in 2019. After losing eight starters from last year’s defense, and having two of this year’s starters lost to injury for much of this season, the Longhorns have undoubtedly taken a step back. They are currently giving up 469.9 yards per game, putting them on pace to be the worst statistical defense in school history.

Longhorn defenders like Joseph Ossai, who leads the team in tackles, have been a bright spot, and have helped the defense be able to hold their own somewhat against opposing rushing offenses. On the back end, the young Texas secondary has been the unit that has struggled the most. The Longhorns currently rank last in the Big 12 in pass defense despite the fact that they’re tied for most interceptions on the season with ten, which speaks to their inconsistent play in 2019.

Texas Keys to the Game

Avoid Turnovers: And that includes turning the ball over on downs. TCU is going to be looking for a reason to grab the momentum in this one, and the Longhorns need to avoid giving the ball back to the Horned Frogs and play for field position. Texas will give themselves a better chance to win this one if they can keep from hurting themselves.

Start Fast: If Texas can get out to a big lead and force TCU to play from behind, that will be to the Longhorns’ advantage. A shootout would be to the advantage of the Longhorns, who would much rather put the burden for winning the game on their offense rather than their defense.

Contain The Running Game: This is undoubtedly the strength of the TCU offense, and Texas will need to defend multiple aspects of it. It will be key for them to stop Anderson, but the Horned Frogs will almost certainly try to do some read option with Duggan, and they may even try to hand it off to Jalen Reagor to get him on the edge. Playing run first will be especially key this week for Texas.


TCU Horned Frogs

One area where the Horned Frogs have excelled on offense has been in their running game, which is averaging 239.5 yards per contest on the ground. Powering that attack are running backs Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua, who average 7.1 and 4.5 yards per carry, respectively. True freshman Max Duggan, who picked up a 46 yard touchdown run last week, is averaging 3.3 per tote.

Though the ground attack is efficient, Duggan struggles to consistently connect with his receiving corps. He beat out Kansas State transfer Alex Delton to become the starter, but Delton still occasionally sees the field. One of Duggan’s best traits is that he’s not a careless passer, having thrown no interceptions on the season. The TCU offense has struggled getting the ball down the field through the air, however, having completed only 56 percent of their passes in 2019, which is the worst percentage in the Big 12.

Defensively, TCU is in the top of the Big 12 once again. They are holding teams to 281 yards per game, but up-and-down play in their back seven has often lead to the Horned Frogs giving up big plays and points. TCU’s near lack of a pass rush, in addition, has made it more difficult for them to get stops and prevent scores. The Horned Frogs, in addition, have only managed to gain five turnovers in 2019, which is tied for last in the conference.

Still, there are playmakers to keep an eye in this contest. Garret Wallow is a young player, but he already leads the team with 63 tackles, and cornerback Jeff Gladney is great in coverage. TCU will hope that those two, along with many of the younger players on their defense, step up this weekend to get some stops.

TCU Keys To The Game

Keep The Game Manageable : The Horned Frogs should be able to move the ball against the Texas defense, and they likely won’t have to take a lot of big shots downfield to do it. If the Horned Frogs are able to complete some shorter passes on early downs, that will set them up to be able to move the ball with their ground game.

Have Sound Special Teams: Last week’s blocked punt was an absolute killer for TCU, and it arguably decided the ultimate outcome of that one possession ball game. For the Horned Frogs to have their best chance to win, they need to play sound special teams in this game.

Make Them Beat You Deep: This season the Texas offense has had more trouble connecting on deep shots down the field. Forcing them to try and push the ball down the field will help set up the Longhorns in more uncomfortable down and distance situations.

Prediction

This is an interesting matchup which opened with TCU as a favorite at home. There are a lot of trends to like for the Horned Frogs in this one, in particular the way that Texas seems to be trending right now and their injuries on defense. TCU is still statistically a top defense even though they haven’t necessarily been able to keep teams out of the endzone. This could definitely be a game where the point total matches those other numbers.

For Texas to win, they’ll have to have one of the better games offensively that they’ve had all season, and be able to get some big plays without turning the ball over. The defense will almost certainly give up yards and points, but they need the offense to provide them with a lead for a good portion of this contest.

I think it will be a close game, but go ahead and give me TCU to win by a field goal here. So many aspects of this one seem to have a home upset for TCU in the works here. Gary Patterson will keep his team from avoiding a third loss in a row in this one.

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