Photo cc: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Crossing the halfway point in Big 12 play, Texas Tech and TCU both find themselves in the bottom half of the conference standings. Although not entirely surprising based on preseason polls and forecasts, still a disappointing season thus far in the eyes of both programs. Tech followed up its season-salvaging victory over West Virginia with an atrocious showing last week versus Oklahoma. TCU is winless at home through five games, failing to win either of two winnable matchups versus Iowa State and Kansas State. With the Red Raiders being winless on the road so far this year, something has got to give in Saturday’s showdown in Fort Worth.
This series has been an exciting one in recent years starting with the fact that the road team has won the last four matchups, leading to no back-to-back victors since TCU in 2014-2015. Additionally, four out of the last five matchups have been decided by three points or less including a double-OT thriller in 2016 following a last-minute game-winning touchdown drive in 2015. If recent history is any indication, this weekend’s game could easily be a tightly contested game that goes down to the wire.
There is little to be happy about from last week’s showing if you’re Keith Patterson and the Texas Tech defense. The run defense woes continued as the Sooners rushed for over 200 yards on five and a half yards per attempt. Additionally, the pass rush on Spencer Rattler was essentially non-existent with only four QB hurries on 38 dropbacks resulting in zero sacks for the Red Raiders. As if going up against one of the nation’s top offensive lines combined with the offensive prowess of Lincoln Riley wasn’t enough, the offense didn’t put the defense in a great position to be successful either.
Complimentary football went out the window with three turnovers allowing the Sooners to have an average starting field position at their own 38-yard line, essentially living in Tech’s half of the field for the majority of the contest. Luckily for Tech, after facing the top two offenses & two of the top three defenses in the conference back-to-back weeks, TCU falls in the middle of the pack on both sides of the ball ranking 7th in offense and 6th on defense.
With a balanced offensive attack led by second year QB Max Duggan, the Horned Frogs lean on their run game, but spread the ball out across a variety of skill players. Duggan is the team’s second leading rusher and will keep the Tech defense on their toes as he is very capable of scrambling, highlighted in his 79 yard, two touchdown performance against Texas.
TCU’s top three receivers have combined for over 55% of the team’s yards thus far with RS Freshman, Lubbock native Blair Conwright owning a spot in the trio. The key to slowing this offense down is to make it one dimensional as Oklahoma and Kansas State were both able to do, albeit in contrasting styles. Oklahoma achieved this by holding the Horned Frogs to just 75 yards rushing on 25 carries, effectively forcing Duggan to keep up with the Sooners through the air. Conversely, the Wildcats allowed almost 200 yards on the ground to TCU but kept Duggan in check allowing him only 154 yards through the air and sacking him three times. With only five passing touchdowns on the year and two games with under 155 yards, forcing Duggan to win this matchup may serve the Tech defense as the best option. Regardless of what the focus going into the game is, as always, the execution by the defense is likely to determine which way this weekend goes for the Red Raiders.
The Red Raider offense is desperately looking for consistency. The performance against West Virginia was supposed to be an indication that the move to start Henry Colombi was exactly what they needed. However, the following week against a lesser defense in Oklahoma, the offense struggled to do anything. One thing that has been consistent has been the effort to get the ball to Erik Ezukanma, who has established himself as one of the consistent bright spots for this offense as he leads the team with 32 receptions and 430 yards.
The consistency isn’t directly reflected in the points the Red Raiders have totaled so far this season. According to texastech.com, Texas Tech is averaging 31.5 points per game so far this season, which ranks 41st nationally and fifth in the Big 12. This season would mark the 20th-consecutive year the Red Raiders have averaged at least 30 points per game, which is the longest active streak in the Big 12. The team has to find balance as TCU’s defense does present a solid challenge.
The Horned frogs have yielded an average of 29.0 points and 375.2 total yards per game this year, which ranks No. 57 and No. 45 in the country. A little deeper dive reveals that TCU hasn’t been as stingy as a Gary Patterson defense is usually known for. TCU surrenders 6.2 yards per snap, which ranks only 84th in the FBS. Leaning heavily on SaRodorick Thompson, who is averaging 5.7 yards a carry and ranks 4th in the Big 12 in rushing yards this season, would be a great way to lessen the pressure on Colombi and set up play-action opportunities.
If the Texas Tech offense looks anything like they did a week ago, this game could easily be over after three quarters again. However, facing a slightly softer defense and much less explosive offense this week, expect Tech to keep the game within reach. If the Red Raiders emerge victorious Saturday, winning three of their last four on the year is very much in play. In the end, TCU notches their first home win of the season & Tech moves to 2-5, setting their sights on a winnable matchup next week at home against Baylor.
TCU 33 – TTU 27
– Trevor Williams
One would have to imagine that Tech isn’t nearly as sloppy with the football as they were against the Sooners last week. TCU also has not won a game at home this year. The road team has won this matchup 5 straight years. Tech should win, right? Until the offense can prove consistency, they have not earned the benefit of the doubt yet. Gary Patterson picks up his 200th victory as a Horned Frog.
TCU 31 Texas Tech 28
– Andrew McCleary
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