The battle between the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders features two teams coming off easily their most impressive performances of the season. TCU stifled previously high-flying Baylor 49-21 while Texas Tech bombarded the then No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers 49-14.
Obviously then, both teams have found some momentum, and neither wants to lose it. This will be an intense game between two programs that already have little love for one another. Look for an old-time rivalry to be reborn.
When TCU Has the Football: Following the departure of starting quarterback Casey Pachall because of an alcohol-related offense, TCU has gone to freshman Trevone Boykin with mixed results. He struggled somewhat in a loss to a very good Iowa State team but rebounded strongly against a Baylor defense that may be the worst in college football. Suffice it to say, therefore, that Boykin is still an unknown, even to the TCU coaching staff. Nobody knows how he'll perform against Texas Tech's No. 4 defense.
Given Boykin's inexperience and the overall strength of Tech's defense, expect the Horned Frogs to stick with what he is most comfortable doing. The Red Raider defense has no real weaknesses, no flat surfaces to strike, so TCU will rely on its bread and butter. There will be nothing fancy.
The Horned Frog ground attack is really nothing to write home about, with TCU averaging four yards per rush, which is No. 81 nationally. Still, Boykin will need the running game as a security blanket. Top back B. J. Catalon will shoulder a heavy load. So will Boykin in the ground game. He averages 5.2 yards per tote with a long run of 42 yards.
TCU's passing game relies fairly heavily on the deep game. Hence, four receivers, Brandon Carter, Skye Dawson, LaDarius Brown and Cam White average over 14 yards per catch. Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, defending the deep ball is a Tech team strength as West Virginia discovered. Still, Boykin and the Frogs will take their shots because that is what they do.
On defense, expect the Red Raiders to drop and cover. They're not a pressure defense to begin with, and the last thing Tech wants to do is blitz itself out of position and allow the swift Boykin to break containment.
Instead, Tech will rush three and four, although they will frequently show blitz. And as is their calling card, Red Raider corners will show press coverage and bail into a zone or soft man just as the ball is snapped. Tech confused Steele Jantz and Geno Smith with these tactics; they may be able to do the same with Boykin.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball: Odds are very good that the Red Raiders will run the ball as much as they pass it against TCU. There are at least three reasons why this will happen.
First, Tech's receiving corps is depleted. Chief deep ball threat Javon Bell is gone for the season with a broken foot. Steady Eddie, Bradley Marquez is also out for the year with a knee injury. And tight end Jace Amaro, a budding superstar, probably will not play because of injured ribs. The Red Raiders have tremendous depth at the receiver position, but losing that trio still hurts badly. The Tech passing attack just won't be the same without them.
Second, quarterback Seth Doege has a tendency to throw interceptions. He's lobbed seven already this season, two of which have been returned for touchdowns. If this game is close, and it very well could be, an errant throw could spell defeat. Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown will do what he can to reduce this danger.
And third, TCU's defense feasts on opposing quarterback errors. The Horned Frogs have pilfered 14 aerials, which leads the nation in that category. Cornerback Jason Verrett has four interceptions by himself, which is just one shy of the total for the entire Red Raider defense.
The Red Raiders will pound it at the heart of TCU's defense and hope that their own defense can hang in there until the Horned Frog stop unit finally yields under the assault. TCU allows only 3.2 yards per carry, which is 17th best nationally, but the Red Raider running trio of Eric Stephens, Kenny Williams and SaDale Foster all average over 5.3 yards per carry. It will be a war of wills and stamina when Tech has the rock.
What Will Happen: The defenses will dominate and both teams will struggle to ring the bell offensively. TCU quarterback Boykin will get a rude awakening from the Red Raider defense. Tech will frustrate the freshman. Tech will confuse him. When the Horned Frogs do manage to score, it will be on a short field.
But the Red Raider offense won't fare much better. Don't be surprised if Tech has more turnovers and three-and-outs in the first half than points. Eventually, however, the Red Raider ground-pounders will do their damage. The Horned Frog defense, playing in hot weather, will wilt just enough in the second half to allow Tech to earn a hard-fought victory.
Texas Tech 26