For the first time since Gary Patterson's been the head coach in Fort Worth, TCU's identity is that of an offensive team. In the gruelling, gut-busting win in Lubbock, Trevone Boykin threw for half a thousand yards and four touchdowns--and he caught a two-point conversion. Josh Doctson, likely to go down as the greatest receiver in TCU's history, racked up over 260 yards receiving and was named the Walter Camp Player of the Week. Aaron Green, who caught the immaculate deflection, gained over 160 yards on the ground for the second straight week. Jarrison Stewart, who filled in for an injured Ty Slanina, finished Saturday with 88 receiving yards--second only behind Doctson.
Amid all the bad tackling and dumb penalties, the offense lifted the defense up and didn't have to leave them in Lubbock to hitchhike home to Fort Worth. Gary's defense will get better, and as I said last week, after Saturday's win, I think the Frogs will semi-cruise until the Thursday game against West Virginia on Halloween weekend. Even scarier--I think the offense will only get better, too. A lot of people have complained about TCU not running "the same offense as they did last year." Sorry there aren't as many hurry-ups, but the Horned Frogs have been much more efficient in 2015.
I called the defense soft, and I still stand by that. Everything's hard in transition, and while I also stand by my tweet when I said something to the extent of "we're all in this together," the defense is still going to need to grow up fast.
This is a great time to play Texas and also a shit time to play Texas. The Longhorns, while trapped in a quicksand of flaw, are due for a win. Still, it'll take a lot to muster up a win in Fort Worth at 11am. Boykin surpassed all of the road game criticism this past weekend in Lubbock, and in the comfort of his own home, the offense should be as it's looked all season this coming Saturday.
**A Tale of Two Defenses**
First and foremost, in order to stop Texas, the Horned Frogs have to improve on their tackling. As simple as that sounds, it's something that nearly cost them the game in Lubbock. I mean, just look at that no-time play at the end of game: Mahomes was dead in the water three or four times, but because he could shake tackles, he created something out of nothing, and Tech nearly topped TCU's miracle with a miracle themselves. Should the Frogs actually finish their tackles Saturday, the 18.5 point line, as it stands while I'm writing this, may actually hold up.
Typically known for their pass defenses--and really defenses in general--Texas and TCU are not following their typical narrative in 2015. Both of these teams have topped, or nearly topped the Big 12 in pass defense efficiency in recent years, and the Frogs have also dominated the total defense category. The Longhorns' defense currently ranks 111th in the country in total defense, whereas TCU's ranks 85th.
Again, this has a lot to do with their respective troubles on their secondaries. Kris Boyd and Holton Hill, Texas' freshmen wunderkinds, have filled the void nicely--but as freshmen, they still have a long way to go to make a meaningful, game changing impact like the great Texas defensive backs of years past. Again, they're freshmen, and they shouldn't really have to. That statement alone is reason enough for Texas fans to gather with their pitchforks outside of my house and kick me out of my own hometown, and while I understand their enthusiasm for the dynamic duo--a Twitter enthusiasm that rivals Donald Trump enthusiasts and "What are those" memes--it'll take more than just Hill and Boyd to stop the second ranked passing offense. There will also be more on FoW this week on the fantastic Malik Jefferson--who's already showing he could be one of the all-time greats at Texas--so I won't go into too much detail. But, Jefferson could very well, at least from a National prospective since it's at 11am on ABC, have his breakout game and thus create a butterfly effect to get Texas bowl eligible.
Texas' secondary will have their work cut out for them Saturday morning. Josh Doctson may not only be the greatest TCU receiver of all time, but by season's end, he could have one of the most compelling seasons for a wide receiver this decade. The 267 yards he caught on Saturday were the most for an FBC receiver since 2013, and his 18 catches tied a Big 12 record dating back to the Clinton Administration.
Feel like both fan bases can get a laugh out of this...
As for TCU, even with Pierson back, the defensive line struggled for the first time this year; namely Josh Carraway, but even Chris Bradley committed uncharacteristic penalties. There's a part of me that always wants to blame turf because turf is stupid; but there's no excuse for missing that many tackles, especially when your coach is who he is. This could also be the growing pains in the post-Bumpas era at TCU. If the defensive line can somehow attack a weakened Texas o-line like they attacked in the first two games, Saturday could be a real struggle for the Longhorns. On the contrary, if it plays like it did against Tech, then Texas will have a fighting chance to get their first win since Rice nearly three weeks ago.
Texas' young receiving corps is brutal, but should be modestly maintained by TCU's depleted secondary mainly because Jerrod Heard, while pretty great thus far, (despite being only two games into his Texas tenure,) has been reluctant to throw the deep ball; which is strange because his YPA is nearly 11 (10.95). Heard's mobility is also an obvious concern for a few reasons. For one, and this is the most surprising aspect of the less than stellar TCU defense in 2015, they can't really tackle. Heard's mobility and improvised runs can keep Texas in this game. Rather than shuffling to create plays deeps, Heard can give Texas hope not only on the ground, but also throwing quick passes and challenging TCU's linebackers and its most headache-inducing position, weak safety.
**A Tale of Two, Maybe Three Quarterbacks**
Tyrone Swoopes intrigued me the most in Texas' devastating loss. Sure, it takes him all day to run, but it was really working on Saturday. The Frogs could barely tackle a semi-hurt Patrick Mahomes last weekend, so there is reason to think a power runner like Swoopes, whether in the redzone or elsewhere, can create serious problems for the Horned Frogs.
To pivot back to Heard, he's clearly the answer for Texas this season. From what I've seen, it can go well beyond 2015. Statistically, however, Heard's fantastic game against Cal is an outlier; a game where he finished 364 yards passing, as well as 163 yards, and all of his 3 touchdowns coming on the ground. Passing wise, the Oklahoma State game was less than stellar as Heard went 9-17 with a measly 119 yards; he did however cook up 48 yards on the ground against an Oklahoma State defense that I haven't given enough credit. Heard's starting debut against Rice is the only time he's found the endzone through the air all season, throwing for two scores.
I said above Heard is reluctant to throw the deep ball, which really means anything over 20-yards. This seems foolish because not only is his YPA higher than Boykin's, it's nearly 11--which is quite impressive. However, Heard has only thrown the ball 56 times in 2015; Boykin threw it 54 times against Texas Tech. So looking at it through this lens changes things. Boykin's YPC (yard per completion) is far superior and he currently ranks 10th in the Nation (14.85); whereas Heard is unqualified to rank because he's thrown in less than 15 times per game on average. Granted, it's unfair because it takes into account Heard's game against Notre Dame where he had one pass. Still, if you count the last three games, Heard is still throwing only about 18 times in a given game--you know, basically what Josh Doctson caught last week against Tech. Again, if I'm the TCU defense, I'm initially thrilled given (a) the state of the secondary and (b) Gary's history against running teams. But Heard's a playmaker, and if Saturday goes anything like the Cal game, we could be in for another shootout. In the world of the Big 12, Heard's stats don't blow people's minds, and thus he's the opposite of "more than meets the eye"; he's more than meets the stats. I'm still scared.
It's funny to me that people are saying TCU's offense, much less Boykin, is less than impressive. Boykin ranks third in the country, and first among Power 5 teams in passing yards; not to mention his efficiency (171.1, 12th), passing touchdowns (14, 3rd), and also with his feet. It's also worth mentioning that, yet again, the hurry-up will be there when TCU needs it. And against a team like Texas who doesn't score as fast as say Tech or even SMU, you could very well see it work itself prominently into Saturday's game plan.
Hopefully, Kolby Listenbee will be back on Saturday, thus taking the pressure off of Josh Doctson and putting more pressure on the Texas secondary. However, should Listenbee sit, TCU still has plenty of ways to wear down the Longhorns. Namely the in-routes. Jarrison Stewart, coming just short of 90 receiving yards on Saturday, filled in for Ty Slanina brilliantly last Saturday. TCU didn't even really use Shaun Nixon in Lubbock like they have been all year, mainly because they didn't have to. I mean, Doctson caught 18 passes and the wealth--aside from Stewart--wasn't really distributed anywhere else. Given that Doctson is no longer the best kept secret in the country, I expect there to be a more socialist distribution among the receiving corps Saturday morning. More Nixon, more Turpin, more Story, etc. The former two, as we've seen, have all the means necessary to destroy Texas' safeties with their killer speed behind their patient general in Trevone Boykin.
Aaron Green has been completely lit in his last two games, gaining over 160 yards against SMU and Tech. Green and the arsenal of tailbacks have provided a pristine balance to the air attack in 2015; the Frogs currently rank 23rd Nationally in rushing offense--and being that Texas ranks 104th Nationally in rushing defense, that's not a bad problem to have going into Saturday. Also expect to see more Kyle Hicks; and if TCU gets into the redzone, some more non-wildcat version of Trevorris Johnson.
Score Prediction: TCU 52, Texas 38
Realistically, I think the game goes more like the SMU game. The Frogs run away early, then Texas entertains a comeback, then the Frogs regather themselves and bleed out the Longhorns in the 4th. I don't think the game is as much of a problem as the SMU game; there will be less drama and fewer passing interference calls.
You can talk about how TCU's defense is depleted, which it is, but it's making strides, and I'm pretty confident you and I have seen the worst of it. I can't say the same for Texas. But that's not because Texas is bad; they just have to play Oklahoma and TCU back-to-back. Plus, even at the rate they're shedding players, TCU's defense still ranks higher than Texas in just about every category. I say just about because I'm sure there are some micro categories where Texas has the advantage. But it isn't rushing defense, pass defense efficiency, or third down defense. Texas does have the edge in turnover margin, which admittedly is a big one, as well as fourth down defense.
There's still plenty of hope for Texas on Saturday with the turnover stat in mind. If they force Boykin to make mistakes, whether early or late, they can pull something out of their hat. Yet, we know Boykin plays better at home--not to mention this is Texas' first road game since Notre Dame and we know how that went--and being that all the road criticisms about him were disproven last week, Boykin will be an even better quarterback than what Texas saw in Austin last Thanksgiving.
I give Texas all of the credit though, and saying it's going to take their best isn't a slight. What also interests me in this series is that so far since 2012, the home team has lost. Now, of course the sample size is three, and thus really small. But maybe this becomes an interesting trend. Also, though TCU has the longest win-streak of the series, (1935-1938), they haven't had consecutive wins against the Longhorns since 1958-59.
People have messaged and told me Texas is angry. Well, TCU's pretty angry too. And to be fair, to fight the media's offensive allergy, all of the Big 12 is a little angry. As they should be.