I freaking hate the Longhorns. I hate how entitled they are, how quickly they tell us that TCU is little brother despite the trajectories of both programs veering in completely opposite directions since UT last won a meaningful game (in 2005). I hate how they can sign basically any player in the state despite the fact that they have done nothing but turn five star talents into two star players for most of the last decade. I hate that they ran off Mack Brown, then looked for any reason to do the same to Charlie Strong, and now have put all their hopes into fairy dust connoisseur Tom Herman, who apparently spent more time sledge-hammering lockers than putting together a game plan. Mostly I hate that every year people think that TEXAS IS BACK, ranking them in the preseason Top 25 on potential instead of, oh, I don’t know, evaluating them on actuality, causing the entire Big 12 Conference to be judged off of their failed expectations. Additionally, screw the Longhorn Network and its torpedoing of any real television deal.
But you know what I love? Kicking the every living crap out of Texas, something TCU has done for the past three seasons to the tune of a 129-26 margin. That’s obscene. Those days are probably coming to a close, as Texas will eventually be back. So let’s crush them at least once more while the getting is good. Here’s how to do it.
SONNY BE BRIGHT
TCU’s first-year offensive play caller was off his game Saturday, calling multiple pass plays on first down inside the ten yard line, rushing Darius Anderson and Kyle Hicks just 12 times a piece, and generally going away from what’s been working. I think the 3-3-5 defense he faced may have had something to do with that, but ultimately, he’s got to do a better job of putting his players in a position to succeed. That’s going to be especially true this week; coming off his worst game of the season, Hill needs to get his confidence boosted early and often, which should mean a steady dose of running plays, some short completions to the play-makers, and plenty of RPOs. Texas has a really good defense and a great secondary, so the dink and dunk game might be the best route, with the occasional long ball sprinkled in off of play-action. Also, hopefully the receivers got some extra reps in the film room and on the jugs machine this week - several key drops killed drives, and Jalen Reagor looked like a freshman for the first time all season in running the wrong route four times. Hopefully the offensive side of the ball is on the same page Saturday.
CLEAN IT UP
Over 100 yards in penalties, many that wiped big plays off the board, absolutely destroyed any momentum the Frogs were able to generate in Ames. Austin Schlottman was really bad, getting flagged four times for holding, but there were multiple calls for the same on receivers and several on defense as well. TCU has been such a disciplined team overall in 2017 that the laundry on the field was quite shocking. Against a Texas team that tends to start slow, staying ahead of the chains, moving forward down the field, and not giving them extra opportunities is absolutely huge.
TRAVIN HOWARD’S BIG DAY
I am assuming that Sam Ehlinger will get the bulk of the snaps Saturday, as I think he gives the Longhorns the best chance to win. If that is indeed the case, Travin Howard becomes the linchpin of the defense for Gary Patterson’s squad. A guy like Howard can make all the difference against a mobile QB; at just over 214 pounds he’s big enough to take the punishment at linebacker (barely) but fast enough to spy athletic quarterbacks. That will be his job against Ehlinger, who is much more of a threat with his legs than his arms at this stage of his career.
This game matters far more to TCU than to Texas in the grand scheme of things - one program is fighting to make the conference championship game while the other is playing spoiler. How will the Frogs handle the emotion and pressure coming off of a loss? Will Hill keep his bearings or continue his poor play? Will Cumbie go back to a game plan that focuses on the run or feel like he needs to be clever against UT’s defense? Will Gary Patterson have his guys focus and prepared or will they get caught off guard and off to a slow start for a second straight week? It’s so much easier to be the team with nothing to lose, and the Frogs have gone from that position to being the ones with the target on their back. They need to respond, and respond well. The target is still in sight, just have to keep climbing.