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Keys to the Game: Oklahoma vs. TCU

Head coach Gary Patterson discussed trying to change the culture of the TCU offense recently. We’ll see if the Horned Frogs can establish that culture against the Sooners.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough offensive performance against Kansas State in which TCU posted only 14 points despite totaling 342 yards and over 100 yards in the first quarter, head coach Gary Patterson said recently that the Horned Frogs are attempting to change their culture on the offensive side of the ball. What could that culture be? Perhaps we’ll find out this weekend, when TCU returns from a bye week to host the Oklahoma Sooners at Hell’s Half Acre.

Saturday’s game will pose an intriguing matchup between an Oklahoma defense that continues to be gashed by Big 12 opponents and a TCU offense that struggled to show any consistency against the Wildcats. The Sooners are surrendering an average of 39 points per game to Big 12 teams while giving up over 400 yards in each of its three Big 12 games. Unsurprisingly, Oklahoma has made up for its defensive woes with a high-powered offense spurred by redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler.

It’s been a rather uncharacteristic start for both teams, as Oklahoma and TCU sit near the bottom of the Big 12 standings with 1-2 conference records. A loss Saturday would put a serious detriment on any chances for a Big 12 title this season. The odds will be against the Horned Frogs, who are winless against the Sooners since 2014 and are 0-6 in their last six contests with Oklahoma. Here are three keys to the 2020 matchup this weekend.

Run the Ball

TCU failed to play to the strengths of its personnel against Kansas State, abandoning a run game that appeared promising in the first quarter, when Darwin Barlow scored the first touchdown of the game. Barlow ran for a team-best 56 yards and averaged seven yards per carry, but the redshirt freshman only took eight carries. Running back Kendre Miller averaged over five yards per carry, but he only carried the ball five times. TCU’s offensive line has not pass protected well, allowing 10 sacks over the first three games, but the Horned Frogs are averaging over 170 rushing yards per game. Take advantage of a dual-threat quarterback, a talented backfield and an offensive line that has shown it can create holes consistently.

Don’t Fall Behind

TCU has repeatedly fallen behind early in its last several contests against Oklahoma. Since 2015, the Horned Frogs have been outscored 169-96 during the first half. When TCU upset the Sooners during the 2014 season, both teams were tied 24-24 at halftime before the Horned Frog stepped up with a series of key plays down the stretch. The longer Oklahoma keeps TCU around, the better chance the Horned Frogs have to win this weekend. On the other hand, playing catch-up will force TCU into more throwing and pass-protecting situations, two things the Horned Frogs struggled to do against Kansas State recently.

Sack the Quarterback

Corey Bethley and Ochaun Mathis recorded back-to-back sacks during the late phases of the loss against Kansas State. Neither Bethley nor Mathis had recorded a sack this season until that point, and both players will need to continue stepping up to pressure Spencer Rattler, who has made critical mistakes taking risks down the field and throwing interceptions in pivotal moments. True freshman Khari Coleman has been getting more reps on the outside, and it will be interesting to see if he can provide a punch in the trenches. Rattler’s maneuverability makes him a dangerous threat, and the Horned Frog defense may struggle if the front six cannot keep him contained in the pocket.