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Keys to the Game: LA Tech vs. TCU

Avoiding turnovers will be critical after the Horned Frogs coughed up the football five times against Oklahoma State.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Horned Frogs normally face their nonconference opponents before beginning the Big 12 schedule. That isn’t the case this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Saturday’s contest against Louisiana Tech will nevertheless be another litmus test of how far TCU has come after starting the 2020 campaign 1-3 overall and winless at home.

Oklahoma and West Virginia’s canceled football game bodes well for the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 standings. With Kansas State losing last weekend, TCU cannot finish below fifth place with its 5-4 conference record. An Oklahoma State loss against Baylor will bump the Horned Frogs up to fourth. Adding a Kansas upset over Texas would give TCU an edge over the Longhorns and Cowboys for third place in the Big 12.

But Saturday’s contest is against Louisiana Tech, who enters with a 5-3 record after defeating UAB and North Texas in each of the last two weeks. The Bulldogs have been tested twice this season, but they failed both tests, losing 45-14 against Zach Wilson and the BYU Cougars before dropping a 35-17 matchup against then-ranked Marshall. Saturday will be TCU’s final game before learning its postseason destination.

Here are three keys to the matchup between the Horned Frogs and Bulldogs.

Protect the Football

This comes as a no-brainer after TCU turned the ball over five times against Oklahoma State. Four of those turnovers were fumbles after Cowboy defenders stripped TCU’s ball carriers. The Horned Frogs didn’t have one culprit either, as Max Duggan, Zach Evans, Darwin Barlow and Kendre Miller were each stripped once in the game. Despite inconsistencies on offense, turnovers haven’t been a huge issue this season. Protecting the football will be paramount in avoiding a potential trap game this weekend.

Get Barber Going

Derius Davis and Quentin Johnston stole the show against Oklahoma State, combining for 251 receiving yards. Taye Barber has been extremely quiet, though, going two straight weeks without a reception and totaling three carries for 22 yards over the last two games. Barber had been TCU’s leading receiver before the Oklahoma State game, and while he’s finding success running the jet sweep, it’d be nice to see the Horned Frog offense establish its veteran wide receiver with one final tune-up performance before bowl season begins.

Dominate the Trenches

Louisiana Tech has had a unique approach to the quarterback position this season, using two quarterbacks (Luke Anthony and Aaron Allen) in every single game. Anthony will likely start the game, while Allen will enter in relief at certain points. Nevertheless, neither Anthony nor Allen are threats to run with the football, meaning the Horned Frogs will have opportunities to create pressure and make sacks. TCU didn’t record a sack against Oklahoma State, which hasn’t happened in any other game this season.