The TCU-Texas Tech game is usually an entertaining affair. Since the Frogs joined the Big 12 in 2012, TCU leads the series 7-4, and the Frogs have won 4 in a row. So, what must TCU do to make it 5 straight against the Red Raiders?
Texas Tech Offense
The Red Raiders have disappointed offensively this season. Many people, myself included, had them as a dark horse Big 12 title contender. That went up in flames early on, and they’ve struggled to get going in conference play. When quarterback Tyler Shough got injured against West Virginia, it seemed like the Raiders panicked, and they ended up losing an ugly game 20-13. Since the loss, Tech averages 31 points per game and is 2-2.
In the passing game, Texas Tech hasn’t done a good enough job of finding ways to get Jerand Bradley involved. The sophomore has just 30 catches for 319 yards. Last year, he led the team with 744 yards on 51 catches. If there was ever a game for him to get back on track, it’s this one. TCU has struggled to defend the pass this year, ranking 71st in passing yards allowed per game. Behren Morton hasn’t been anything special at quarterback, but he has done a solid job protecting the ball. As I discussed in the self-scout article, TCU hasn’t forced many interceptions this year. Forcing at least 1 on Thursday night could be huge for the Frogs.
Texas Tech averages 176 yards per game on the ground. Running back Tahj Brooks ranks 7th nationally in yards per game. The Red Raiders have been methodical, to say the least, on offense this season. The Raiders have just 105 plays of 10+ yards on the season, ranking 89th nationally. I won’t be surprised if this offense plays slowly on Thursday night and tries to have a distinct advantage in time of possession.
The TCU defense is in an interesting position for this game. The logical decision would be to load the box and stop the run, making a sub-par quarterback in Behren Morton win the game. However, TCU has been so bad in pass defense this year that I don’t have much faith in them to win 1 on 1. Furthermore, if you stack the box to stop the run, you run the risk of a linebacker having to match up 1 on 1 with Tahj Brooks in pass coverage. We all know how that’s worked out for TCU this season.
Texas Tech Defense
The Red Raiders are similar to TCU on defense this year, ranking 61st in total yards allowed with 367 a game. The pass defense has been better than TCU’s, ranking 58th. Defensive back Malik Dunlap has 3 interceptions on the season, so Josh Hoover will need to be aware of where Dunlap is when he drops back. Outside of that, however, Texas Tech isn’t too threatening in the passing game. The Raiders have even more trouble than TCU has in forcing interceptions.
The pass rush doesn’t seem like it’s something to be worried about. In 4 of their 5 conference games Texas Tech has just 1 sack per game. Against Baylor, they got to the quarterback 6 times. I expect the offensive line will be able to protect Hoover.
The run defense hasn’t been great. The Raiders allow 147 a game on the ground, so I expect Emani Bailey will have a solid night for the Frogs. Texas Tech is also not great at creating tackles for loss, averaging 5.6 a game on the season (74th). My biggest concern for this game is that Texas Tech does a great job of preventing explosive plays. The Raiders have allowed just 27 plays of 20+ yards on the season, ranking 22nd nationally. I expect the game plan for Tech will be to prevent explosive plays and make TCU beat you in the red zone. Given TCU’s struggles to score touchdowns in the red zone, I’d say that’s the way to go for Tech.
I don’t usually talk about special teams in these because I don’t usually believe that it will be the difference between winning and losing a game. This week, it could be. Let’s look at the numbers.
TCU punt return vs Texas Tech punt returns allowed: The Frogs rank 53rd in average yards per punt return, and have taken one back for a touchdown this year. Texas Tech ranks 47th in yards per punt return and has not allowed a touchdown.
TCU kick return vs Texas Tech kick returns allowed: TCU ranks 35th in average yards per kick return with 22. Texas Tech ranks 33rd in yards allowed per return at just 17.
Texas Tech punt return vs TCU punt returns allowed: TCU ranks 63rd in yards allowed per punt return at 6.9 yards per return. Texas Tech ranks 3rd nationally and is averaging 21.8 yards per punt return. They’ve also taken one back for a touchdown.
Texas Tech kick return vs TCU kick returns allowed: TCU ranks 119th nationally with an average of 24.3 yards allowed per kick return! On the other side, Texas Tech is 9th nationally, averaging 26 yards per kick return, and they’ve returned one for a touchdown.
The message here is simple: don’t be surprised if Texas Tech has at least one huge return in this game, especially with wind gusts forecasted of at least 20 mph. A touchdown on special teams could be the difference between a win or a loss in this game.