With Quinn Ewers & Chandler Morris reportedly day-to-day after missing the last few weeks with injury. Would either quarterback’s return to the field help his team’s offense on Saturday?
- Anthony: The Texas offense wasn’t particularly good vs. TCU with Quinn Ewers (17-39, 171 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) & Bijan Robinson (12 rushes, 29 yards) last season, but I do think it’s clear the 2023 Longhorns have performed better with Ewers on the field. Maalik Murphy has done his job, although three interceptions in two games is not ideal, he’s continued to give the Texas offense a chance to crush teams with its run game. For TCU: who is better at running for his life? The Longhorn pass rush has been elite and TCU’s O-Line has been...not elite. A less-than-100% Morris is probably in grave danger in this game, so likely best if it’s Hoover, though we’ve seen Morris work magic to knock a top ranked conference rival out of the Playoff race before.
- Austin: The return of Quinn Ewers would be a big boost for the offense. Maalik Murphy has shown some upside, but he’s been far too inconsistent. Through two starts, his completion percentage is only 55.7 percent, as opposed to Ewers’ 70.9 percent rate. Murphy’s rapport with wide receiver Adonai Mitchell looks supreme, but Ewers has shown the ability to distribute the ball to all his weapons. Conversely, Chandler Morris’ impending return may not be what Frogs fans are looking forward to. I do like Morris’ game, but Josh Hoover has shown some promise behind center. Subbing Morris in for Hoover wouldn’t necessarily help nor harm TCU’s chances.
- Drew: Texas would get a boost from the return of Quinn Ewers. Maalik Murphy has been fine in his role and did what he needed to do to keep Texas afloat but Ewers is the best chance this team has at making a run to the playoffs. For TCU, I think they are going to have to have an incredible day offensively to keep up with the Longhorns and Josh Hoover looks more apt to do so right now. Hoover probably has the lower floor for performance between him and Morris but if TCU is looking to win this game, Hoover gives them the best chance to do so. Hoover can push the ball down the field better than Morris can and TCU will need some explosive plays to score with UT on Saturday.
- Miles: Texas would definitely benefit from a Quinn Ewers return. Murphy is still a pretty raw talent, and he hasn’t done a great job protecting the football. The passing game is significantly better when Ewers plays. For TCU, I think Chandler Morris gives the team a better chance to win this particular game, but if you’re thinking about the future you have to let Hoover play the rest of the season.
- Russ: I think Texas would benefit from the return of Quinn Ewers, whereas the Horned Frogs are probably better off allowing Josh Hoover to steer the ship for the remainder of the season. Should Ewers not be 100 percent, however, I’d say the Longhorns should roll with Maalik Murphy again, given how poorly Ewers performed against TCU last season.
The TCU defense had 25 missed tackles last week vs. Texas Tech. Among Power 5 RBs, Texas’ Johnathon Brooks is 2nd in missed tackles forced, behind only Texas Tech’s Tahj Brooks. Is the tackling issue fixable and what can TCU do to slow the UT run game?
- Anthony: The open-field tackling stuff is not going to be fixed, so it needs to be a swarm of Frogs converging on the ball carrier immediately. If the initial defender can at least slow down the player to allow the cavalry to arrive that could prevent tiny plays from becoming explosive back-breakers. Perhaps if Johnny Hodges is out of the club cast on his hand and can grasp onto runners that would be nice too, as he was often in the right spot last week in his first game back after the injury, but could not complete the play. The entire Texas offense has to be salivating at what they’ve seen on film from the TCU defense this season; it’s possible we see multiple 100+ yard rushers and multiple 100+ yard receivers on Saturday.
- Austin: In general, yes it’s fixable. Whether it be on the practice field or an infusion of new players, it can be done. However, in this case, it’s not fixable. The defensive line plays a huge role in freeing up linebackers to make tackles and pursue. And the TCU defensive line isn’t a strong point. Against the Longhorns, the defensive line must shed their blockers and get in the backfield to deter Brooks.
- Drew: The tackling issue could be mitigated by a better performance from the TCU defensive line. Many times this year, TCU linebackers have missed tackles as a result of a TCU defensive lineman getting washed down and opening a huge hole in the middle of the run fit. Linebackers need to do a better job tackling but the defensive line also needs to do a better job holding their ground and compacting the space that ball carriers have to work with.
- Miles: If it was fixable it would’ve been fixed after the Colorado game. Blame whoever you want, but it’s been horrendous all year.
- Russ: I’m not sure the tackling issue is fixable because the TCU defensive line has been outmatched in nearly every matchup this season. The linebackers and defensive backs have had a lot of pressure placed on their shoulders this season and unfortunately, they have not consistently shown an ability to make sure tackles near the line of scrimmage.
Is Texas Back?
- Anthony: “Clemsoning” didn’t stop being “Clemsoning” until Clemson won multiple National Titles. Texas isn’t Back until it’s retired the meme. To paraphrase D’Angelo Barksdale, “the meme stay the meme.” That said, the 2023 Longhorns are as close as Texas has been to being Back in a very long time, with Championship-level play on both lines, elite skill talent, and with the transfer portal they’ve been able to quickly recycle out the diva recruits that often plagued the end of the Mack Brown era through now, retaining only the real football dudes while bringing in top football dudes from around college football. If Texas can navigate its very winnable games to close the regular season, win the Big 12 Championship, earn a Playoff bid, and win a Semifinal maybe it can be considered Back.
- Austin: Yes. They have recruited very well in recent years. In 2022 and 2023, the Longhorns ranked in the top-5 in the nation in recruiting. And since 2018, Texas has ranked in the top 15. Along with Steve Sarkisian at the helm, Texas has improved in every season. Even when the Longhorns lose talent to the NFL, they replace it well through recruiting and the transfer portal.
- Drew: I think obviously this Texas team is very good and the best they’ve been since the Mack Brown era. I really feel like they will slip up at some point and miss out on the playoffs though. I also think we can officially declare Texas back when we see repeated success. The Longhorns are about to lose a lot of talent to the draft this offseason and if Sark can show the ability to reload with talent that for me would mean they are back. All power 5 teams should be good at the peak of their development cycles, Texas being back comes from consistency from year to year.
- Miles: This is the most legit Texas team we’ve seen since the national championship appearances. The difference is how the Horns look up front. The offensive line is massive and has plenty of talent, and the defensive front is one of the best in the country. If Texas wins out they’re in the playoff.
Where do you see the Longhorns stacking up in the SEC going forward?
- Anthony: Texas should be in the SEC Championship and 12-team Playoff in 2024, anything less than that is a total failure. The SEC gifted the ‘Horns a cakewalk conference slate in its first season in the league, including only three SEC road games, all of which should be easy wins at down-bad programs (Arkansas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt). Texas will be favored by at least a TD in at least 9 games next season and a non-conference road game at Michigan may not be as daunting with Jim Harbaugh and JJ McCarthy likely fleeing to the NFL. Texas will be fine in the SEC; they’ll have seasons where they compete among the top 5 in the league, which will be good enough to remain in the Playoff conversation all year, but it’s unlikely they are perennially top-2 until Saban retires.
- Austin: I see the Longhorns doing just fine in the SEC. The SEC is overrated due to the top-heaviness of the conference. Sure, Georgia, Alabama, and LSU are typically top dogs. While Ole Miss, Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn can show out every once in a while. But besides the big three, it’s not all too different from the Big 12. If the Longhorns continue their recruiting dominance, I find it difficult for Texas to falter in the SEC. Steve Sarkisian has proved to be a solid coach and Texas has finally started recruiting great quarterbacks again. If Sark has his QB, the weapons will follow. As soon as the Longhorns make the move, they’ll be a top 3 team.
- Drew: I think how Texas fares in the SEC depends on how the fans and administration react to 2024. I don’t think they will be as good in 2024 as they will lose their top two receivers and probably their quarterback to the draft and some growing pains will occur from that transition. If the fans and admin can restrain from overreacting to one year where they do not dominate and they trust the process, they should be very good in the SEC.
- Miles: I think Texas is in a much better position to be competitive and succeed than Oklahoma. They’ll have to continue recruiting at an elite level, and Sark needs to continue making good hires for his coaching staff.
- Russ: I think Texas will be competitive in the SEC. Given how well the Longhorns recruit, Texas should fare well enough based on talent alone, especially given how mediocre some of the lower-tier teams in that conference are.
As this may be the last ever regular season meeting between TCU and Texas, let’s have some positivity and reminisce about the good old days: What’s your favorite TCU victory over the Longhorns?
- Anthony: I’ll go with 2014 in Austin. Josh Doctson had Texas DB Quandre Diggs in an absolute torture chamber. Trevone Boykin & Aaron Green were phenomenal and it was a classic Gary Patterson crockpotting on Thanksgiving night, as the Frogs had done nothing particularly special in the first half but carried a 20-3 lead into the break before exploding for four fourth quarter TDs. Intercepting Tyrone Swoopes four times, holding RB Jonathan Gray, who spurned the Frogs as a five-star recruit, to zero yards on 11 carries, and scoring two defensive touchdowns; it was a defensive masterclass that perhaps TCU fans took for granted during the GMFP heyday. The win guaranteed TCU a share of the Big 12 Title and pushed the Frogs into the #3 spot in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings.
- Austin: Aside from last season, which wasn’t the most exciting game by any means. I’d have to go with the 2019 matchup between the Horned Frogs and Longhorns. Perhaps Max Duggan’s breakout performance, TCU stunned Texas in Fort Worth. Duggan threw for 273 yards and two scores while adding 72 yards and a touchdown on the ground. As for the defense, TCU defenders picked off Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger four times in the win. Rushing the field after defeated Texas never felt so good.
- Drew: Last season’s win in Austin was an incredible experience. I had the pleasure of watching the TCU defense shut down Bijan Robinson and the Longhorn offense from the UT students’ section. Watching the second largest crowd in Texas history go silent on the Kendre Miller sprint to the end zone was magical. College gameday in town, night game, Texas is favored at home and the Frogs control the whole game.
- Miles: I’m going to say 2012. Beating Texas your first year in the conference to get bowl eligible was a big deal for the program as a whole.
- Russ: 2015. TCU dominated Texas 50-7 behind five touchdown passes from Trevone Boykin. KaVontae Turpin torched the Longhorns for 138 yards and four touchdowns, while Josh Doctson added 129 yards and two touchdowns, including one from running back Shaun Nixon. I also have to include 2013 because I was a sophomore at TCU and the game had been delayed three hours due to rain. The bleachers were soaked and many fans (including myself) took turns using the bleachers as a slip-n-slide. Shockingly, I was sick the next day.
Offensive MVP vs. Texas
- Anthony: It’s Emani Bailey time! I don’t care that Kendal Briles seems to forget that rushing plays are allowed or that the TCU OL has been a sieve or that the Texas defensive front is filled with future draft picks. Bailey overcomes those obstacles for a multi-TD, 100+ yard game. He’s the best player on the Horned Frogs’ offense and has to give a monster contribution for TCU to pull the upset
- Austin: For me, it’s a receiver. And I’m anointing Savion Williams as the offensive MVP. He hasn’t produced as expected this season but has looked better with Josh Hoover under center. The Longhorns are stout against the run, yet susceptible when it comes to the passing game. If Hoover can hone in on a reliable weapon such as Williams, the Horned Frogs might be able to keep up with the Longhorns.
- Drew: Give me John Paul Richardson for the offensive MVP. I can’t see the TCU offensive line having much success on Saturday meaning the running game will not be great and Hoover will be under pressure for most of the game. When Hoover is under pressure he generally finds JPR and I can see Richardson having a good game against the Longhorns.
- Miles: It has to be Hoover. Unfortunately for the freshman, the result of this game is reliant upon him being able to make plays through the air to exploit the one weakness this Texas defense has.
- Russ: Josh Hoover. It’s obvious that TCU doesn’t believe it can run the ball effectively, so the Horned Frogs are going to need a 2021 Baylor Chandler Morris-esque performance from the redshirt freshman if TCU has any chance to win.
Defensive MVP vs. Texas
- Anthony: The Safeties. This unit has an unenviable job on Saturday, tasked with controlling the pass game with Jordan Whittington and JT Sanders in the middle & AD Mitchell and Xavier Worthy over the top while also dropping down in run support against one of the nation’s top rushing attacks. Millard Bradford, Bud Clark, and Mark Perry lead the team in missed tackles, combining for 39 missed tackles, with each missing over 20% of tackle attempts on the season, per PFF. If those three win, along with rotation guys Abe Camara, Josh Foster, and Jamel Johnson, the Frogs win. It’s a heavy burden to heap on their shoulders, but it’s time this unit shine bright and deliver on the big stage.
- Austin: Avery Helm. It’s likely star cornerback Josh Newton will matchup against Adonai Mitchell, so Helm will likely be tested with Xavier Worthy, another star receiver on the Longhorns roster. It’s essential for Helm to not let Worthy get deep, as he’s one of the best deep threats in all of college football.
- Drew: Johnny Hodges. I think his return is a very underrated upgrade for the defense both as a player and as a leader and communicator for the defense. Gillespie was much more comfortable dialing up blitzes with Hodges on the field last week and I expect that to continue against Texas.
- Miles: The defensive line. If Ewers isn’t playing I expect Sark to look to establish the run and keep Maalik Murphy out of trouble. It’ll be up to the front 3 to set the tone and force Texas into passing situations.
- Russ: Josh Newton. I’m excited to see how the All-American senior cornerback matches up against Adonai Mitchell, who’s arguably the most talented wide receiver in the conference. TCU’s best defensive player is going to have to make a game-changing play on Saturday.
- Anthony: Texas wins 38-13
- Austin: Texas wins 35-17
- Drew: Texas wins 45-14
- Miles: Texas wins 42-14
- Russ: TCU wins 31-30