The Texas Longhorns. One of the most recognizable brands in all of college athletics. The Horned Frogs have routinely competed against the Longhorns since joining the Big 12 in 2012. And this season, TCU will square off against The University of Texas for the last time for the foreseeable future as UT looks to depart for the SEC in 2024.
Even before TCU joined the Big 12, the rivalry against UT was born in the early 1900s. And from 1927 to 1995 as a part of the Southwest Conference, the Horned Frogs played the Longhorns every year, albeit with very little success. UT leads the overall series with a 64-28-1 record. However, from 2012 on, TCU leads the series with an 8-3 record.
Last season, TCU’s contest against UT ended up being their lowest-scoring game of the regular season. After scoring no less than 34 points all season up until this point, the high-flying Frogs were held to only 17 against the Longhorns. The game accounted for only 482 total yards. Although such a low-scoring game may typically depict a high turnover total, the game only yielded two total turnovers.
The common denominator was TCU’s defense. The Horned Frogs held the Longhorns to a mere ten points and a one-for-thirteen conversion rate on third down. Perhaps most importantly, TCU completely stymied UT’s potent run game. Texas star running back and first-round draft pick, Bijan Robinson, was held to only 29 rushing yards.
The 2023 iteration of the Horned Frogs vs. Longhorns might be the best game of the entire series. TCU is coming off perhaps its best season of all time. Defeating Michigan in the College Football Playoff, before falling to the eventual champion, Georgia Bulldogs, in the National Championship. As for the Longhorns, they always have some type of hype behind them, but this year does feel a little bit different.
UT’s Offensive Outlook
The Texas Longhorns will almost look identical to the team they had a year ago. However, the aforementioned Bijan Robinson bolted for the NFL after a wildly successful collegiate career in Austin. The Longhorns did add former Georgia Bulldog receiver Adonai Mitchell to their lineup, but the loss of Robinson will be tough to overcome. Robinson not only rushed for 1500 yards, but he also added 314 yards as a receiver. The loss stings even more due to the subtraction of Roschon Johnson, UT’s backup running back a season ago.
While looking for a key newcomer on either side of the ball, only one player stood out, wide receiver Adonai Mitchell. Mitchell was a 3-star recruit by way of Missouri City, a suburb of Houston. The receiver hasn’t racked up gaudy stats in his career, but he does have experience playing against the Horned Frogs. He recorded one catch for 22 yards and a touchdown in the National Championship game. Mitchell will surely post a career-best stat line this upcoming season. He’s a big receiver who stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs 200 lbs. Mitchell is a good route runner for his size and sports strong hands at the point of catch.
As with most young teams, the Longhorns will improve due to continuity. Much of the offense played significant snaps a season ago and will be returning. Starting with the quarterback position, Arch Manning may have made the most headlines due to his last name and recruiting rating, but Quinn Ewers returns as a legitimate starter. Ewers was no slouch on the recruiting trail either, he finished his high school career as the number one prospect in the class of 2021. A season ago, Ewers passed for more than 2100 yards and threw 15 touchdowns.
The Longhorns have surrounded Ewers with a fantastic receiving core. Xavier Worthy, Jordan Whittington, and Mitchell will be catching passes from Ewers. Additionally, Junior Tight End Ja’Tavion Sanders returns. If not for Georgia superstar Brock Bowers, Sanders might be the favorite to take home the Mackey Award for the nation’s best tight end. The Longhorn’s collection of pass catchers may be the best in all of college football.
The running game will be a different story. Texas will more than likely lean on the passing game, but they still employ a solid corral of running backs. Redshirt sophomore, Jonathan Brooks, will be leading the way. Although the Longhorns won’t have a superstar running back to rely on, their experienced offensive line will pave the way for any and every ball carrier. The five up front will be a top-3 unit in the Big 12. Both tackles, Kelvin Banks Jr. and Christian Jones, are extremely talented bookends.
UT’s Defensive Outlook
The Longhorn's defense doesn’t have the same prominent names as the offense, but the unit is solid. A season ago, Texas was slightly above average in most defensive statistics. Leading tackler, Jaylan Ford, returns, but fellow linebacker DeMarvion Overshown took his talents to the NFL. Other than the loss of Overshown, defensive linemen Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo departed for the NFL, and pass rusher Ovie Oghoufo joined the LSU Tigers via the transfer portal.
Ford is going into his fourth season as a Longhorn. He played some as a Freshman and sophomore but was unleashed last year as a Junior. Ford recorded 119 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 interceptions a season ago. Earlier this month, Ford was named to the Butkus Award Watch List. Look for Ford to build on a successful Junior campaign, before entering the NFL in 2024.
Moreover, the defensive line is an above-average unit. Barryn Sorell and Justice Finkey will man the edges. Although neither player has a ton of experience, Sorrell did start last season, and most importantly, he racked up 5.5 sacks to lead the team. The interior line is where the Longhorns excel. Byron Murphy and T’Vondre Sweat are a formidable duo.
The secondary is full of holdovers. Only two newcomers will likely play significant snaps in Gavin Holmes and Jalen Catalon. Last season, the secondary lacked playmakers, as Ford lead the squad in interceptions. The Longhorns will surely look for more playmaking this season. Safeties Jerrin Thompson and Jahdae Barron are the biggest names and coincidentally, should be the biggest difference-makers. Each safety finished top-5 in tackles for the Texas defense a year ago and should repeat this season.
Matchup vs. TCU
The matchup against TCU is in Fort Worth this season. Although TCU reigns supreme in Big 12 play with an 8-3 record, 2 of TCU’s losses have come on their home turf. Texas fans travel well and heavily populate the DFW area, so the home-field advantage won’t make much of a difference for the Horned Frogs.
Luckily for TCU, this game will be played later in the season on Nov. 11. Both teams will have an idea of the talent they possess by this time and will most likely be looking to make a name for themselves before bowl season. The game against UT will likely be the toughest game of the season. The Longhorns have the most talent in the Big 12. However, talent doesn’t always lead to success, but UT does employ many of the same players from the 8-5 team they had a year ago.
This season’s matchup has the potential to be similar to the contest a year ago. If TCU wants to win this game then top-tier defense must be played. UT is far too loaded on offense to compete against in a shootout. Pressuring Quinn Ewers may be key for the Horned Frogs to succeed. Ewers throws a fantastic ball and has great touch, but he isn’t a keen playmaker. When Ewers has the time to get through his progressions, he can hit any receiver at any spot on the field. If TCU can consistently pressure Ewers, he won’t have enough time to hit his dynamic threats down the field.
On the other side of the ball, the Horned Frogs must keep up with the Longhorns' offense to survive this affair. TCU is mostly unproven on offense, thus a receiver or running back would ideally be a focal point to rely on this late in the season. A Chandler Morris vs. Ewers duel may be on our hands in early November. Morris has shown he has what it takes to compete against a good team.
In 2021, while filling in for Max Duggan, Morris threw for 461 yards and 2 touchdowns against No. 5 Baylor in a winning effort. Additionally, Morris added 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Morris will certainly have to excel in the pocket and make plays with his legs if the Frogs want to compete against the Longhorns.
It’s unfortunate the Horned Frogs vs. Longhorns matchup will come to a close. But with how College Football is shaping up, the matchup may occur sooner, rather than later. For now, we’ll cherish the intra-state matchup between TCU and UT, as this game should be an exciting game to watch late in the season.