1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-2, 1-1)
Bad Guys: TCU Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1)
When to Watch: Thursday, October 11th @ 6:30 p.m.
Where to Watch: Amon G. Carter Stadium | Fort Worth, Texas
How to Watch: ESPN | Watch ESPN
How to Listen: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
The Line: TCU -7 (OddsShark)
2. Uniform Tracker
3. The Big Storyline
I had more time than normal to get this Seven Points post ready and I had more time to deep-dive into TCU’s statistics and figure out what they’ve been really good at and where they haven’t. I keep preaching that game planning for turnovers is not a game plan, but if Texas Tech was to break their current streak of non-turnover games, this just might be it. TCU is one of the worst teams in terms of turning the ball over, a -7 on the year and have an expected turnover margin rate of -3.8 (which is really bad).
Much like Texas Tech, TCU is not an explosive offense. Which is surprising because when I watched the Ohio State game, it appeared that TCU was making big plays all over the field. But accordingly, the stats say that TCU is 92nd in terms of explosive plays, particularly in the passing game, where they simply just haven’t been good overall. TCU doesn’t allow sacks, but they are not completing the big plays. And if we’re being fair, TCU has been pretty good at limiting explosive plays, in the top 30% or so of limiting big plays.
The other possible advantage is that TCU is really in the back half of most of the passing down statistics, so that means when it’s a passing down, TCU isn’t doing a great job of stopping opponents. That doesn’t actually sound like a recipe for success, but if there’s a down where it’s 2nd and 7 or 3rd and 5, more times than not, you’re going to complete that 2nd and 3rd down.
One of the more shocking statistics was that TCU is 122nd in third and short success rate, but is 11th in third and long. This makes very little sense to me and having not had the opportunity to watch a bunch of TCU games (just the Ohio State game) it would seem that TCU would have the ability to get those short third downs, but maybe this is where that relatively new offensive line is somewhat of a problem. Defensively, TCU is good to great at stopping third downs, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the Texas Tech defense is able to force those punts and how the Texas Tech offense is going to be to complete those third downs against the TCU offense.
And the last surprising statistic is TCU 121st on first and goal success rate and 107th in inside the 10 yard line success rate. That means that TCU is having severe problems as the field shortens and if there was ever a time for the defense to be “bendy” this would be it. I suppose that this could all change depending on who is at quarterback, but thus far, this has not been an area where TCU has been good.
Freshman Tracker: Alan Bowman (x5), KeSean Carter(x4), Erik Ezukanma (x2), Ta’Zhawn Henry (x5), Sarodorick Thompson (x4), and Jaylon Hutchings (x1). It was revealed this week that the staff would like to redshirt Thompson because there’s five running backs ahead of him and if he doesn’t get any reps, yeah, I’d like to redshirt him too. Everyone else they want to redshirt. And I really liked this rule, getting to see what Ezukanma can do was really fun and I would have liked to have seen more freshman against a team like Lamar.
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- I think the big thing for the defense is going to be for the defense to keep things in front of them for the game. TCU hasn’t shown a propensity to beat teams deep so it makes sense for the safeties to not let TCU beat you deep. I know that this is easier said than done because this is an area of the defense that Texas Tech isn’t exactly great, but Texas Tech has to force TCU to earn those touchdowns.
- The Best part of the Texas Tech offense is that they just churn out yards and I think that needs to be in large part the running backs and the offense creating those yards. This did not happen on against West Virginia and this is an uphill battle for the offense. But maybe with Jett Duffey at the helm, the TCU defense is on their heels a bit more, but Duffey needs some help here (presuming he is the starter). There should be a full complement of running backs available and so there shouldn’t be any excuses there.
- The offensive line is going to need to give Duffey time so he doesn’t feel like he needs to be rushed into running the ball. TCU is very good at getting to the quarterback on blitz downs we watch from the video below that they’ll bring something that Texas Tech likes to do, which is a safety blitz and then bring the linebacker to create that sack opportunity. Duffey’s escapability should help, but let’s make plays down the field.
- TCU is very good at making standard plays (like a lot of teams) and when they have to deviate from that, especially having to make big plays, they struggle. Where TCU is very good is converting third downs so Tony Jones and Eli Howard really need to be fantastic against whoever is at quarterback for TCU. The kind of pressure that happened in the second half of the West Virginia game needs to be dialed up against TCU.
5. What to Watch
Just an FYI, the Iowa State defense is really good. Like really good and if you’re not worried about this game now, you should be . . . TCU’s offense starts off less than stellar, a fumble, sack, just generally terribleness leads to a ISU touchdown . . . the Frogs eventually get on track, a slant and eventually a bootleg wheel route are nicely designed plays, especially the bootleg as the Frogs are in 12 personnel, so lots of blockers and it’s Reagor that you need to watch out for . . . the touchdown play is another come-backer where the receivers and the line do a really nice job of blocking it up . . . the TCU defensive touchdown seems to be a case of the ISU quarterback holding onto the ball more than he should have and a sack ensues, fumble, and TCU scores a touchdown. This ISU quarterback was eventually replaced by a true freshman against Iowa State, so the Cyclone coaches were not enamored . . . the next TCU sack was a safety blitz that befuddled ISU . . . TCU then turns the ball over trying to make a play giving Iowa State life, but cannot capitalize with TCU eventually kicking the game-winning FG . . .
Big tall receivers seem to be an issue with TCU (as they are with most defenses, not just TCU) just get single coverage along the sideline . . . slightly surprised that the first thing we see is TCU just getting blown off the ball on the goal line with almost zero resistance . . . TCU going to the trick play down by 4 in the second quarter that ends up getting intercepted is probably not a real good sign . . . TCU relies on Reagor to make all sorts of plays and if you wanted to bracket someone, it would probably be him . . . nice throw by the TCU quarterback who drops the pass right there between the zone coverage, nice play . . . the fumbling machine that is the TCU quarterback happens again . . . TCU then gets beat deep with double-coverage right at the play in the end zone and the UT receiver making a really nice play, both TCU safeties are there, but can’t make a play on the ball . . . the TCU quarterback just throws a terrible pass for an interception and near pick 6, has trouble making a play in zone coverage . . . surprised that TCU gets sucked in by the play-action and that could be beneficial with Jett Duffey at the helm . . . TCU only rushes 3 and this is going to be for Duffey if he’s at quarterback, yes, he could run the ball, but I think that Kingsbury wants that to be a last resort, find the open receiver, stick with the play, you’ll be a hero just like Patrick Mahomes and that UT receiver that scores the last touchdown . . .
6. Coach’s Corner
There was no official posting of quotes for TCU head coach Gary Patterson so I’ll piece together what I can from news stories.
TCU coach Gary Patterson made a promise on Tuesday – quarterback Shawn Robinson will play against Texas Tech on Thursday night. But Patterson refused to name Robinson the starter.
It begged the question … If Robinson is available, why wouldn’t he start?
“I don’t know. That’s a good question,” Patterson said. “Why would I tell you?”
Patterson pointed to a similar scenario unfolding with Texas Tech. Red Raiders freshman quarterback Alan Bowman exited with a partially collapsed lung against West Virginia, and his status is unknown.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said he is hopeful all three of his quarterbacks – Bowman, Jett Duffey and McLane Carter – are available for the TCU game. Kingsbury hasn’t named a starter himself, which is why Patterson is taking a similar approach.
“You guys keep asking what I’m going to do with the three quarterbacks I’ve got to play for Tech,” Patterson said. “Why shouldn’t I be as smart as coach Kingsbury? At least look like it, right? Sound like it.”
“The whole key is to be the best team on Saturday,” said Patterson, in his 18th season as TCU’s coach. “That’s how we’ve made it here.”
Historically, the Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1) have been one of the Big 12’s best defensive teams.
This year is no different. TCU leads the conference in defensive yards per play (4.5) and will be tested by a Tech offense that leads the country in yards per game (591.4).
But the offense could be the determining factor in how good TCU will be in the Big 12 this season. And as of Tuesday, it was still unclear which offensive players the Horned Frogs were going to have against Tech.
Patterson said the Horned Frogs could be without two key offensive linemen and needed a couple of wide receivers to be healthy, including sophomore Jalen Reagor, the team leader in catches and receiving yards.
Patterson and the TCU coaching staff has watched film of the Kansas City Chiefs, who are off to a fast start behind former Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Patterson has seen similarities between the Chiefs and Red Raiders in terms of how they utilize run/pass options (RPOs) on offense.
“[Texas Tech] has run some plays that the Chiefs have run, so we’ve prepared for about everything we possibly thought we could see,” Patterson said. “The way [Texas Tech] is doing the RPOs and all the different offensive things they’re doing in Kansas City then it’s … I like my job, so you do whatever you have to do.”
Patterson said it’s unusual for him and his staff to watch NFL film to prepare for a college offense. But the Frogs had an extended break by being off last weekend and used that extra time to scout the Red Raiders via the Chiefs.
“The Chiefs have a very high level of skill level at some of those positions, which really causes even more problems,” Patterson said. “Not just Patrick, but also [WR] Tyreek Hill. The tight end [Travis Kelce]. They’ve got some guys at every position that cause one-on-one matchups.”
Patterson hasn’t been surprised by the success of Mahomes, or even former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the Cleveland Browns, early in their NFL careers.
“They play at a high level and they have confidence in themselves,” Patterson said. “In Patrick’s case, he’s really handling it well. He looks very humble playing, but he plays at a high level. How he handles himself and does things? I’ve been very impressed.”
Light a Fire: The offensive line has been so good this year and they suffered a real dip against West Virginia. They absolutely have the ability to be dominant and they need to be that way against TCU. There will be opportunities and the TCU defense, particularly the rushing defense, is very good, but the line needs to be better.
Eraser Wanted: Demarcus Fields and Adrian Frye, come on down, you’re the next contestant on stopping Jalen Reagor, who is the most dangerous player on TCU’s team and in my opinion, the one guy that absolutely deserves a double-team and is probably capable of being double-teamed. Be pretty tough to double KaVontae Turpin in the slot, but I think that Reagor has the ability to really hurt you I’d be finding a way to make sure he’s covered.
Needs Repair: The pass defense just has to be better and I’m not sure how to make that happen. Heck, David Gibbs is a secondary guru and Texas Tech has a pass defense ranked in the 100’s according to the advanced stats. We can quibble a bit about personnel, and I think that Gibbs has made changes with Adrian Frye getting the start over Desmon Smith. I think we’re getting close to maybe seeing Quincy Addison at safety a bit more if some of the other safeties don’t start making plays out in space. And this doesn’t absolve the cornerbacks, but I think Demarcus Fields, Adrian Frye and Jah’Shawn Johnson are as good as you’re going to get. They’re fine in my opinion, it’s the other two spots that need improvement, between Douglas Coleman, Justus Parker and the other safety spot.
Under the Microscope: Jett Duffey, welcome to the spotlight or microscope or whatever. I think the most difficult thing for Duffey is going to realizing that he doesn’t have to be “the guy” to shoulder the offense. I sorta get that feeling watching him last week and when Kingsbury said that he was not happy with how Duffey tucked and ran so often (albeit it sometimes led to spectacular results), Texas Tech’s success is predicated on a bunch of other players succeeding, not just Duffey and his job is to get the ball into the hands of those playmakers.
Tacos vs. Burritos Matchup of the Week: I need for Antoine Wesley and T.J. Vasher to eat against TCU’s cornerbacks of Julius Lewis and Jeff Gladney. Having the two of them bookended is a nightmare to stop and I’d also guess that Wesley doesn’t have the drops like he did against West Virginia. Hopefully Vasher is fully healthy and can change the math on the outside receiver spot.