Over the summer, I wrote approximately 2,000 words on each team in the Big Ten, Big 12, and a few independents. I wrote about a TCU Horned Frogs unit that was loaded on offense with every explosive playmaker that played a part in the surprise 2014 campaign and about a defense that had to replace some important parts. I also wrote about a Texas Tech Red Raiders team that found its feet late in the season and added one of the offseason’s most intriguing hires at defensive coordinator in Houston’s David Gibbs.
But did the Red Raiders peak too soon? Last week Kliff Kingsbury‘s team went on the road and laid a 35-24 beating on the Arkansas Razorbacks in which his Raiders controlled the ball most of the game . . . and Kingsbury took pleasure in rubbing it in. Now all eyes are on his team as they host the playoff-minded Horned Frogs.
THE OFFENSES ARE THERE . . .
TCU’s offensive prowess is well known: quarterback Trevone Boykin is garnering Heisman attention, connecting on 66% of his passes for ten scores and three picks at a clip of 9.4 yards per attempt, and also adding 5.9 yards per carry. His favorite target, Josh Doctson, picked up right where he left off, pulling in catches at 19.2 yards apiece.
But Texas Tech’s offense has been sneaky good, operating at an 8.12 yards per play clip through three games (and gashing a surprisingly poor Arkansas defense for 10.2 yards per pass). Football Outsiders’ “success rate” metric, a measurement of whether an offense gets the necessary yardage in various situations, has the Red Raider offense ranked third in the country.
They’re really good at moving the sticks.
So which one is gonna screw up? Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who took over late in 2014, certainly hasn’t been in the spotlight quite like he’ll be Saturday. Boykin, on the other hand, sure has. Odds are this game will be decided by which quarterback doesn’t make a critical mistake.
. . . AND THE DEFENSES MIGHT NOT BE
That same success rate metric, when applied to Texas Tech’s defense, ranks the Red Raider unit 125th. When Gibbs was hired the new defensive coordinator the hope was that he would bring with him the ball-hawking style of play that made his Houston Cougar defense lead the nation in turnovers. Through three games, the Red Raiders are plus-five, good for eighth in the country. And while opponents have been able to drive on them, Tech has been effective at stopping them from throwing over the top.
TCU’s defense, meanwhile, has not exactly resembled the classic Patterson unit. Youth at almost every position and a bevy of injuries has meant a unit that’s been precisely average, holding opponents to 4.84 yards per play. But the cause for concern comes from Saturday’s game against SMU, in which the Mustangs threw more or less at will.
SO WHO’S READY?
This one’s got all the ingredients of a classic Texas desert shootout . . . so there’s definitely no chance it’ll be a clunker, right? Lord knows Lubbock has been the graveyard of some dreams. But sure, while there’s a strong likelihood TCU comes into Lubbock and blows the Red Raiders out, I’m excited to see these high-powered offenses tee off on some suspect defenses.