In one of those weeks in the early season when most of the nation’s college teama are still going up against mostly lesser foes in preparation for the start of the all-important and much more challenging conference season, it’s fairly easy to single out the lone head-to-head Big 12 contest on the schedule as the featured game of the week.
TCU goes on the road for a Thursday night game at Texas Tech. In its most basic terms, this will be a game between one of the Big 12’s best defensive teams against a team whose offense is difficult to get off the field and likes to play fast. The Red Raiders, victorious in their first two games against SMU and Stephen F. Austin, have averaged 85 plays a game and 596 yards of offense, mostly through the air. While Texas Tech leads the league in passing offense, the Red Raiders are at the bottom of the conference in defending the pass, yielding just 100 yards less than they average on offense (435 yards a game).
It doesn’t seem to matter who plays quarterback for the Red Raiders. They simply manage to reload and keep on putting up big numbers on the offensive side of the ball. This season the new triggerman is freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield. All Mayfield has done in his first two games as the starter is complete 71 percent of his passes and throw for 780 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Big 12.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson declined to name his starting quarterback right up until game time in the Horned Frogs’ season opener. He went with former starter Casey Pachall, who was replaced midway through the game with LSU by last year’s starter, sophomore Trevone Boykin. There won’t be a starting QB issue this week, though. Pachall suffered an arm injury in TCU’s win over Southeastern Louisiana last weekend and is expected to be out for a couple of games.
Boykin gives the Horned Frogs someone at the quarterback position who poses a dual threat to opposing defenses and brings an added dimension to the TCU offensive attack.
Historically, it is easy to project this contest as a low scoring game, despite the Red Raiders’ high-octane offense, based largely on the fact that Patterson’s teams traditionally play outstanding defense. So far this season, however, TCU has not been up to its usually high defensive standards. The Horned Frogs have given up almost 400 yards a game and 27 points on defense in their first two games. That places them 77th in the country in scoring defense, which is not a place that you would typlcally find a Patterson-coached team.
It wasn’t a defensive battle when these two teams played a year ago, either. Texas Tech came out on top in that game. winning 56-53 in triple overtime. The Red Raiders lead the all-time series with a record of 29-23-3, and also have the advantage when the game is played in Lubbock, as it is this season. The Red Raiders have won 17 of the 25 games they’ve hosted against TCU, with three ending in ties.
The last time the Horned Frogs played at Texas Tech was in 2004. There wasn’t much defense to speak of in the contest, either, with the Red Raiders doubling the score on the visitors, 70-35.
Three Things To Watch For In This Game
- Can TCU get enough pressure on Texas Tech’s young quarterback to force hurried throws and limit his time to find open receivers? TCU has only four sacks in two games (but one of those games was against LSU).
- Texas Tech has converted 60 percent of its third-down possessions so far this season. TCU can not afford to have this happen if it wants to keep its defense fresh. The Horned Frogs do not want to give the high-powered Red Raider offense any more chances to sustain drives and put up points than it needs to. The best strategy for TCU is to limit the number of offensive plays and time of possession, although Tech’s fast paced offense should take care of the latter on its own.
- Playing on the road doesn’t seem to rattle TCU second-year quarterback Trevone Boykin. He is 3-1 as a starting QB on the road in the Big 12, with win last year at Baylor, West Virginia and at Texas, not easy places to play as the visiting team.
Game Prediction: TCU 34, Texas Tech 30
Other Big 12 Picks In Week 3
UMass 13 @ Kansas State 42 – K-State has way too many weapons and this game is the Little Apple.
Kansas 24 @ Rice 38 – Rice looked pretty good on offense at Texas A&M, and KU’s defense still isn’t any good.
Tulsa 10 @ Oklahoma 38 – New starting QB Blake Bell will get the Sooners’ going offensively; Tulsa is not as strong this season.
Georgia State 13 @ West Virginia 41 – Mountaineers are a much better defensive team in 2013, and they still have offensive weapons.
Iowa 24 @ Iowa State 21 – In-state rivalry, but far from a marquee matchup, especially this season. Someone has to win this game, though.
Lamar 14 @ Oklahoma State 49 – Were it not for K-State and UMass, this would be the biggest mismatch of the weekend.
Mississippi 31 @ Texas 38 – Longhorns have much to prove after last week’s horrid defensive show at BYU. Bad week for Rebels.
Last week’s picks: 7-1
For the season: 14-3