Texas travels to Fort Worth on Saturday to face the TCU Horned Frogs at 2:30 p.m. CT on FOX.
For the Longhorns, this game will be about rebounding after a horrific performance against Kansas last Saturday night. Texas remains in control of its Big 12 destiny — but that could all come to an end this weekend.
The BON guys discuss below.
Texas just avoided a humiliating loss against Kansas, but is still 5-2 and in control of its own Big 12 destiny. What should Texas fans expect going into the TCU game?
Wes Crochet — Heading into Fort Worth, it feels like the expectation is the offense will be able weather what is thrown at it while the defense mimics Austin-drivers when there’s even a slight chance of ice or light rain. The issues on defense have become an expectation this season, and that is — of course — a huge problem.
Curry Shoff — I think Texas rebounds this week — and I have no reason to believe this other than blind optimism. Texas — even last year — struggled against Kansas and had fans panicking. This team is worse than last year’s, purely because the defense can’t stop anything, but I think the Longhorns will work to get the Kansas letdown in the rear-view with a solid performance against the Horned Frogs.
Cody Daniel — Texas fans should expect a win. Nothing more, nothing less. Given how Texas has performed essentially since the start of Big 12 play, it would be a big far-fetched to expect a comfortable win, especially on the road. But that said, if Texas is truly aiming to contend for a conference title, then it’s understandable for fans to expect a win against a 3-3 TCU team with it’s fair share of weaknesses.
Evan Kirschner — This game won’t be anywhere close to the shootout that last week gave us. TCU wants to run the ball and control the clock, and I think Texas will look to do the same in order to keep their own defense off the field. If this does get into a somewhat points-fest, though, TCU’s QB Max Duggan has been less than remarkable to start the year. If he’s able to light up Texas, uh-oh Todd Orlando.
You can only fix one -- special teams, passing defense, offensive line -- for this week against TCU. Which do you believe needs to step up against the Horned Frogs?
Wes — As tempted as I am to say special teams to improve punt returns, I’m going with passing defense simply because Texas is getting beat by players that should have no business beating them in the passing game. TCU isn’t a strong passing team this season and yet with the way Texas has been playing, that may not matter on Saturday.
Curry — TCU isn’t going to beat Texas by throwing the ball. That being said, I thought Kansas wasn’t either. I want to say special teams, but thinking back to that final Kansas drive I am going to say passing defense. And that includes upfront pressure as well.
Cody — Offensive line. Even with the struggles, Texas’ special teams has had some notable moments (Jamison’s kick return TD vs. Rice, Jamison’s blocked extra point return, Dicker connecting to win the game vs. KU). And against TCU team whose passing game is virtually non-existent, the secondary could catch a bit of a break. If the offensive line can keep Sam Ehlinger safe and consistently create running games, the Texas offense should produce enough points to come away with a win.
Evan — I’ll go with special teams, where in college football this side of the ball serves as a massively underrated part of the game. Starting drives at the 30 yard line after kickoffs or at the 40 after punts, and vice-versa pinning your opponents inside their own 20, are tremendous advantages, especially against what looks like a defensive-minded TCU team that’s had trouble moving the ball.
Texas has lost four of five to TCU and Gary Patterson. Is this Texas’ new in-state rival?
Wes — No. That record speaks more to how poorly Texas has prepared for this game and how well Patterson’s pulse on Texas has been.
Curry — Texas has one in-state rival and it’s the one everyone pretends it isn’t.
Cody — It’s probably accurate to say the two teams generally don’t like each other, but I don’t think I’d go as far as to say this is a rivalry. I think Baylor is more of a rival than TCU, but that’s just one man’s opinion.
Evan — TCU wishes - no.
TCU is going through some growing pains, but opened as a 2-point home favorite on Saturday. What does TCU have to do to beat Texas on Saturday? Conversely, what does Texas’ offense have to do to counter?
Wes — If TCU can pester Sam Ehlinger enough to limit the offense and keep the scoring low, they could lean on their top-two running backs to take control of this game. And it feels like the Texas offense will once again have to rise up and produce to carry the team to a win. TCU has also been susceptible in the middle and at safety, so picking on those spots could help.
Curry — Protect the football. Texas does a great job of this and still barely gets by in these games. I’m afraid of what the final score could be in some of these games if Texas isn’t able to win the turnover battle.
Cody — The OL needs to keep Sam Ehlinger upright so the offensive can produce as expected. Defensively? Pray, maybe? But seriously, Todd Orlando dialing up some blitzes that are actually effective would go a long way towards overwhelming Max Duggan, and forcing a turnover or two will probably be necessary for the defense to not get embarrassed again.
Evan — Win time of possession. That’s been the gameplan going into every game for TCU, and when it works, they roll. If the Frogs can keep Texas’ defense out on the field, then that’s bad news for the Horns. To counter, Texas needs to establish a strong front seven, and hold the line/ get pressure on the QB to force third downs and punting situations. If Texas can keep the ball in their hands, it should be up to the offense to win, which is ideal
How many points does Texas have to score to beat TCU?
Wes — At least 38 points, maybe 40. TCU is averaging 33 points per game overall and 30 in conference play.
Curry — Probably 40.
Cody — I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Texas needs every bit of 40-plus to win, maybe even 45-plus given that the Texas defense just allowed Kansas to cruise to 48 points.
Evan — 35 points should get it done. I’m not sure TCU is as good as their season averages, but given that they’re up against Texas, it should take five scores to win.
Outside of Ehlinger, who needs to step up for Texas and be a game-changer on Saturday?
Wes — Todd Orlando. Each level of the defense could use more game-changers and play makers, and it’s on him to get those guys into positions to succeed.
Curry — Would love to see the Texas defensive line create pressure. I know it seems like a pipe-dream.
Cody — Brandon Jones. He’s been productive statistically, but he needs to make some key plays to help give that increasingly tortured secondary some confidence, which makes a world of difference at that level.
Evan — Anyone on the defensive line, pick one. I don’t care who, but for Texas to get better they need to create pressure.
Most disappointing Texas player/unit through seven games this season?
Wes — The defensive line. Outside of Keondre Coburn, who takes frequent breathers throughout games, the defensive line has been pedestrian far too often.
Curry — Defense is a given. Offensively, I think I would go with Keontay Ingram. Part of that might be unfair expectations placed on him before the season, but we are entering the eighth game of the season and Texas’ best running back is a converted quarterback who has played the position all of two months.
Cody — I’ll just go with the entire defense. It was well-documented coming into the season that the defense was young and inexperienced, but even with the injuries, there’s not really any excuse for the complete lapses in coverage and missed tackles across the board. This unit is on pace to finish as potentially the worst in school history.
Evan — See my above response. To single out any one player, though, I’ll say Joseph Ossai and Malcolm Roach.
Grade the season so far and what are your expectations for how it finishes now that we know what this team is?
Wes — From a pure record standpoint, 5-2 is about a B+ in my book. When context is added in, it’s a C-. As for the rest of the season, I initially pegged Texas with three losses this season. I’m bumping that down the four until the defense improves. Texas closes the season with Iowa State, Baylor, and Texas Tech. Going 1-2 through that stretch feels too real right now. And that’s assuming Texas can win this weekend in Fort Worth and against Kansas State.
Curry — B to B+. It might be ugly, but Texas is still 5-2 and in position to compete for a Big 12 title.
Cody — Texas lost to two teams that may very well end up in the playoff by one score each, so the sky isn’t exactly falling, though it may seem like that after the KU game. That said, a step forward thus far would have been evident with a win in at least one of those contests, so I’ll say a B. No remaining teams are of the callable LSU and OU are, but I think Texas will drop one more game to either Baylor or Iowa State.
Evan — Texas gets a C, and right now this team looks like it’ll finish at 8-4 with three conference losses. I’m optimistic for a 9-3 or even 10-2 year, but there’s a lot of improvements that need to be made to get there.