The Texas Longhorns are coming off a 34-27 win over the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan. The game ended on a clutch defensive performance with a forced fumble from defensive tackle Keondre Coburn that was recovered by linebacker Jaylan Ford. Although Texas shot out with a 31-10 lead at the half, their second-half struggles showed through yet again. This week, No. 18 Texas hosts No. 4 TCU in Austin for a game that can decide whether their path to a conference championship still exists.
Last weekend, quarterback Quinn Ewers went 18-for-31 in passing, tallying 197 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders and wide receiver Xavier Worthy were his top two targets with 54 and 45 yards receiving respectively. In addition, running back Bijan Robinson put on a show with 209 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown. But the party kind of ends there. The Horns continue to slow down drastically in the second half, and that remains the biggest worry heading into this week’s matchup.
Below are the PPA and usage metrics for the Texas offense this season. PPA is predicted points added per play compared to the predicted value, which is based on factors such as down, distance-to-go, and field position. PPA helps measure how each player plays above or below that expectation given the circumstances.
TCU allows 26.9 points a game, 396.9 total yards, 146.6 rushing yards, and 250.3 passing yards each game. They rank in the middle of the conference in all of these statistics. Even if we were to claim that TCU is not a top-tier defense, Texas has struggled against much worse defenses such as Oklahoma State and West Virginia in the back half of games. When it comes to seeing how the offense stacks up against standard defensive metrics, Texas defies all analytics. On the other end, the top defensive teams in the conference are Iowa State and Kansas State, which Texas has wins over.
Looking at the TCU defense in detail, they will be without their strongside linebacker Dee Winters for the first half due to a targeting call in their game last week against Texas Tech. Their linebacker unit does not rank very high in the run stopping game with middle linebacker Jamoi Hodge being the only exception. Their defensive line is built more for pass rushing as opposed to run stopping as they frequently give up big runs. Their front seven statistics are tabled below. We should hope that Ropbinson and fellow running back Roschon Johnson can elude the line rush and continue convert new downs down the stretch.
The Horned Frogs passing coverage gives up the most explosive pass plays in the Big 12. We can expect for Texas to take advantage of this early, but whether they can keep that pace up in the back half of games will continue to be a concern.
Quarterback Max Duggan has thrown 24 touchdowns this season for 2,407 yards, with a QBR of 80.1 on the season, only behind Jayhawks’ Jalon Daniels in the conference, and ranking 14th in the nation. He is 23-for-41 on deep passing attempts and has star receivers to aid him in that endeavor. He only has two interceptions, but has taken 17 sacks for 127 yards. These interceptions have come from the short passing game which seems to be his worst performing area relative to other starting quarterbacks in the conference.
In TCU’s high-caliber receiving corps, Quentin Johnston has proven himself as an NFL-ready receiver. His 6’4 frame allows him to beat defensive backs on 50/50 balls, but he is also immensely skilled with the ball in his hands as well. He has been battling an ankle injury in recent weeks that could possibly sideline him for the game.
Derius Davis lines up in the slot and leads the nation in yards after catch. He and Taye Barber provide an equal threat at the lower and medium levels while Johnston and Savion Williams are clear X and Y targets running deep. The Texas secondary has shown its vulnerability throughout the season facing a variety of offenses supported with a quarterback if called on.
TCU wouldn’t be undefeated at this point with a one-dimensional offense. Kendre Miller has been overshadowed this season by fellow Big 12 running backs Bijan Robinson and Deuce Vaughn, but he ranks fourth in yards after first contact for Power Five teams. He has tallied 12 touchdowns and 1,009 yards on 153 attempts this season. Below are the season averages for PPA and usage for the TCU offense.
TCU has a high-powered passing offense that has been the primary reason they have gotten this far this season. As noted in last week’s article, they are also great at holding onto the ball, with their time of possession sitting at 55 percent and 57 percent in the third and fourth quarters. The Texas defense grows susceptible the longer they must be on the field late in the game. Ultimately, there are a lot of deciding factors that go into this game and how it could play out. I would focus on the fact that TCU has proven they can score all game long, while Texas has not. That or, Texas will have to produce a lead early on in the game that is impossible to lose.
The Longhorns are a 7.5-point favorite, according to DraftKings.*
Generally, we have seen a narrative of Texas as a big brand in college football not being able to get back to its heyday level of performance. Their recruiting power is generally on the same level as Oklahoma’s every year, but the Horns haven’t had a Big 12 championship since 2009. I scraped together the total talent composite score from 247Sports for the Big 12 teams back to 2015 when the metric was made. This is an evaluation of the talent on the entire roster for the season, not just that year’s recruiting class. The graph below compares the talent composite to the number of conference wins each year. I chose to do conference wins because it is a more controlled metric as all the teams have played each other every year, and we don’t need to adjust for uneven out-of-conference schedules.
Considering the distribution of Texas’ wins, you would expect them to have an average talent composite closer to the likes of Iowa State or TCU. Meanwhile, Oklahoma tends to perform as expected. Even more so, this trend for Texas seems to be independent of the coaching turnover as well.
Texas has not won a game against a top-five ranked team at home since 1999. I was curious to see how all the other matchups against top five teams have played out over the last twenty-plus years and compiled those games below.
*Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.