Beating No. 22 USC was good, but beating No. 17 TCU, and improving to 3-1 with a 1-0 start to Big 12 play would be even better.
The good news is that Texas is fresh off of arguably its most impressive performance of the Tom Herman era, and things appear to be trending in the right direction. The bad news is that TCU awaits, and the Horned Frogs have had the Horns number every single season since 2013, owning a combined scoring margin of 153-33.
Is 2018 the year Texas finally steps up and takes its lunch money back from TCU? We discuss that and much more in this week’s BON Round Table.
With Texas coming off of an emotional win over USC and TCU days removed from an emotional loss to Ohio State, how do these two teams respond on Saturday and how does that impact the outcome?
Cody Daniel - Co-Editor: I don’t think either team will have too much hangover from last week, but given that Texas isn’t exactly used to handling success, I am more worried about the Longhorns feeling like they’ve arrived, per se, and maybe not playing with that same edge out of the gates. I don’t expect that to be the case, as I’m sure Tom Herman has assured his team that TCU is loaded and has curbstomped Texas recently, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Texas came out slow.
Corey Elliot - Contributor: This is going to be a dog fight. When we look at Texas’ performances in just the last three seasons, one thing that sticks out is the Longhorns’ ability to stick around. Remember, it’s the finishing that Texas has struggled with, not so much the opponents. I think this Texas program is starting to turn that corner. So, if lesser Texas teams of the last three seasons could hang around late and lose by five or eight points, expect this Texas team to do the same, as far as hanging around late goes. TCU is going to bring it. But so is Texas. Last week proved that much. Hopefully for Texas fans, last week’s win lingers in a positive way, pushing the Longhorns to another big win.
Gerald Goodridge - Contributor: As far as Texas goes, I’m of the mindset that the “1-0” talk isn’t just bluster. For the last three weeks, you’ve seen a team that seemed to put the previous week behind them and focus on the task at-hand. That will continue to be of the utmost importance as Texas tries to establish an identity and learn how to close teams out consistently, rather than occasionally. I have zero doubt that a Gary Patterson team will be ready to play come Saturday, since that’s been the teams standard operating procedure for so long. This year’s contest marks the third consecutive year that TCU heads into Texas coming off of what could be a demoralizing loss. Last year it was a 14-7 heartbreaker against Iowa State and in 2016 it was a 31-6 beat down from Oklahoma State in 2016, and TCU managed to put a hurt on Texas in both years.
Wes Crochet - Contributor: Regardless of what happens to TCU prior to this game, Gary Patterson always has the Horned Frogs prepared to take on the Longhorns, and that’s the same expectation for this game.
Texas should enter this game with solid confidence after a resilient effort coming from behind 14-3 to beat USC 37-14, though Texas football has been on a roller coaster for years now so that’s no sure thing.
Abram Orlansky - Contributor: The way TCU lost — leading relatively late and then having Ohio State kick it into high gear — has the chance to be demoralizing. I agree with Wescott and others that Patterson is the conference’s best coach so I don’t expect the Frogs to come out flat or anything, but players are human. It’s tough to have visions of glory so resoundingly snatched away. As for Texas, the second half against USC (and more specifically the third quarter) was the best example of competence combined with opportunism and luck that Texas has displayed in some time. One great half won’t do it against TCU, though, so the danger for Texas is overconfidence. I’m choosing to believe Herman will make sure the guys remember the Maryland and Tulsa games as much as the USC game and thus, stay hungry.
USC may have been that ‘get over the hump’ kind of win, but beating TCU may be an even more significant step towards national relevance. If Texas can pull the upset, how does that impact your perception of where the program is under Tom Herman?
Cody Daniel: I think the simple answer is it would mark yet another sign of positive progress. Record a winning season? Check. Win a bowl game? Check. Finally get over the hump against a prominent opponent? Check. Beating a perennial Big 12 power, which once again looked primed for a 10-win season? Not yet, but we’ll see Saturday. With a win, I wouldn’t say Texas is entirely back, but it would be far easier to buy into this team’s upside than it was after beating a USC team still working through its own kinks.
Corey Elliot: Where is Joe Tessitore? If Texas beats TCU, somebody needs to tell Joe to get “Texas is back, folks” trademarked and start printing shirts. Will Texas be back? Not yet. But the Longhorns will be on their way. Go beat TCU on Saturday and you’re likely looking at a 10-2 ceiling and an 8-4 floor on the 2018 season. I think if Texas can arrive at the Cotton Bowl in two weeks ranked, sitting at 4-1, we can start having serious conversations about the state of the program as an ascending team that could end up winning nine or 10 games this season. That’s what’s on the line Saturday, and everyone in that program knows it. They had to beat USC to prove they refuse the reality of being 1-2 and mockery around the country. Now they have to beat TCU to prove they really are a good team and want to be taken seriously throughout the country.
Gerald Goodridge: I don’t want to overstate the significance of one game, but in the grand scheme of things, TCU could possibly be one of the biggest demons Texas needs to exorcise as a part of its trend of substandard performance. TCU just turned some heads after their performance against Ohio State, and has simply been consistently better than Texas for essentially a decade. A win over the Horned Frogs Saturday not only signals that Texas is rounding the corner, but with Kansas State’s struggles it sets them up to potentially come out of their first six games with a 4-2 record. The Longhorns haven’t had a winning record after their first six games since 2013, Mack Brown’s last year coaching Texas.
Wes Crochet: In general, if Texas does somehow upset TCU, people outside of Austin would start monitoring the Longhorns more closely for at least a week or so. For perception to permanently shift, Texas will need to string more wins together and be in the Big 12 title talks in November. And that’s where my perception lies as well. A TCU win would be great. And if it were to be followed by a handful of losses, it would shift some of my perception back again. A true perception shift comes with more consistent wins in a full season.
Abram Orlansky: It’s one data point, but it would significantly improve my outlook on the future. I have personally been at least a little skeptical since the Herman hire, in the way that any fan would want to see some proof after several years watching what has looked like a snakebit program. Beating one of the teams that has taken our place as a conference contender would, for a week at least, make me feel like I watched some real progress taking place. In other words: beating USC was great but we’ve beaten some overrated teams in the last few years. Beating a legitimate conference top dog (not in a weird rivalry game) would seem a new step in this rebuild.
TCU is abundant with talent at the skill positions and boasts plenty of speed. Which Horned Frogs worry you the most?
Cody Daniel: KaVontae Turpin. See his 138-yard, four-touchdown showing in 2015 if you need an example of why. He’s an electric and explosive receiver, but he can kill a team in a variety of ways, such as in the return game, where he’s added a few touchdowns throughout his time at TCU. Not to mention, with Texas struggling to contain the jet sweep early on, I’d expect TCU to put it in Turpin’s hands a time or two and see what he can do.
Corey Elliot: Trying to find the balance between stopping Darius Anderson and limiting Shawn Robinson is as big a test as this Texas team has faced all season. It’s scary to think about how you disrupt a game manager who can also make plays with his legs while at the same time taking an incredibly talented running back out of the game plan for the Horned Frogs. Texas’ defense will have its hands full. Texas has to have a game similar to Oklahoma State in 2017. They have to show up defensively the same way they did for the Pokes last year.
Gerald Goodridge: Darius Anderson. There’s no reason that a 5’11, 212-pound running back should be named the Human Jetpack. On his 93-yard touchdown against Ohio State, the offensive line gave him a massive running lane and the minute he found it you knew he was gone. He’s not the fastest running back in the conference, but he’s fast enough to beat a defensive back with a decent angle. His size also gives him an ability to run through arm tackles, which some Texas defenders have struggled with through the first three games.
Wes Crochet: Darius Anderson, KaVontae Turpin, and Jalen Reagor. No surprises, no sleepers, just guys who will test you each time they step on the field. And let’s not forget the dual-threat weapon that Shawn Robinson is at quarterback for this team as well.
Abram Orlansky: Competent quarterbacking is so hard to beat and Shawn Robinson gives that to TCU. I think our pass defense is our Achilles heel, with very little pass rush (although when the Horns do get a push, they’re good at finishing with the sack) and coverage that can’t make up for it, so Robinson and his stable of WRs scare me the most.
Last year, the USC game seemed to be the turning point for Todd Orlando’s defense to become an elite group, and aside from a few big plays through the air, they were dominant vs. USC this year, too. After struggling early, are we going to see that same dominance show up vs. TCU?
Cody Daniel: Dominance? No. But I do think we’ll see Texas’ rush defense hold TCU well below its 225 yards per game average, and although I think TCU will enjoy a few explosive plays through the air, I think we’ll see the pressure get to Robinson a couple times and force a bad pass for a pick. I think the result is TCU being held to about 10 points below its average (41), but is that still more points than Texas can put up to keep pace?
Corey Elliot: I think Texas has to compromise. You’re going to have to give up certain plays at times in an opportunity cost approach. Because you won’t completely shut down their offense. But if you take away big plays or fast playmakers as much and as best as possible, you can settle for some smaller plays that don’t break the defense’s back. Bend but don’t break is the cliche for this approach. The defense will show up, but they’ll have to realize they won’t stop everything TCU does. Bring the same intensity as last week, especially in the second half, and know your role and the schemes TCU is going to present. The defense is more than capable.
Gerald Goodridge: I don’t think Texas will be able to completely shut down TCU’s offense like it did late against USC, but if they can manage to slow down the running game and keep some pressure on Robinson, things could go favorably. I think Texas is talented enough in the secondary to capitalize on any bad passes forced by pressure, whether that be scoring directly or putting the offense in a position to score easy points. I think for that to happen, Texas needs Orlando to dial up some pressure with that front six and force Robinson into some bad spots.
Wes Crochet: No, because the opponent is more talented. TCU is faster, more talented at the skill positions, and has a head coach and offensive coordinator who have been on staff each of the past four season when TCU has carved up the Longhorns defense. If Texas shows the same dominance as last week, then it will likely mean this unit took another big step forward and had some players really elevate their play in the game.
Abram Orlansky: I don’t see TCU running the ball much more effectively than USC did, but I do think as I said above that Robinson will hit a few big pass plays. Honestly, the difference in the game may be how well the Texas defense can limit the number and scope of those plays. I don’t think we can reasonably expect Texas to be “dominant” on defense this weekend but I do think they’ll play well enough to win. (Not that I think Texas will win, just that the defense will perform well enough to earn a win.)
On the other hand, the offense is far from perfect, but it has been more explosive and productive. With Keaontay Ingram working his way back and Sam Ehlinger developing, how confident are you that Texas can keep up with TCU’s offense, and in any potential shootouts going forward?
Cody Daniel: TCU may prove to be one of the best defenses Texas will see this season given the complexity of Patterson’s 4-2-5 scheme. Without any turnovers, I think Texas can keep pace, and even outlast TCU if Orlando’s defense shows up, but it’s hard to imagine TCU’s multiple defense, which can feature zone on one side of the field and man on the other, won’t trick Ehlinger into at least one costly interception. This is the kind of game in which any given error could equal a loss, and although my confidence in the offense as a whole is increasing, I’m not confident that Texas can avoid beating itself.
Corey Elliot: I think Texas has the talent to keep up, but I don’t know if that talent is at the point where it can keep up. Whether that’s mentally or just development wise, I don’t know if this squad is there just yet. However, the good news is, this team now knows how it can take off when it has a lead. The only thing different between playing from behind and playing in front is the scoreboard. The offense is the same. Personnel is the same. So if they find themselves down or entering a “shootout” they should have the confidence to say “we can score and we will score.” They fought back against Maryland and exploded against USC. It’s there, I just don’t know if they’re there yet.
Gerald Goodridge: The talent is there, but I think the differentiator is how this team will respond when pressed, because that is what is going to happen against TCU. When USC put the pressure on early, the offense responded well. When Tulsa and Maryland put the pressure on late, the offense sputtered a bit. Specifically for Ehlinger, I think the fourth quarter against Maryland is an outlier, as outside of that one quarter Ehlinger completes 58.5% of his passes and has not thrown an interception. I think the key is if Sam can simply put the offense in positions to win, rather than trying to force the issue too often like he did a year.
Wes Crochet: This offense still probably can’t handle a true Big 12 shootout week in and week out. And on Saturday, if this is a higher-scoring affair, the numbers say TCU’s offense will outpace Texas — and that would be my opinion in that scenario as well.
Abram Orlansky: I am not confident about that. I’m aware Ohio State broke through and put up some points against TCU, but that doesn’t diminish my overall sense that the TCU defense is still light years ahead of the Texas offense. Against USC, for instance, Texas was 10-of-19 on third downs. I doubt the Frogs will have so much trouble getting off the field on third down. Ultimately, while the Texas offense clicked for one half last Saturday, I’m not calling myself convinced they can do the same for 60 minutes against a great defense just yet.
Simply put, TCU has owned Texas the past few years. What will the Longhorns need to do, or prevent the Horned Frogs from doing, to snap that streak and improve to 3-1?
Cody Daniel: For starters, prevent TCU’s explosive plays. Force a questionable kicking game into taking longer field goal attempts. Offensively, Ehlinger has to play pretty mistake-free football and the ground game getting established and helping Texas control the clock could be what gives Texas its first win over TCU since 2013.
Corey Elliot: You have to have the most prepared defensive gameplan. I don’t know if that means pass rush or assignments and schemes. I just know you have to stop TCU from doing everything it wants to do. We saw last week what happens to the offense when the defense comes to life. However you have to bring it against TCU, you better do it almost flawlessly. Defense is going to win this game, not necessarily because of the plays it will have to make but rather the position it puts the offense in on the field and on the scoreboard.
Gerald Goodridge: I think it begins and ends with the Texas offensive line. If they can create running lanes for the backs, whoever is there, and give Sam Ehlinger time in the pocket to go through reads, it’s a different offense. When the threat of the run is there, zone reads, RPOs and play-action allow you to create favorable matchups — which in this case is single coverage on Lil’Jordan Humphrey or Collin Johnson.
Wes Crochet: Limit TCU’s explosive plays, get to Shawn Robinson before he can make big throws and runs, play soundly on special teams, and protect Sam Ehlinger so he doesn’t get put into uncomfortable situations that invite mistakes and turnovers.
Abram Orlansky: Get a consistent pass rush, maintain last week’s stinginess against the run, and get some great decision-making out of Ehlinger. I think Herman was right when he said Texas can beat anyone, but only with their A-game. So far, we have seen about a quarter and a half of A-game.
Prediction time: Are we in for much of the same vs. TCU, or does Tom Herman get these Horns over another major hurdle and beat another ranked team?
Cody Daniel: 31-27, TCU. The Horned Frogs have outscored the Horns by 120 points throughout their last four meetings, so I need to see a win to believe it can happen.
Corey Elliot: I saw so much from Texas last week from a physical and mental standpoint. I think we are seeing a change in progress in this program, and I think there’s an incredible awareness from all inside that locker room that things have to continue ascending. I’m going to say Texas gets it done because once again I think the Longhorns know they have to: 31-27 Texas.
Gerald Goodridge: I think the Texas defense continues a high level of play and the Texas offense does just enough to win. 24-21 on the foot of Cameron Dicker
Wes Crochet:. I’ll split that difference and say TCU wins 31-20.
Abram Orlansky: I think the D does enough to win but the O can’t carry its weight. A moral victory awaits: 20-17 TCU.