The Texas Longhorns (5-2, 3-1) will travel to Fort Worth on Saturday for a Big matchup with the TCU Horned Frogs (3-3, 1-2). The Longhorns’ defense has struggled in recent weeks, most recently giving up 569 yards of total offense and 48 points against the Kansas Jayhawks.
Many have questioned whether Texas is truly improving and going 1-0 each week, as is head coach Tom Herman’s motto. The Longhorns will need a convincing win on Saturday to prove to those naysayers that they are still Big 12 title contenders.
Let’s examine three things the Longhorns need to focus on in order to win their next conference matchup and keep their Big 12 title hopes alive.
Win the turnover battle
Last Saturday against Kansas, Texas turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter, while failing to force any turnovers of their own. In addition to the two turnovers, the Longhorns gave the ball to Kansas on downs twice in the first half.
This essentially resulted in a turnover margin of minus-four for the game. It’s unlikely that Texas can repeat that type of performance in turnover margin against anyone remaining on their conference schedule and come out with a win.
The good news is that Texas won the turnover battle in the two games prior to the Kansas game and is No. 24 in the nation in turnover margin with a margin of 0.7. Texas needs to get back to their focus on ball security while forcing some mistakes from freshman quarterback Max Duggan. Duggan has not thrown an interception in 2019, however, he has fumbled five times, resulting in three turnovers. A simple plus-one in the turnover margin would be considered a success this week. This should be very attainable, as TCU is ranked No. 105 in the FBS with a -0.6 average turnover margin this season.
Stop the run
Texas allowed 259 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to Kansas last week. The defense struggled to maintain their assignments in the run game, allowing Pooka Williams to get the edge several times, gaining 190 yards on 25 carries. Additionally, Texas allowed Carter Stanley to gain 65 yards on nine carries.
TCU is a run-heavy offense, with just over 57-percent of their offensive yards coming on the ground, good for ninth in the nation. Leading rusher Darius Anderson is averaging 7.1 yards per carry in 2019 with a total of 588 rushing yards thus far. Additionally, Duggan showed his ability to run the football against Kansas State, amassing 115 yards on just 13 carries last week.
Texas will need to slow down the Horned Frogs rushing attack and force Duggan to beat them with his arm in order to be successful on Saturday. Success in this area would be defined by less than 150 yards given up on the ground, although keeping TCU under their 5.3 yards per attempt average and winning the game would result in a passing grade.
Pressure and Protect
Texas ranks No. 94 in the FBS, giving up a sack on 7.69 percent of their pass plays. At the same time, the Longhorns defense only reaches the quarterback 3.91 percent of the time, which is 111th in the FBS. Sacks are game-changers, and winning teams must pressure the opponent while protecting their own quarterback. The importance of getting pressure in this area is even more important given TCU’s youth at quarterback. Texas needs to record more sacks defensively than they give up in order to be successful in this area.