John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Not often are the roles reversed like this but in the Thanksgiving Night match-up between the TCU Horned Frogs and the Texas Longhorns it will be the bigger Longhorns looking to play David to TCU’s Goliath as TCU looks to avoid upset against Texas to stay on track for the Big 12 Conference Championship.
For many Longhorn fans being in this precarious position has to be a bitter pill to swallow as they are considered to be college athletics royalty – if not the king, when you consider the financial windfall that entire Athletic Department generates.
But this Thursday will be Texas’ chance to play spoiler when it takes on 5th ranked TCU.
Many assumed the transition from Mack Brown to Charlie Strong could be tough when you assessed their coaching styles; Brown was more laid back whereas Strong is more of an in-your-face disciplinarian. Strong’s methods of “putting the toughness back in Texas” were not received well by all his players and there was an eventual impasse in Austin – adapt or leave.
But it wasn’t until the 23-0 shutout loss to Kansas State, that things started to really turn around for the Longhorns. It was the first time a Texas football team had not scored since 2004 but the frustration sparked a three game winning streak – including a 33-16 victory over the then 23rd ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.
Leading the charge in these victories was an improved rush offense. On the season the team ranks 77th and only averages 154.00 yards per game but during the winning streak the team is averaging 197.6ypg with the bulk of the production coming from senior Malcolm Brown (237 yards) and junior Jonathan Gray (258 yards.)
But against TCU the duo will be facing a rush defense that has only allowed 101.6ypg in the previous three games – 195 of that gained by West Virginia in the 31-30 thriller.
For TCU to experience a bigger thrill of being in the college football playoffs it must take advantage of improved national perception of the Longhorns to impress the 12 person college playoff voting committee.
Its last game versus Kansas was almost a disaster and if not for a 69 yard punt return by Cameron Echols-Luper that swung momentum in the third quarter, people would have been talking in the past tense to describe the good season for the Horned Frogs.
Surrendering a lot of passing yards has to be frustrating no matter the opponent, and even with the team playing well the defensive backfield has been exposed this season. The victory over Kansas was the fifth game that TCU allowed at least 300 passing yards and it can ill-afford to have a repeat performance against an improving Texas offense.
While the season passing stats (212ypg) for Texas may not scare you, the play of sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoops has improved as of late, so the Horned Frog defense will have to respect his arm while still trying to neutralize the talented Longhorn rush offense.
This could also be the last opportunity for quarterback Trevone Boykin to impress the Heisman voters as well. His 3,021 yards and 24 touchdowns are impressive and have earned the junior quarterback the right to be in the conversation but voters seem to be swayed by “in-the-moment” circumstances and that performance against Oklahoma seems to be eons ago. If he is able to lead TCU to victory in Austin – something he did in 2012, he could maybe snag the attention of voters who still could be undecided.
Despite indications to start the season this is easily the most important game for two teams in transition. Defeating TCU would build confidence heading into the off-season as Texas looks to recapture its spot as the best team in the conference. Whereas a solid victory over Texas would move TCU closer to its ultimate goal: its first Big 12 Championship, a berth in the college football playoff and the title of best team in Texas.