Texas Longhorns at (4) TCU Horned Frogs (-14.5, 72 o/u)
By the skin of their teeth, the TCU Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) remain unbeaten after four games. The popular preseason playoff pick snuck past Texas Tech (55-52) on the strength of a fluke, last-second tip-drill touchdown. The Horned Frogs will hope for a much more dominant showing this weekend when they return to Fort Worth to host the struggling Texas Longhorns (1-3, 0-1 Big 12) at Amon G. Carter Stadium (12:00 PM Eastern).
The narrow win continued a trend of sloppy performances from TCU, who are now 1-3 against the spread on the year. The Frogs are scoring 51 points per game, as expected, but are giving up 28.2. Considering their first four opponents – Minnesota, Stephen F. Austin, SMU, and the Red Raiders – the coaching staff had to be hoping for better out of the unit, which proved to be the team’s downfall last year.
Except for the outcome, the win over Texas Tech was reminiscent of TCU’s lone loss last season, a 61-58 shootout with Baylor. The Red Raiders racked up 607 total yards in Saturday’s last-score-wins game, including 188 yards and four scores from senior RB DeAndre Washington.
Head coach Gary Patterson is remaining optimistic, though. “The older Gary Patterson is just glad we won by three points,” said the coach.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin, an early Heisman Trophy candidate, has already thrown for 1,470 yards, 14 touchdowns in four weeks. He’s sprinkled in three interceptions, though, and will have to work on ball security if he hopes to take home the stiff-arm trophy.
The good news for Boykin and his teammates is that a porous Texas defense is coming to town. The Longhorns are 104th in the nation in points allowed, giving up 35.2 per contest. Their early 1-3 record has coach Charlie Strong on the hotseat.
The embattled coach knows that slowing the Frogs will be a huge task for his laboring squad. “It’s going to be a big challenge this week. TCU is a very good football team. … The thing we’re going to have to do is just go out this week and make sure the preparation — we have to be on point because in order for us to go forward and play an unbelievable game,” said Strong.
The Longhorns weren’t able to raise their game in week one, getting crushed by Notre Dame, 38-3. They bounced back with a win over an overmatched Rice team, but then fell at home to Cal (45-44) in Austin. They outscored the Golden Bears 20-0 in the fourth quarter, but came up just short in their comeback effort.
As heartbreaking as the loss to Cal was, last week’s setback to no. 24 Oklahoma State (30-27) may have been worse. Tied at 27 with less than a minute to go, Texas punter Michael Dickson bobbled the snap and then shanked his kick, giving the Cowboys the ball on the Texas 18-yard-line. Kicker Ben Grogan gave Oklahoma State the lead just two plays later with six seconds on the clock.
When these two Big 12 programs met last season, TCU dominated Texas, 48-10, easily covering as 4.5-point road favorites. Texas hasn’t showed anything impressive on offense this season, averaging just 178.5 passing yards per game and 166.5 rushing. Their conservative/limited playing style will suit up great for the Frogs to win and cover the spread, taking their second W inside the Big 12 Conference.
Pick: TCU -14.5.
(Photo credit: aaronisnotcool (flickr) “colt handoff” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)