Are the Sooners and Horned Frogs primed for another nip-and-tuck affair?
Since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 in 2012, six of the nine meetings between the teams have been decided by one score or less. That includes last year's game, which saw the Sooners hold off a late TCU rally in a 28-24 victory.
Do the two teams have another barnburner in store this year? The Sooners are giving less than a touchdown as they head down to Fort Worth, so the oddsmakers certainly think so. Here's what to watch as TCU tries to spring the upset.
Oklahoma at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -6.5
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
The story of the OU offense in 2020 has been turnovers. The Sooners play brilliantly for stretches, only to be undone by an ill-timed interception or fumble. Quarterback Spencer Rattler has contributed five INTs through four games.
That puts Rattler in a tough spot on Saturday. TCU head coach Gary Patterson has a knack for confusing young QBs and baiting them into mistakes. Rattler settled in two weeks ago after getting benched in a turnover-filled first half versus Texas, but that doesn't mean he's ready for the Horned Frogs' mind games.
It would help Rattler significantly if OU takes advantage of TCU's woebegone rushing defense. The Horned Frogs are surrendering roughly six yards per carry, worst in the Big 12 through three games. Signs point to OU freshman running back Seth McGowan returning to action on Saturday, which should give the ground attack a jolt. Adding UCLA transfer Chris Murray to the offensive line rotation could help open some holes as well.
When TCU Has the Ball
TCU's offensive strategy revolves around spreading the field to stress defenses horizontally, then countering up the middle. Quarterback Max Duggan is particularly effective on designed runs and scrambles when he sees the middle of the field open up.
Additionally, count on the Horned Frogs finding ways to test the Sooners' shoddy tackling. That likely means creating situations in which they're getting the ball into open space to force OU defenders to make one-on-one stops.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch seemed encouraged by the development of the underclassmen that saw more snaps against Texas – players like defensive backs Woodi Washington and Josh Eaton. If the Sooner veterans struggle with tackling early in the game, Grinch probably won't hesitate to bring in some younger reinforcements to take their spots.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson clearly relishes the opportunity to go up against Oklahoma. Despite all the close finishes, however, the Horned Frogs have knocked off the Sooners just one time in their last nine meetings.
Head coach Lincoln Riley's team appears ripe for the taking this year. Even though OU's defense is rounding into shape, self-inflicted wounds by the offense continue to put opponents in spots to add gifted points to the board. TCU should get at least one short field or even a defensive touchdown off an OU gaffe.
The Horned Frogs will need opportunities like that if they want to pull off a win. TCU's aerial attack leaves enough to be desired that mounting sustained drives won't come easy.
Assuming Riley can help Spencer Rattler stay on an even keel for four quarters, this looks like another heartbreaker for TCU. The best performance yet by the Sooners on the ground should pave the way for an OU win.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, TCU 28
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— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.