The TCU Horned Frogs and Texas Tech Red Raiders will square off in Lubbock on Saturday night with their hopes of maintaining dark horse status in the Big 12 on the line.
The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) bounced back from a 70-35 drubbing from the Texas Longhorns two weeks ago by traveling to Morgantown last week and upsetting the West Virginia Mountaineers, 23-20. After playing their last two games on the road, they return home to Lubbock to face a TCU squad that has yet to play a game outside of Fort Worth. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs (2-2, 0-1) are looking to avoid a winless start to Big 12 play after falling to UT a week ago in a 32-27 shootout.
Here's what to watch when the in-state rivals match up on Saturday night.
TCU at Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: TCU -2
When TCU Has the Ball
Despite a middling start to the season, the Horned Frogs have come out blazing on offense this year. TCU is averaging 35 points per game in large part due to a ground attack featuring veteran quarterback Max Duggan and talented runner Zach Evans. While Duggan is a threat to break off big plays on QB keepers, Evans is chewing up 7.8 yards per carry. Evans ran for 113 yards on just 15 attempts last week versus Texas.
The Frogs are moving more in fits and starts through the air. Texas held the TCU passing attack in check last week, surrendering 6.5 yards per attempt. TCU may find a more accommodating pass defense waiting for it on Saturday, as the Red Raiders rank 111th nationally and last in the Big 12 at 268.2 passing yards allowed per game.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
The Red Raiders have gone to backup quarterback Henry Colombi following a broken collarbone to starter Tyler Shough. Even though they pulled out an upset win over West Virginia, the offense looked a little less dangerous with Colombi in charge. A week after the Red Raiders threw for more than 11 yards per attempt against Texas, they were limited to 7.6 by the Mountaineers. (To be fair, the WVU defense had a role in that.)
Tech's aerial attack may take a backseat to the ground game against TCU, though. Opponents are hammering the Horned Frogs with the run, as they're allowing more than five yards per carry through four games. That could mean a big game for SaRodorick Thompson, Tech's productive running back. After missing the first two games because of offseason shoulder surgery, Thompson is slowly rounding into the form he showed last season when he led the team with 610 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while averaging a healthy 5.6 yards per carry. Last week, against West Virginia, Thompson finished with just 48 yards on 12 attempts, but he also scored twice to help pull off the road upset.
Get ready for some points. Neither of these teams is stopping opponents: Texas Tech is giving up 30.8 points per game, while TCU is allowing 27.3.
With Tech playing shorthanded, that would suggest the Red Raiders would struggle to keep up in a shootout. If Tech gears up to stop Evans, it should give Duggan open windows to hit his explosive wideouts, Taye Barber and Quentin Johnston.
Don't underestimate longtime Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson's ability to get his team motivated in what is looking like a must-win game. Unless the Red Raiders generate a few more turnovers than TCU, this should go the way of the Horned Frogs.
Prediction: TCU 38, Texas Tech 35
Podcast: Week 6 Preview and Predictions + Picks Against the Spread
— 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.