Following last week’s 66-59 loss to Oklahoma, the Texas Tech Red Raiders fell to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in Big 12 conference play. The failed upset bid against the Sooners was the third consecutive loss for the Red Raiders, who travel to Fort Worth Saturday to take on rival TCU.
Like Texas Tech, TCU has struggled with consistency this season. With only eight scholarship seniors on the roster, the young Horned Frogs opened 3-1, but also dropped a close shootout to Oklahoma in Week 5. TCU then nearly lost to lowly Kansas before escaping 24-23 and was blown out 34-10 at West Virginia following a bye week. Saturday’s home date with the Red Raiders is an opportunity to get back on track before heading into a tough final stretch of the season.
Texas Tech at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: TCU -9
Three Things to Watch
First and foremost, any game that involves Texas Tech is sure to involve plenty of scoring. Not only do the Red Raiders rank second in the nation in scoring offense (50.3 points per game), the Tech defense has allowed an average of 43.9 points per contest, which ranks 127th out of 128 FBS teams. TCU has scored a respectable 35.9 points per game thus far, which ranks No. 29 nationally, though the Horned Frogs surrender an average of 30.6 points per contest, which ranks No. 87 overall.
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II and TCU’s Kenny Hill, who interestingly enough are both the sons of former Major League Baseball pitchers, rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in total offense. Mahomes leads the nation with an average of 507.1 total yards per game and Hill ranks No. 7 with 357.1. Mahomes also leads the country in passing (473.3), while Hill ranks second in the league and No. 8 nationally with 327.1 passing yards per contest.
Both quarterbacks also can pick up yards on the ground: Mahomes has 237 rushing yards with nine touchdowns and Hill has picked up 210 yards with seven scores on the ground. However, Hill has thrown nine interceptions this season, including at least one in four straight games while Mahomes has thrown six, including one in each of his last four outings.
Finally, each QB has a talented set of playmakers. Texas Tech wide receiver Jonathan Giles ranks fifth nationally in receiving (131.0 yards per game) and is leading the FBS with 11 touchdown receptions. Teammate Keke Coutee has 27 receptions for 465 yards and four TDs, and was terrific last week with 172 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches.
TCU running back Kyle Hicks leads the team in both rushing (582 yards) and receptions (30). Hicks averages 5.8 yards per carry, has scored seven rushing touchdowns, and has added 325 receiving yards with two TD catches. Receivers Taj Williams (27 receptions, 541 yards, 4 TD), John Diarse (23-348-TD) and Jaelan Austin (15-225-5) have all stepped up to fill the void left by KaVontae Turpin’s injury, which has sidelined the electric sophomore since Week 3.
2. Rushing the Passer
Both Texas Tech and TCU have struggled to protect the quarterback at times. The Red Raiders and Horned Frogs have both allowed 17 sacks this season, with the majority of those coming in Big 12 play. Texas Tech has allowed at least one sack in every game this season and has surrendered an average of 2.75 per game in conference play. TCU has allowed at least three sacks in each of its last three games.
However, TCU and Texas Tech differ quite a bit when it comes to rushing the passer. The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 with 27 sacks and have three players – Josh Carraway, Aaron Curry and Mat Boesen – that rank among the top six in the league. TCU, which ranks second in the nation with an average of 3.9 sacks per contest, has recorded at least one sack in every game this season to push team’s active streak to 37, which is the second longest streak in the country.
On the other hand, Texas Tech has just 10 sacks thus far – fewest of any Big 12 unit – and hasn’t recorded one during the team’s current three-game losing streak. It’s also worth noting that five of the Red Raiders’ sacks came against FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin in the season opener and they had four sacks against Kansas. Still, Kris Williams is a pass-rushing threat who ranks sixth in the conference with four sacks.
Even if the pass rush can’t sack the quarterback, pressure can cause him to make poor decisions. Last week, according to research done by Bryson Vesnaver of ProFootballFocus.com, Mahomes completed just 14 of 36 pass attempts (38.9 percent) for 240 yards with one touchdown and an interception (which occurred in the red zone) under pressure. He was 39-for-53 (73.6 percent) for 512 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions with no pressure.
Overall, Texas Tech has tossed seven interceptions this season, but has lost only two fumbles (though one led to the Sooners’ first scoring drive a week ago). TCU has turned the football over 13 times. However, the biggest advantage for the Horned Frogs could be Texas Tech’s inability to force turnovers. So far this season, the Red Raiders have created just five takeaways, the fewest in the Big 12 and tied for the second fewest in the nation.
Because of Texas Tech’s elite offense and poor defense, as well as TCU’s very good offense and mediocre defense, both defenses are likely to struggle. However, it seems that more often than not that close, high-scoring games are decided by a single big defensive play. Should that be the case Saturday, because TCU has shown itself to be better at rushing the passer and forcing turnovers, expect the Horned Frogs to make that play.
Prediction: TCU 45, Texas Tech 42
— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.