It’s a big day in Austin, as College Gameday is coming to town for a game that could have enormous conference and even playoff ramifications. It’s newly-minted top-4 TCU visiting #18 Texas in what figures to be a true down-South spectacle. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this exciting Big 12 clash.
TCU Vs. Texas Prediction & Pick
One thing that’s key to remember in this one is that while Texas is 6-3, one of those losses is to out-of-conference Alabama, so they still control their Big 12 destiny at this point in the season; they’re conference champs if they win out. And of course, TCU has every intention of winning their next few games and essentially earning an unofficial auto-bid to the playoff as an undefeated Power-5 Champion. So both teams will be highly motivated coming into this nighttime matchup under the bright lights of one of college football’s biggest stages.
Despite ripping off comeback after comeback, and big win after big win, TCU continues to be disrespected by almost every pundit in the country, including sportsbooks, as I mentioned above, and PFF, who sees them as just the 28th-best team in the nation. Sonny Dykes has done an absolutely tremendous job in his first year as the Horned Frogs’ head coach, and this team deserves far more credit than essentially anyone is giving them. On the other side of the ball, Texas is pretty overrated, but that’s not too different from telling you there’s sand at the beach; it’s just a perpetual fact of life. That being said, they’re finally coming off of a very solid win, on the road at a ranked and very hot Kansas State team. We’ll see if they’re able to continue their good form this Saturday and pick up a massive home win, or if the inconsistency that has plagued them all season will resurface once again.
Texas is a talented team, but led by an inexperienced quarterback and volatile head coach, they’ve had their share of ups and downs. Their 10 takeaways outnumber their turnovers by just one, while TCU’s margin of 7 is tied for 19th in the nation. This can sometimes be a fluky stat, but I think it does a good job of providing a concrete representation of Texas’s youth and inconsistency. This is contrasted with TCU’s opportunistic and mistake-free brand of football, propped up by QB Max Duggan, who has only thrown two picks all year. Overall, I’m all in on the Frogs to cover +7, and I’ll also be investing heavily in their moneyline, which is sitting around +225. Texas can be a tough place to visit, but TCU is the better team, and they’re going to keep marching towards the playoff with another outright win. I’m also taking the over; neither of these defenses are particularly special, and both offenses have shown an ability to put serious points on the board, as is often the case in the Big 12.
TCU Vs. Texas Betting Odds
Despite being undefeated and the fourth-ranked team in the country by the CFP committee, TCU enter this matchup as a 7-point underdog, partially due to the bump provided by the huge, and delusional, Texas fanbase. The points total of 64.5 is much more fitting for a potential Texas shootout.
TCU vs Texas Key Matchups
TCU Rushing Offense vs. Texas Run Defense
I’ve talked about this in my previous coverage of TCU, but as much as Duggan has been a driver of his team’s success, slowing down the Frogs means containing their run game. PFF has TCU’s rushing grade in the top-20, and their run blocking in the top-30. They’re the #4 offense in the nation in terms of both total yardage and scoring per game, and their rushing attack puts up the 12th-most yards per game with just under 220. Kendre Miller leads the way with over 1,000 yards on over 6.5 per carry with a dozen touchdowns, while RB2 Emari Demercado and Duggan coming up next with just above and below 300 yards, and 4 rushing scores each. Tackle Brandon Coleman has been great as of late after starting the season a bit shakily- he’s gotten his PFF run-blocking grade over 80- and Andrew Coker has also been strong on the other side of the line.
Unluckily for TCU, Texas might be the toughest run defenses they’ve faced so far. According to PFF, the Longhorns have the 12th-best run defense in the nation, although rushing yardage allowed per game (123.6) has them at a still solid but less exceptional 32nd. They’re headlined by a defensive line duo of Moro Ojomo and Byron Murphy II, both of whom have played exceptionally well, albeit in limited snaps. Jerrin Thompson has been very strong as a safety coming up in the box, and DeMarvion Overshown has been an important contributor as an off-ball linebacker. It is worth noting that Texas are a little deficient when it comes to tackling, just outside of the top-50 in the nation. If they miss a couple of tackles in the wrong spots, it could mean an opportunity for Miller and friends to literally hit the ground running and break off some big games. Otherwise, they could very well force the Frogs to win the ball with the arm of Duggan.
Texas Air Attack vs. TCU Pass Defense
Texas has one of the most elite rushing offenses in the country, but they won’t be able to keep up with the TCU offense by staying on the ground; they’ll need a big night out of Quinn Ewers and the passing game. Truly, they’ve often lived and died based on the air game this year; they struggled without Ewers while he was hurt, and of course when he’s played poorly. For example, he tossed three interceptions in the disappointing loss to Oklahoma State, but last week he was pick-free in the big win over Kansas State. Overall, he ranks just 84th in PFF’s passing grade amongst passers with at least 100 dropbacks. He has had an elite pass-catching group to throw the ball to, the 8th-best in the country as per PFF; the headliners have been highly touted freshman Xavier Worthy, who has 8 scores and is averaging over 14 yards per catch, and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders. The offensive line has also been very solid, ranking 30th in PFF’s pass-blocking grade. Center Jake Majors has been a major leader, and the tackle duo of Kelvin Banks Jr. and Christian Jones have been similarly solid; this key trio has only had one penalty against them accepted all year.
The TCU pass defense has been far from elite; they’re at or below the national average in many metrics, including both PFF’s coverage and pass rush grades. However, they have been opportunistic in terms of turnovers, as I mentioned earlier. Corner Bud Clark has been a serious bright spot, he leads the team in interceptions, allows an NFL passer rating of just over 45, and has the best PFF pass coverage grade amongst qualified players. TCU has just a couple of top pass rushers in the front seven, interior lineman Tymon Mitchell and edge rusher Dylan Horton who have both played relatively well, with pass rush win rates in the mid-teens. They’ll both need to make life tough for Ewers and help create chaos; the secondary won’t create those turnovers all on their own. If they’re able to get in the young QB’s face and make him uncomfortable, they’ll be well on the way to victory, but if he’s able to pass the ball unencumbered, it could be a long night for the Frogs.