Texas will return to Fort Worth on Saturday as they search for their first road win against TCU since 2013. Amon G. Carter stadium has not been kind to the Longhorns, who have been outscored 111-41 in their previous 3 matchups in Fort Worth.
TCU has struggled to open the 2021 season, losing last weekend to SMU after barely squeaking out a win against Cal two weeks prior. Gary Patterson's defense was gashed against the Mustangs and has a lot of question marks entering Saturday's matchup. Let's take a look at what to expect from the Horned Frogs on both sides of the ball.
Max Duggan will be facing Texas for the 3rd time in his career and Longhorn fans are well aware at how dangerous he can be, particularly with his legs. As a passer, Duggan appears to be the same player he's been the previous few years. If he's connecting on deep throws, the TCU offense can be explosive and put up points. The problem for the Horned Frogs has been Duggan's inconsistency when pushing the ball down the field. He struggled against SMU despite a solid stat line (16/28 276 yards and 3 TD's).
Former 5-star Zach Evans ended up in Fort Worth following a wild recruitment and is on pace to have a big sophomore season. Evans leads the team in rushing with 330 yards and is averaging close to 8 yards a carry. Kendre Miller serves as the primary backup but Evans will carry a heavy load on Saturday.
In the passing game, the clear #1 target for Duggan is former Texas commit Quentin Johnston. Johnston somehow did not record a reception against SMU so there's a good chance TCU looks to get him to the ball early. Taye Barber, who has seemingly been at TCU forever, has had good games against Texas each of the last 2 years and is coming off a strong performance last week (5 catches for 114 yards and a TD).
The TCU offensive line has not been very good through the first 3 games of the season. Against Cal and SMU, the unit combined to allow 5 sacks. Center Steve Avila left the game last week with an injury and it is unknown if he will be available Saturday. The tackle tandem of Obinna Eze and Andrew Coker is solid, but Texas should be able to create some interior pressure against the TCU guards.
Gary Patterson had to be fuming after his side of the ball allowed 350 rushing yards against the Mustangs. The TCU defensive line offered very little resistance and allowed SMU to rush for 6.7 yards per carry. The Horned Frogs were without several defensive starters this past week and Patterson wasn't too interested in revealing too much when asked if they would play against the Longhorns. Two of those players are DT Corey Bethley and DE Khari Coleman. The return of one or both would significantly bolster the ability for TCU to defend the run.
In the backend, TCU has one of the best corners in the country in Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. #2 corner Noah Daniels has yet to play this year due to injury but could return this weekend. That would be big news for TCU because their corners opposite of Hodges-Tomlinson have struggled mightily.
As a whole, the TCU defense has some holes and the Longhorns should be able to move the ball if they limit turnovers and negative plays. Gary Patterson has fielded much stronger defensive units during his tenure in Fort Worth and SMU exposed several holes the Horned Frogs have, especially along the defensive line and at linebacker.
I fully expect Texas to see a completely different team than the one the Horned Frogs put on the field against SMU last Saturday. It's no secret that Gary Patterson always has his team ready to play Texas. Since joining the Big 12, TCU is 2-8 the week before they play the Longhorns but have a 7-2 record head to head against Texas.
The biggest key for Texas will be slowing down the running game of TCU, specifically the QB run game. Last year, Max Duggan broke off several explosive runs and the Longhorns simply can not let that happen again if they hope to win. Duggan carried the ball 10 times against SMU and it wouldn't be surprising to see him get around 15 carries on Saturday. If Texas can slow him and Zach Evans down, TCU will be in trouble.