Austin, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The sixth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs come calling on the Texas Longhorns in a pivotal Big 12 Conference showdown on Thanksgiving night.
It is the penultimate game of the 2014 season for TCU, which will host Iowa State on Dec. 6 to close things out. The Frogs come into this fray at 9-1 overall, and their 6-1 league ledger has them in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings, along with Baylor and Kansas State. The Bears and Wildcats play each other next week. TCU, which was idle last weekend, suffered its lone loss of the season at Baylor back on Oct. 11. The team has won five consecutive games since.
Charlie Strong's first season in charge of the Texas football team hasn't quite gone according to plan, as the team is 6-5 overall, 5-3 in conference. The Longhorns, who are bowl eligible, can certainly improve their potential postseason destination with a win in this game, and they've been playing better of late with three straight triumphs. Texas has been idle since winning at Oklahoma State on Nov. 15, 28-7.
Texas owns a commanding 62-21-1 lead in the all-time series with TCU, which only recently joined the Big 12 Conference. The Longhorns won last year's tussle, 30-7. The Horned Frogs won at Texas in 2012, snapping a 15-game losing streak in Austin that dated back to 1969.
TCU is one of the top teams in the country, and it comes into week 14 of the season ranked second in the FBS in scoring offense (45.9 ppg) and fourth in total offense (541.6 ypg). Trevone Boykin has been sensational, as he has thrown for 3,021 yards, 24 TDs and only five INTs, while also doing superb work on the ground with 548 yards and seven scores. Aaron Green leads the rushing attack with 677 yards and he has found the end zone six times, while B.J. Catalon has a team-high 10 rushing TDs as part of his 493-yard effort. As for the receiving corps, Josh Doctson leads the way with 43 grabs and seven TDs, but both he and Kolby Listenbee have more than 600 receiving yards.
Defensively, the Frogs have been solid in permitting just 23.1 points and 378.8 yards per contest, with their effort against the run (123.1 ypg) being the stronger aspect of their game. Paul Dawson paces the unit with 105 tackles, 15 of which have resulted in negative yardage, while Chris Hackett has been a true ball-hawk with six INTs. He is tied with Kevin White with 11 passes defended.
Boykin threw for 330 yards and a TD, and Green churned out 128 yards and two scores on the ground to help TCU avoid an upset at Kansas two weeks ago, as the Horned Frogs escaped with a 34-30 victory. Dawson paced the defense with 10 stops, and the Jayhawks hung around due to the 332-yard, two-TD performance turned in by KU quarterback Michael Cummings.
TCU coach Gary Patterson spoke recently about the challenge of facing a seemingly more confident Texas squad.
"They've been playing better and have played well on defense all year. They're really playing with a lot more confidence. They've always had skill players. They stand between us and getting a chance to be 10-1. That's what we're trying to get accomplished."
Texas is one of the weakest offensive teams in the Big 12, as it ranks ninth in scoring (23.7 ppg), passing offense (212.9 ypg) and total offense (366.9 ypg). The team does boast a pair of backs that have amassed more than 600 yards on the season, as Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray have combined their efforts to tally 13 TD. Tyrone Swoopes is a 58.8 percent passer who averages just 195.6 ypg, but he has thrown twice as many TDs (12) as INTs (six). John Harris and Jaxon Shipley are the team's top receivers, melding their performances together to log 117 grabs for 1,547 yards and eight TDs. Harris actually has seven of those scores, and he is just 24 yards shy of 1,000 for the season.
From a defensive standpoint, the Longhorns have performed exceptionally well in allowing a league-low 21 ppg behind typical outputs of 164.5 ypg rushing and 182 ypg passing -- that last figure also placing the squad first in the conference. The 'Horns have two of the top defensive players in the Big 12 on the roster, as Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond are both over 100 tackles for the season, actually totaling 136 and 116, respectively. They have also combined for 24 TFL and 7.0 sacks. Hicks has two INTs, and there are three players (Dylan Haines, Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas) with three INTs each. Texas leads the league in sacks with 37, which is six more than second-place Baylor.
Texas was brilliant on defense in the win over Oklahoma State prior to the team's bye, as it yielded only 192 total yards, including a mere 34 on the ground. Malcom Brown had two of the team's seven sacks on the day, and the unit as a whole came up with a pair of takeaways. When the Longhorns had the ball, it was all Swoopes as he converted 24-of-33 passes attempts for 305 yards and two TDs, with Harris once again his favorite target as he hauled in nine balls for 117 yards and a score. Gray spearheaded the UT rushing attack with 81 yards and a TD on 16 carries.
Coach Strong knows his team is going to face one of its toughest tests of the season this week.
"It's going to be a big challenge for us. Without a doubt we're going to have to play very well in order to win this football game. We're going to have to execute. It's a great challenge for us."