Horned Frogs and Red Raiders set for Thursday night game in Lubbock

It feels strange to be a day away from this week’s Texas Tech football game on a Wednesday but that’s where we find ourselves. Joey McGuire’s team will take on the Horned Frogs of TCU tomorrow in Lubbock looking to get to 4-5 on the season and score a win in a rivalry game for the second time this year after taking down Baylor a few weeks ago.

The good news is that the Red Raiders have won the last two games against TCU that were played on a Thursday night.  Both were during the Kingsbury era and both were low-scoring affairs.

In 2013, Kingsbury coached in his first Big 12 game in front of a passionate home crowd that saw Tech jump out to a 10-0 halftime lead at home.  However, TCU would tie the game early in the fourth quarter.

Then, Tech’s starting QB, Baker Mayfield, had to leave the game with an injury forcing fellow true freshman, Davis Webb, to take his first Big 12 snaps in a high-pressure situation.  He responded by tossing a 19-yard TD pass to Bradley Marquez and then leading Tech on a field goal drive to help secure the win.

That night, the Red Raiders forced three key turnovers to help win a game that saw them lose the total yardage battle.  It was one of the few times in the Kingsbury era in which the defense carried the team to a win.

Interestingly, another such instance came in 2018 when Kingsbury led his team into Fort Worth on a Thursday night.  With sophomore Jett Duffey making his first career start one week after freshman QB Alan Bowman was lost to injury, Tech somehow pulled out a 17-14 win.

The key play of the night was Duffey’s 38-yard TD run in the middle of the 4th quarter to provide the final margin.  On TCU’s final drive, Adrian Frye would wrap things up with a massive interception, one of three critical takeaways the Red Raiders would generate.

Tech is hoping that the Thursday night trend can continue tomorrow against TCU.  The Frogs come into the game having lost their last two road games by double-digits including a 41-3 thumping at the hands of Kansas State in their last game.

However, given the way Tech has played in its last two games, nothing is going to come easy.  And, in fact, TCU is still a dangerous team that has picked up a blowout win over the same BYU team that easily dispatched Tech two Saturdays ago.

So let’s look at where the Toads could present some problems this week.  And we will start with one of the few things that TCU does at an elite level.

Can the Texas Tech O-line handle a TCU team that registers sacks in bunches?

TCU is a middling team in the Big 12 so in most categories, they rank somewhere in the middle of the conference.  However, there is one area in which Sonny Dykes’ team is the best in the Big 12.

With 20 sacks as a team, TCU has arguably the best pass rush in the league.  That total is good for a tie for 43rd nationally.

Also, the Frogs’ 2.5 sacks per game average is elite.  That has them sitting at No. 41 in the NCAA.

This is concerning for a Red Raider offensive line that has struggled to pass protect this season and which has shuffled the deck over the open week. Tech has given up 16 sacks thus far through 8 games.  But remember that the passing game has been less of an emphasis since QB Tyler Shough was lost.

There was a time when the Red Raiders were last in the conference in sacks allowed per game but they now sit at 10th.  Still, this TCU pass rush will be a test.

The Frogs have 11 players on the roster who have registered at least one sack.  Linebacker Namdi Obiazor and defensive lineman Paul Oyewale lead the way with three each while three other players have at least two.

The fact that TCU’s sacks are spread out across their lineup is problematic because it means that Tech can’t just focus on one player to stop.  Rather, this aggressive and high-quality pass rush will come at the Red Raiders from across the formation.  How the offense protects Behren Morton will be key because if he is under duress all night, Tech will struggle to move the ball once again.

TCU has a dominant running back of its own, just like Texas Tech

While Red Raider fans are loving the season that running back Tahj Brooks has produced, TCU’s star RB, Emani Bailey has been just as productive.  In fact, it is crazy how similar the stats of the two running backs are.

Brooks has run for 887 yards and an average of 5.5 yards per carry in eight games.  Meanwhile, Bailey has managed to go for 857 yards and 5.3 yards per carry.

The difference between the two is that Brooks has scored six touchdowns while Bailey has only two on the ground.  However, Bailey is a bit more explosive given that he’s got a 74-yard rush this year while Brooks’ long in just 38 yards.

Five times this year, Bailey has topped the 100-yard mark.  That includes his 100 yards on only 12 carries against Kansas State, which was the only bright spot in that game for the TCU offense.

Last year against Tech, Bailey was not a huge part of the offense.  Carrying the ball four times, he had a modest 31 yards.

Still, the TCU ground game was able to dominate the Red Raiders in 2022.  Putting up 234 yards and a TD, the Horned Frog rushing attack paved the way for a 34-24 TCU win.

This year, Tech’s rushing defense is 6th-best in the Big 12.  However, much of where Tech has been hurt has been by mobile quarterbacks such as Kansas State’s Avery Johnson and Houston’s Donovan Smith.

TCU will be starting its backup, Josh Hoover, who is a pocket passer with no more than 26 rushing yards in any game this year.  So Tech must key on stopping Bailey because he will be a huge focus of the Frog’s attack this week.

CU has a prolific passing offense that might test the Texas Tech secondary

While Bailey is TCU’s best weapon, the Frogs’ passing attack is also dangerous.  That balance will make this a potentially difficult night for the Texas Tech defense.

Now, the last time we saw TCU, nothing worked for them on offense in their 38-point loss at Kansas State.  That doesn’t mean that this offense isn’t worth fearing, though.  Rather, it was likely an anomaly.

The question is, which version of Hoover will show up?  In his last two games, his only two starts of the year, he’s been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Against KSU, he threw for only 187 yards and he had a pick as he completed only 53.5% of his passes.  But the week before, he managed to rack up 439 yards and four TDs in a home win over BYU that saw him complete 63.8% of his passes.  However, that day, he did toss two picks.

Of course, Tech hasn’t been able to intercept many passes of late.  In fact, this defense hasn’t registered an INT since September 23 at West Virginia when the Red Raiders picked off two balls.

Overall, the Frogs rank second in the Big 12 in passing yards per game at 289.5.  That trails only Oklahoma.

However, much of that was accomplished with QB1 Chandler Morris running the show.  He isn’t expected to play this week so Hoover will get the call.

Can Tech get after the redshirt freshman and make him look like Kansas State did?  Or, will a week-and-a-half of preparation for the Red Raiders give him the edge he needs to have a big day?  That will be one of the keys of the game.

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