Center Stage: TCU-Texas Tech
Sept. 12, 2013 – 6:30 p.m. Lubbock, Texas (ESPN)
The Big 12 Conference takes center stage Thursday night when a rematch of one of the top games of 2012 opens the conference slate, featuring a pair of old Southwestern Conference foes.
TCU and Texas Tech played to a 56-53, triple overtime, Red Raider win in Fort Worth last season. Tonight’s is just their fourth meeting since the SWC dissolved.
Texas Tech holds a 2-1 edge over the Horned Frogs since, and have not lost to TCU in Lubbock since 1991.
The Story Lines
Putting a brewing rivalry aside, the beginning of conference play puts expectations on the line for both teams as they hit the field on Thursday night on ESPN.
TCU was listed among favorites during the preseason to compete for the conference crown at the end of the season. Texas Tech elevated expectations of its faithful after two early, convincing wins.
Baker Mayfield, a true freshman walk-on, has been cast into the limelight with big numbers in wins at SMU and against Stephen F. Austin.
TCU’s defense will give Mayfield his first true test against a valid defense.
Mayfield’s coach, Kliff Kingsbury, is in the honeymoon phase after returning to rekindle some his Red Raider glory day. Supporting him tonight is loud and restless dressed in all black as a part of a “Blackout of the Jones” campaign.
TCU is countering with a whiteout — a similar display to 2010, when Utah held a blackout after College Gameday broadcast from the campus and Frog faithful wore all white to block out the visitor section. That didn’t turn out too well for the Utes.
Trevone Boykin is the starting quarterback after a second exit of anticipated star Casey Pachall, this time due to an injury. Pachall is out eight weeks due to a wrist injury.
Boykin led TCU to bowl eligibility in 2012, his biggest wins coming over Texas and West Virginia.
For TCU to win
TCU enters with the conference’s best defense on paper, and returns All-American Devonte Fields to its defensive starting lineup.
The sophomore was suspended for at least part of the Frogs’ first two games of the season (including TCU’s 10-point loss to LSU), and only saw his first live action late into Week 2’s win over SELA.
The return of Fields means that TCU’s defense is able to do the things it set out to do from the start: use speed to disrupt opposing offenses with tenacious blitz packages and aggressive run pursuit.
Boykin will play a major part in a TCU victory. For the Frogs to have success, Boykin will need to lift TCU with consistent play from his arm and legs. The Texas Tech defense is unlikely to stop both Boykin and running back B.J. Catalon if they are both on their games and running aggressively.
For Texas Tech to win:
The Red Raiders are going to need Mayfield to be the person that the fan base hopes he is. Despite shredding SMU and SFA, the quarterback has yet to face a stout defense.
TCU has arguably the best secondary in the league, if not the nation, but LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger exploited weaknesses. Mayfield must do the same to move the Red Raider offense.
LSU found success in converting third downs on short passing plays and Southeastern Louisiana exposed a weakness of the linebackers’ ability to cover a speedy back out of the backfield.
Tech doesn’t bring an apparent, game-changing running back into the contest so Mayfield may be left to proving himself all alone.
For Texas Tech to have success, big numbers will have to come from the receiving corps.