Well, TCU’s bowl game isn’t exactly going as planned so far. In addition to injuries that have knocked out seniors like Josh Docston and Joey Hunt, TCU will be without their former Heisman hopeful and elite playmaker, Trevone Boykin, due to some misadventures on the Riverwalk.
They face a Oregon Ducks team which is seeking their 10th win, and you know what? Phooey to TCU’s problems. With a month's worth of preparation for this upcoming game, TCU should be ready for a statement game that can solidify them as the next generation of elite college football royalty, and they’ll do it against an Oregon Ducks team which is elite in name, yet vulnerable by gridiron standards.
Here’s what TCU fans need to know about the Oregon Ducks:
THE OREGON DEFENSE
Oregon, which started the year ranked seventh in the AP Top 25, raised the eyebrows of many when they gave up 438 passing yards to FCS foe Eastern Washington, as well as five passing touchdowns. Even though the Ducks won by 19 points against the Eagles, there were reasons for Ducks fans to become concerned. Defensive backs were routinely burned by opposing receivers, and EWU quarterbacks Jordan West and Reilly Hennessy, who both worked out of the shotgun, routinely found ways to elude Oregon’s defensive fronts.
By the time the Utah Utes went to Autzen Stadium three weeks later, the Oregon defense entirely collapsed as they gave up 62 points as Utes QB Travis Wilson gave the Ducks the full Oregon treatment by getting 327 total yards and five touchdowns by himself through the ground and air. Washington State soon did the same thing, as they left Eugene with a 45-38 win complete with more than 640 offensive yards.
Coming into the Alamo Bowl, Oregon features the 115th best total defense in the nation, giving up an average of 480 yards and nearly 37 points per game. Even without Doctson and Boykin, the Frogs patented offense of the Air Raid should mean that TCU will put up big points and yards on the day. With the entire offensive coaching staff somehow all staying in Fort Worth during the coaching carousel, few schemes will have changed since TCU’s regular season ended.
The same cannot be said about Oregon though, whose signature up-tempo offense lost one of their masterminds.
THE OREGON OFFENSE
Oregon is no slouch when it comes to offense, but the loss of offensive coordinator Scott Frost (who took the head coaching job at Central Florida) is still somewhat worrisome for the Ducks offense.
Frost, who oversaw an offense that averaged 43 points per game, is going to likely be permanently replaced by Oregon WR coach Matt Lubick, who should be calling some plays in the Alamo Bowl alongside current head coach and former Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
Led by a sometimes healthy Vernon Adams Jr. at quarterback, the Oregon offense featured the fifth-best scoring offense and the fourth-best total offense, which is why the Ducks were able to pull together six straight wins to end their season after being questioned on whether they’d make a bowl game after a 3-3 start. That explosive offense was found as the Ducks knocked off both Stanford and USC in back-to-back weeks in November, averaging more than 40 points from both games.
Adams, a grad transfer from Eastern Washington, threw for 2,446 yards and 25 touchdowns compared to six interceptions this season, and ran for 155 yards on the ground as well. His passing has helped push defenses back into pre-set passing coverage and allowed running back Royce Freeman to do damage from the tailback position.
Freeman, a sophomore from Imperial, Calif., ran for 1,706 yards (good enough for second in the Pac-12 and fourth overall in the FBS rankings) and 14 touchdowns this season. He’ll be a slippery runner for TCU to contain in this game, and with his ability to move the ball, expect play-action to be used often to try and catch a linebacker on a blitz or snag a safety into opening up a pocket deep down field.
If TCU wants to stop the Oregon Ducks, they’ll have to get to Vernon Adams quickly and often from the defensive line when he’s passing, and the Frogs will also have to force several third downs. Oregon has a very average third down offense, converting on third down at only 40 percent.
Given Patterson’s ability to plan for a month against Oregon in a game that would give TCU a major feather in their proverbial cap, it’s likely that there will be some defensive schemes that will exploit some Oregon mismatches and give the Frogs an edge in for several possessions.
With TCU and Oregon’s very capable offenses, it’s unlikely that even with Boykin out that the over/under of 71 will be enough. There should be a lot of scoring and big plays in this game, especially if TCU can’t defend against play-action.
This is the 11th consecutive bowl game for the Oregon Ducks, who are widely known as the next generation of the NCAA’s blue bloods, becoming “new college football royalty” as Patterson has explained before.
As the head of a program that’s wanted to be a new modern power that’s respected, Patterson likely couldn’t have drawn a better opponent for a non-NY6 bowl game. With Oregon’s hot winning streak coming into the game, and TCU decimated by personnel losses, a win would mean a major tilt in momentum for TCU as the new premier force in the next wave of college football powerhouses.
Patterson, who has described TCU’s practice in San Antonio as “perfect,” surely can’t wait - and neither can fans. Expect a lot of offense to be made, but expect TCU’s scheme to pair up a little bit better against Oregon’s weak defense.
PREDICTION: TCU 52, Oregon 28.