Inside Texas TCU Picks

IT's Bill Frisbie, Ross Lucksinger, Mike Blackwell, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and their reasoning for the picks, for Saturday's match-up at DKR between Texas and TCU.

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Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- TCU returns nine starters from the nation's No. 2 defense, but the choice here for Defensive MVP goes to Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis. His sideways scheme has rendered Jamaal Charles a 'hesitant' and mediocre running back. No defense has slowed Charles the past 11 ballgames as effectively as Davis. Charles hinted there might be more of an I-formation look this Saturday at DKR. Truth be told: it's the scheme he wants.

The word from TCU's coaching staff is that starting TB Aaron Brown (knee) is 'doubtful' for Saturday. Brown was the Mountain West Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. If he is 'out' or ineffective, then the playing field may be leveled for both rushing offenses. TCU's defensive front will be the saltiest Texas faces this side of Oklahoma's, but I'll take Derek Lokey, Frank Okam and Roy Miller in this matchup.

There is no team on Texas' schedule it can't beat if it can run the ball, but there is no team on the slate (save for Rice and Baylor) incapable of beating Texas if the Longhorns run the ball like they did the last game, and the last game, and the last game…

TCU has circled September 9, 2007 on its calendar ever since the matchup was announced a couple of years ago. (Frog fans chanted "We want Texas!" following the 27-0 dismantling of Baylor, just as Texas fans wanted their money back following last Saturday's showing.) The predictable storyline about TCU's snub during the formation of the Big 12 Conference is a non-issue for the Fort Worth kids. For them, that's ancient history waged not on a playing field but rather in smoke-filled rooms at the state legislature. For the Frogs, it still boils down to playing The-University-of-by-God-Texas. They would trade all those wins over the likes of Texas Tech, Baylor -- and even against an inexperienced 2005 Oklahoma team -- for an upset in Austin.

Saturday's game will be dicey, but here's why I think Texas wins: quarterback. TCU's Andy Dalton is a redshirt-freshman making just his second start, and that ain't Baylor's defense he's facing this weekend. Texas QB Colt McCoy is starting his 14th collegiate game; he is one of the few signalcallers in D-I football who is angry because he is coming off of a 22-of-33 for 272 yards performance.

The preseason rhetoric was that TCU wanted to be this year's Boise State by beating Texas. Following the 21-13 stinker against Arkansas State, it is the Longhorns who enter this game with something to prove. Texas 26, TCU 17.

Ross Lucksinger, editor -- If the Horns play like they did against Arkansas State, they won't stand a chance against TCU. But Texas isn't going to play like they did against Arkansas State.

At least they shouldn't. While the problems in the running game and inconsistent linebacking play (just to name two problems) aren't going to go away in a day, but Texas is still a 10-point favorite for a reason. Yes, TCU has one of the best defenses in the entire country. Yes, the Horned Frogs have a five-game winning streak against Big 12 opponents. Yes, Tommy Blake is a beast. Yes, they want this game bad. It won't matter because of the simple fact that the team that scores the most points will win and TCU doesn't have enough on offense to score more points than the Horns.

Not that I expect a lot of points from either team. Texas will be slowed by the stout Frog D, but TCU will struggle as well and, in the end, Texas will have too many individual athletes for TCU to stop. Limas Sweed will eventually be too much for the shorter defensive backs and Frank Okam will be too much for the undersized interior line.

As intimidating as TCU can be defensively, the Horned Frogs just don't have the offense to keep up with Texas. Horns escape with the win, but it again won't be pretty. Texas 17, TCU 14.

Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine editor -- All right, enough with all of this talk about TCU winning Saturday against Texas.

Yes, Texas' win against Southeastern Arkansas State Technical College was not a thing of beauty, but right about now Lloyd Carr would die to be Mack Brown, don't you think?

Do yourself a favor and just forget about last week's game. That was preseason. Colt McCoy missed a couple of open receivers, which he won't do against the Horned Frogs. The Longhorns had a couple of personal foul penalties against the Indians, and thanks to a week worth of hearing about it, Texas won't do that again Saturday either. And had that been a real game, Brown would've kicked the field goal on fourth down instead of going for it, thereby eliminating any discussion of a goal-line stand.

And something else: the Longhorns surely must be a little hacked off by all that they are hearing. They can't run the football. Their run game is too horizontal. They aren't tough enough up front. They can't score on four tries from the three yard-line.

All of that stuff is true, by the way.

Still, in order to win a football game, you have to score a few points, and the Horned Frogs won't. TCU averaged exactly four yards per carry last week against Baylor. How much do you think the Horned Frogs will average against Texas? The Horned Frogs also converted on just 3 of 15 third downs against the Bears. Neither of those stats bode well for the Horned Frogs.

And something else…can we please stop talking about TCU's win streak against the Big 12? Two of those wins came against Baylor . . . are the Bears still in the Big 12? Another win came against Iowa State. The other two came against Oklahoma (thanks to a Norman car dealership, the Frogs would've won that game anyway) and Texas Tech, so those are at least legitimate. But have the Frogs cut a dominating swath through the Big 12? Hardly. But it sure looks good on paper.

Even if the Texas offense struggles again, the Longhorns will be able to score four touchdowns, minimum. Yes, I know TCU had statistically one of the best defenses in the country last year. Two words can explain that: Mountain West.

No, the Texas offense didn't look too good against the Indians, but rest assured the entire playbook was not utilized. Quick, what TCU defender is going to be covering Jermichael Finley this week? Who's covering Limas Sweed? Nate Jones?

Colt McCoy looked peeved this week in his press conference, so expect him to fire away. McCoy will complete 23 of 30 passes, about 10 of those to Sweed for a couple of scores, and TCU will fail to rush for 80 yards, primarily because the Frogs' redshirt freshman quarterback will have to play catch up and throw the ball around. The Longhorns will score a defensive touchdown.

And with the secondary loosened, Jamaal Charles will break a long one and will rush for 100 yards again.

The sky isn't falling. Texas 30, TCU 10.

Michael Pearle, Co-publisher -- It wasn't just that Texas had to eke out a flimsy 21-13 win with help from a botched call on a late onside kick that frustrated me so much last Saturday. The thing that worries me the most, and changes everything about my outlook for this Texas football season, is that the woes that permeated the team during the late season slide in 2006 seemed to still be on display against a gritty but still way under-manned ASU.

I had believed that with spring football and August camp under their belts, with a new defensive coaching staff correcting mistakes, and with the excitement of being under the lights for the season opener, the Horns would come out focused and turn in a performance similar to what we saw OU give in their opener against UNT. Instead, despite a nice overall performance from Jamaal Charles, including a tough TD run in the third quarter, the running game continues to struggle. Did the Horns really get stuffed on four straight running plays on a first-and-goal from the three? I still can't believe it. As for the defense, ASU actually outgained Texas and put up nearly 400 total yards, and seemed to roam up and down the field at will. The D gave up only 13 points, but seven of those came after a 93-yard Arkie State touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to make it scary, reminiscent of A&M's late drive last season to seal that game.

So with TCU coming to town holding the scalps of their last five Big 12 opponents, including OU's, the game Saturday looks to me to be a tossup. Is Texas really as mediocre as it looked last week, or was 21-13 simply a case of a good Texas team taking ASU lightly, and then having to refocus once they realized they were in a dogfight? I think it is a little of both. With a young offensive line and secondary, the Horns are just not yet as good a football team as they figure to be as the season progresses and the team begins to gel. But they will be focused for TCU, a team whose exploits they know all about, and which also hails from the Lone Star State. This will be a game about state pride and respect, and I think Texas will rise to the challenge and play much better football then we saw last week.

Will it be enough? I think so, but just barely. TCU's offense is good but not great, so the Horns should be able to keep the Frogs from doing much offensively. The TCU defense is nasty and will keep Texas in check for most of the game as well, but in a contest that will go down to the last few possessions, the Horns, at home in front of a noisy crowd, will get some of their lost swagger back. Texas 20, TCU 17.

Clendon Ross, Co-publisher – Last week, I wrote that in the Arkansas State game "we're going to also learn what a Duane Akina-schemed defense looks like… and what, if anything, has been done scheme-wise to improve on the '06 offense's anemic running game."

Quite a disappointing start in both areas, I would say. Actually, disastrous if we see the same thing again this week. TCU is imminently beatable, but not by a team playing as Texas played last week.

The problem I see is that the problems demonstrated last week aren't easily or immediately fixable (despite what Mack Brown said). Greg Davis had eight full months heading into the Arkansas State game to come up with schematic improvements in the running game, and if he couldn't or wouldn't do it in that timeframe, it's unrealistic to expect it to happen this week. The offensive line needs time to gel into a cohesive unit (to say nothing of the simple need to perform better individually). The linebackers have been a liability now for going on 14 games, and the personnel remains exactly the same (unless Keenan Robinson is the second-coming of Derrick Johnson and plays that way immediately). And the Longhorn pass defense looked as clueless against Arkansas State under Duane Akina as it did against the 2006 schedule under Gene Chizik.

If the Horns were playing Oklahoma this week, I would pick the Sooners to win by 30. Luckily for Texas, Bob Stoops' bunch is not on the slate for another month. Instead, it's the Horned Frogs, a good but not great team that even without a wholesale turn of fortune in all the areas above the Horns are capable of beating. TCU's offense is pedestrian, led by a new quarterback (Andy Dalton has one start), with questions in both the running game (starter Aaron Brown is a game time decision after suffering an injury in the opener) and in the passing game (against a bad Baylor defense, the Frogs totaled 205 passing yards). Yes, the defense is stiff, but I still believe the Horns can move the ball reasonably well in the passing game if Colt McCoy is again the Colt McCoy of the first 10 games of 2006, well enough at least to overcome what the TCU offense can produce.

As I said on the IT Podcast earlier this week, if I had been forced to make this pick in the first few days after Saturday's near-debacle against Arkansas State, I would have picked TCU over Texas. And I make this pick with great hesitation, and perhaps a bit of wishful thinking. Texas 20, TCU 16.

Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 26, TCU 19.

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