This week the nation will see if the trend continues as the No. 5 Horned Frogs (7-0, 4-0 Big 12 Conference) are set to host the West Virginia Mountaineers (3-3, 0-3) at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
This year marks is the first Thursday night home game for TCU in the Big 12. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
That’s why TCU head coach Gary Patterson said he is treating every day this week as if it is two days later, in regards to routine.
“The funny thing about this situation is that yesterday wasn’t a Monday, it was a Wednesday,” Patterson said. “I’m treating [Tuesday] like it’s a Thursday.”
The Thursday night game isn’t the only recent wrinkle. Both teams are entering the game coming off a bye week. Each team will have had 11 days between games when they take the field Thursday night.
With the extra time to rest and prepare, the midweek contest is expected to be a fast-paced and physical one.
“All of the last three games we’ve played against them have been interesting,” Patterson said. “Their kids always play tough and physical. Their offensive line guys are blue collar, hit-you-in-the-mouth type of guys, and the team has also been playing really well defensively.”
Patterson said nothing should come unexpected to either side Thursday night.
“It’ll probably be a crazy one again, because just like us, they’ve had a week and a half to get ready,” Patterson said. “We’ll see a lot of wrinkles, double passes, you name it. Last time we took the field, we had a fake punt and onside kick against us all in the first quarter. It’ll be interesting.”
The Horned Frogs enter the game undefeated, while the Mountaineers enter riding a three-game losing streak after going 3-0 to open the season.
The Mountaineers took losses at Oklahoma and Baylor in addition to falling to Oklahoma State at home.
While the Frogs boast one of the top offenses in the nation, West Virginia is one of the better defensive units in the Big 12. The Frogs will continue to rely on the air-raid style offense to get the job done.
The Frogs’ defense will be looking to bounce back from another lackluster performance against Iowa State. The Frogs walked out of the first quarter down 21-14 against the Cyclones before shutting them out the remainder of the game.
“We may have been the worst first quarter defense in the nation during the first quarter of Iowa State and then one of the best defenses in the nation during the rest of it,” Patterson said. “Hopefully the last three quarters of the game are closer to reality than the first quarter.”
Patterson said he continues to have faith in his unit despite the struggles.
“I wouldn’t put them on the field if I didn’t trust them,” Patterson said. “Are they further along than they were the first game of the season? Yes. What does that mean? I don’t know.”
This year the West Virginia offense is led by quarterback and Fort Worth native Skyler Howard.
Howard replaces former Mountaineer quarterback Clint Trickett, who announced his retirement from football last December. Trickett revealed he had suffered five concussions in a 14-month span.
While Howard has thrown for 15 touchdowns, he has also struggled, throwing six interceptions and getting sacked 18 times on the season.
The Frogs’ defense will also have to contain wide receiver Shelton Gibson. Gibson has recorded six touchdowns on the season and is averaging 90 receiving yards per game, the fourth best of any receiver in the Big 12.
For Patterson’s unit, the key to containing West Virginia’s offense will be quickly and accurately reading the Mountaineers’ schemes.
“The goal is to be quick but not out of control,” Patterson said. “Statistically I’m not happy with the yards we’re allowing right now.”
The game will also be a chance for TCU to impress the college football world one last time before the playoff committee releases its first rankings of the year next week.
“[The rankings] is not something you can’t think about,” Patterson said. “It’s pasted on my forehead.”
For Patterson though, what matters most is winning each game and not getting overworked by the polls.
“I don’t see any reason to get ‘outside the pocket’ as far as how we think about ourselves,” Patterson said.
This game may very well be the biggest test for the Frogs thus far. The Mountaineers’ defense is easily the best unit the Frogs will have seen since playing Minnesota.
A lopsided victory may not be in the books for this matchup. After all, we’ve seen anything but a blowout over the last three meetings. The goal will be for the TCU’s defense to get off to a strong start, and play the same way it has played in the second half over the past two games. Allow West Virginia to score early on, and things could get dicey.
TCU 48, West Virginia 34