Since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012, Oklahoma has dominated the conference.
Of the eight Big 12 championships the Frogs have had an opportunity to win, the Sooners have grabbed six of them, with the 2017 crown coming via a 41-17 victory over TCU at AT&T Stadium.
“Oklahoma is always a tough ballgame,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “[If] you want to win the conference the last few years, it’s gone through Norman. Want to win the conference title? You’re going to have to beat them.”
Including the 2017 title game, TCU and Oklahoma have met nine times since the Frogs left the Mountain West. The Frogs have come away victorious just one time — a 37-33 upset of the No. 4 Sooners in 2014.
Nevertheless, the typically-dominant Sooners currently sit at just 2-2, leaving the quest for the 2020 Big 12 title wide open.
Because of that, TCU sees its matchup on Saturday with Oklahoma as an opportunity to gain momentum and keep the team in title consideration.
“You know, in the Big 12, each week anybody can get beat,” wide receiver Derius Davis said. “I think the person that’s going to win this conference is going to have two losses. So, we just have to come out this Saturday and win this game.”
Whether Davis is right or not, TCU has little margin for error going forward. After falling in both of their home games thus far (Iowa State and Kansas State, respectively), the Frogs are 1-2 and seventh in the Big 12 standings.
With that in mind, here are three keys to TCU coming off their bye week and getting their first win over Oklahoma in six years this weekend.
1. Start fast
After struggling at home thus far, Patterson hopes the Frogs can use their time off last weekend to start fast against the Sooners.
“After playing three ball games having an off week, at the end of the day, you got to play with energy,” Patterson said. “You can tell the energy we had at Austin. [We] didn’t come out with a lot of energy at home. [We’ve] got to find a way to do that.”
In their two losses this season, TCU has averaged just seven points in the first half. In contrast, the win over No. 9 Texas saw the Frogs rack up 20 points in the first 30 minutes.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, has averaged just over 18 points in the first half of Big 12 games this season. If TCU keeps their habit of starting slow, they could see themselves dig into a deep hole by halftime.
To avoid this, the Frogs will need to get the ball to electric players like Davis, who is averaging 13 yards each time he touches the ball this season.
“I felt I can be that guy,” Davis said. “I feel like I’m a playmaker, and once I get the ball in my hands, I feel like I can take it the distance.”
Patterson called the sophomore’s play this year “unbelievable.”
2. Get to the quarterback
If the Frogs have struggled with anything in 2020, it’s getting to the quarterback. Simply put, the defensive line has been a non-factor.
TCU sits tied for dead last in the Big 12 with just four sacks this season. On top of that, the Frogs rank ninth in run defense, giving up 178.7 yards on the ground per game.
While TCU’s secondary has impressed, giving up just under 200 yards passing per game, the Frogs’ inability to create chaos up front has led to Patterson’s typically-dominant defense sitting near the middle of the Big 12 standings.
“We would love to have more pressure, I think anybody does,” Patterson said. “People throw the ball differently when you get a pass rush with a three or four-man rush.”
In his first year as a starter, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler leads the Big 12 with five interceptions. This has largely come from the 11 sacks the Sooners have given up already.
Regardless, Rattler still represents a dangerous threat. The redshirt freshman leads the conference in pass efficiency (174.0) and ranks second in touchdowns (13).
To keep this threat at bay and prevent Oklahoma from dicing them through the air, the TCU defensive line will have to find a spark and show up on Saturday.
3. Protect Max Duggan
After Patterson emphasized the strides his offensive line had made in fall camp prior to the season opener, TCU’s struggle to protect the quarterback has been a bit of a surprise, even after losing three starters.
Horned Frog quarterbacks have been sacked ten times already in 2020, but that does not even tell the full story.
Duggan rarely has time to let plays develop, leading to him often having to scramble out of the pocket and risk taking big hits from defenders.
This cost TCU big-time against Kansas State, as Duggan missed two full possessions and part of a third while getting X-Rays in the locker room after getting hit by a defender.
During that time, backup Matthew Downing threw a 37-yard pick six that would prove to be the game-winning score for the Wildcats.
While Duggan averages just 208.7 passing yards per game, his talent level suggests that number could be much higher given more time. On top of that, a continual lack of protection for the sophomore could see him missing serious time with injury.
The Horned Frogs’ tenth clash with the Sooners kicks off at Amon G. Carter Stadium at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The game will be aired on ABC.