Twenty-four facts, thoughts and questions before TCU takes on Texas Tech Thursday night in Lubbock at 6:30 p.m.
1- Biggest question for TCU: Is QB Trevone Boykin as good as he looked in the second half Saturday? Boykin will start at quarterback for TCU after Casey Pachall broke his left forearm against Southeastern Louisiana. With Boykin at the helm, the offense scored 21 points in the second half, but were those numbers skewed because of the quality of the Lions defense?
2 – Biggest question for Texas Tech: Is QB Baker Mayfield as good as he looked through two games? Mayfield has completed 71.1% of his passes for seven TDs and also leads his team in rushing yards. However, he posted those numbers against SMU (ranked No. 112 in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game) and Stephen F. Austin.
3 – The game will kick off at 6:30 CDT on ESPN. TCU went 2-2 in games televised on the ESPN family of networks last season. One of those losses came against Texas Tech. TCU lost its season opener against LSU in the Cowboys Classic, which was also on ESPN.
4 – The Horned Frogs lost to the Red Raiders in Fort Worth 56-53 in triple overtime last season. This game could be a chance at redemption as the Frogs go on the road to take on the team that knocked them out of the BCS rankings last season.
5 – Boykin threw four TD passes against Tech in 2012, but also threw two picks. He has yet to turn the ball over this season, and he needs to continue taking care of the ball for the Frogs to get the win on the road.
6 – Even before Boykin was starting, TCU’s offense had been most successful running the ball. Running backs B.J. Catalon and Waymon James both have two rushing TDs and average more than five yards per carry. Things could open up more for them Thursday as the Raiders are forced to account for Boykin’s ability to keep the ball on the option.
7 – Boykin’s athleticism could help the passing game too. If the Raiders play closer to the line of scrimmage or blitz to stop the run, it will create openings in the passing game that Boykin could exploit.
8 – Texas Tech poses a new challenge for the TCU defense. Against LSU, the Horned Frogs had to stop a powerful rushing attack and be prepared for deep throws off of play action. Southeastern’s attack centered around running the ball using the triple option. Texas Tech’s attack is predicated on the pass.
9 – Texas Tech’s “air raid” offense is the No. 2 ranked passing offense in the country. The Red Raiders spread the field with receivers, requiring defenses to play well in coverage and make tackles in the open field. Missed tackles or blown assignments by TCU could lead to big plays for the home team.
10 – The linebackers are one group that could be tested by Texas Tech. Against the Raiders, they will be asked to cover running backs, tight ends and receivers in space, as well as prevent Mayfield from gaining yardage on the ground.
11 – However, TCU’s defense will benefit from DE Devonte Fields making his first start of 2013. Fields should give the pass rush a necessary lift, given that the defensive line has managed only two sacks as a unit this season.
12 – With Fields starting, Mayfield should just hope that he doesn’t end up getting hit like this.
13 – An increased pass rush could force Mayfield into rushed or errant throws, which would give the TCU defense a chance to force turnovers. The Frogs have only two interceptions this season, both of which came against Southeastern last week.
14 – TCU’s best defensive strategy, however, is probably to keep its offense on the field. The longer the Frogs can sustain drives and wear the Raiders down, the less time Mayfield will have the ball in his hands and the more time the defense will have to rest.
15 – Stat that bodes well for Tech: The Raiders lead the all-time series between the two teams 29-23-3, and have won 11 of the past 14 meetings.
16 – Stat that bodes well for TCU: TCU went 4-1 in the Big 12 on the road last season. Texas Tech went 2-3 in conference home games in 2012.
17 – The matchup is the first Big 12 conference game for either team this season, and Kliff Kingsbury’s first Big 12 game as head coach at Texas Tech.
18 – With Kingsbury as head coach, Mayfield’s success shouldn’t be surprising. Kingsbury is used to developing the talent of young quarterbacks. He was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 2012 when Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy.
19 – Kingsbury actually started at quarterback at Tech from 2000 to 2002. In 2002, he threw 45 touchdown passes and won both AP National Offensive Player of the Year and the Sammy Baugh Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top passer.
20 – When Kingsbury took the job at Tech in December 2012, he became the youngest head coach in college football at 34 years old.
21 – Uniform watch: The Frogs went with a simple look last week. For a nationally televised game against a Big 12 rival, expect them to branch out a little more. My prediction: Standard white uniforms with purple chrome helmets. The chrome finish on the helmets will look sharp under the lights for a night game.
22 – Impact player for TCU: S Sam Carter. Carter earned his first interception of the season last week, and is known as a leader of the defense. Against a Tech offense that will put the ball in the air a lot, Carter may have the chance get his hands on the ball again.
23 – Impact player for Texas Tech: TE Jace Amaro. Amaro was injured in last year’s matchup, but he is healthy and ready to go for Thursday. At 6’ 5” and 260 pounds, he presents a matchup problem for TCU’s defense.
24 – This game represents a growing rivalry. There’s a history between these two schools and they often compete for the same recruits. Both teams will come out focused, and fans can expect another exciting chapter in this saga to be written Thursday night.