Who to watch: TCU vs. Texas

Who to watch: TCU vs. Texas

In a marquee Thanksgiving Day matchup, the Horned Frogs travel to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns. With playoff implications on the line, TCU will be looking to pad its already impressive 2014 resume. Here are three players to watch for both teams on Thursday.

Texas

Tyrone Swoopes, Quarterback, Sophomore

After starting quarterback David Ash announced he was stepping away from the game of football after suffering yet another concussion during Week 1 of the 2014 season, all eyes in Austin turned to sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. A player many believed to be the future of Longhorn football, Swoopes has fallen short of the hype surrounding him. Through 11 games this season, Swoopes is averaging only 195 yards per game through the air, the ninth worst passing average in the Big 12. As a result, Swoopes and the mediocre UT offense rank second to last in the Big 12 in total scoring, ahead of only the University of Kansas. While the TCU pass defense may not be the best in the Big 12, Swoopes will really have to play the game of his career if the Longhorns plan to trouble the TCU secondary.

Malcolm Brown/Jonathan Gray, Senior/Junior, Tailbacks

Much like the TCU multi-faceted rushing attack of B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green, UT has found success in 2014 using a two-pronged running back scheme of their own. Running backs Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray rank 8 and 9 respectively in the Big 12 in total rushing this season, averaging a combined 118 yards per game on the ground. With QB Tyrone Swoopes struggling to find his rhythm in the passing game, look for UT to test the vaunted TCU defensive line with Brown and Gray.

Jordan Hicks, Senior, Linebacker

After suffering back to back injury-ridden seasons in 2012 and 2013, Jordan Hicks has finally returned to prominence in 2014 to lead the Longhorns defense in his senior season. In 11 starts, Hicks has recorded a team leading 136 total tackles with two sacks and two interceptions to tack on as well. While the UT offense has given fans little to cheer about this season, the UT defense has quietly gone about their business and kept UT competitive in most games. With the best pass defense in the Big 12, UT has proven that it can often be difficult to score on them. Look no further than the UT vs Baylor game in October that saw Baylor score its second-lowest point total of the season to see just how stubborn this Longhorns defense can be.

TCU

Chucky Hunter, Senior, Defensive Tackle

With the noted struggles of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, the Texas run game will be to try to spark the stagnant offense. The TCU defensive line will be called upon once again to close down running lanes and force Swoopes to test the TCU secondary. Anchored by senior defensive tackle Chucky Hunter, the TCU rush defense ranks third in the Big 12 allowing only 123 yards per game on the ground. With a favorable defensive matchup this weekend, Hunter and the rest of the TCU defense should have little trouble neutralizing the Texas offense.

Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver, Junior

Despite boasting one of the most impressive passing attacks in college football, TCU is without a single receiver ranking in the Top 10 in the Big 12 in receptions per game or receiving yards per game. Quarterback Trevone Boykin has thrown touchdown receptions to nine different receivers this season, spreading the wealth to a wide array of his teammates. In what was a quiet week through the air last week against Kansas, look for leading receiver Josh Doctson to return to form this week in what has become arguably the biggest game of the season for TCU. So far on the season Doctson leads the Frogs in both touchdowns (7) and receiving yards per game with 69 yards/game. These numbers are indicative of just how important Doctson is to the success of the offense, and he will need to step up big in primetime this Thursday.

Trevone Boykin, Quarterback, Junior

It is rare for a quarterback to receive criticism after throwing for over 300 yards in a game. However, with the expectations sky high for quarterback Trevone Boykin, anything less than Heisman-caliber play and complete poise within the offense raises some questions. Boykin was eventually able to rally his team against Kansas, but the slow start didn’t help TCU in the rankings. Undeniably the leader of TCU’s offense, Boykin has taken every bit of criticism in stride this season. Although last week was anything but pretty, Boykin and TCU found a way to win. In Thursday’s nationally televised game, Boykin will once again perform on the biggest stage and look to round out his stellar season in style. See if Boykin can make a statement to the College Football Playoff Committee that the Frogs deserve a spot in the top four.

Prediction

Despite the Longhorn’s struggles this season, as Kansas proved two weeks ago no team should be taken lightly, especially a team with as much collective talent as Texas. A win against TCU would undoubtedly wash away any bad taste lingering in the mouths of Texas fans this season, and would effectively eliminate TCU from the College Football Playoff race. However, TCU will be eager to make amends for last week’s narrow victory over the Jayhawks, and will come out flying to make an example out of the Longhorns. TCU 41, Texas 20.