AUSTIN, Texas -- Trevone Boykin passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, and No. 5 TCU earned a dominating 48-10 win over Texas on Thursday night that kept alive its hope of pushing into the College Football Playoff.
The win kept the Horned Frogs (10-1, 7-1, No. 6 AP) in the hunt for their first Big 12 title. The question is whether it was impressive enough to impact the playoff standings, where they sit one spot out of contention for a national championship.
The Horned Frogs had an impressive defensive effort, forcing six turnovers, five by Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Defensive end Terrell Lathan scored the game's first touchdown on a 40-yard fumble return.
TCU made Texas (6-6, 5-4) pay for every mistake. Boykin's 10-yard scoring run in the fourth came after a muffed punt return. Defensive end Josh Carraway returned an interception for the final touchdown.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Fifth-ranked TCU took care of business Thanksgiving night, knocking off Texas 48-10 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to improve to 10-1 on the year. Here's how the game was won:
How the game was won: TCU smothered Texas' offense from the start, shutting down its running backs (29 yards on 21 carries) and pressuring Tyrone Swoopes into committing five of the Longhorns' six turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Horned Frogs' offense finally got rolling in the second half against a typically stout Texas defense.
Game ball goes to: Josh Doctson and Paul Dawson. Two of TCU's best stepped up in a big way. Dawson racked up 10 tackles and an interception, and was all over the place. Doctson had two of the game's biggest catches, a 38-yarder to set up TCU's first offensive score and a 22-yard TD. He finished with 115 yards on seven catches.
What it means: TCU, now 2-0 in Thanksgiving games at Texas since joining the Big 12, got some good revenge for its 23-point loss to the Horns last year and got a chance to make a statement in front of a national TV audience. Quarterback Trevone Boykin (283 total yards, three TDs) was challenged by this Texas defense but had some nice moments that will help his Heisman hopes.
Playoff implication: There will be a lot of folks comparing Baylor's 28-7 win over Texas on Oct. 4 to this game. Both teams did shut down Texas' offense from start to finish. TCU's showing felt a bit more dominant -- Texas trailed 13-0 after one quarter and never really stood a chance after that -- and a 38-point road win over a team that had won three in a row definitely will look good on the résumé.
What's next: Texas finishes its regular season 6-6. Facing an SEC team in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl or the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, both on Jan. 29, appears to be the Longhorns' most likely destination. TCU has one game left, a home finale against Iowa State on Dec. 6 that could feel a lot like a victory lap for at least a share of the Big 12 title.
The No. 5 Horned Frogs will put their College Football Playoff hopes on the line against a surging Texas team that enters its senior night on a three-game win streak. TCU, fresh off a bye, can move to 10-1 and exact a little revenge after losing to the Longhorns 30-7 last year
Below, Max Olson and I break down this critical Big 12 matchup:
How TCU can control the game: Get off to a quick start. An early lead would not only give TCU immediate control, it would put pressure on Texas to throw the ball more than it would like. The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 in forced turnovers by a wide margin. If they can force Texas into obvious passing downs, opportunistic playmakers like linebacker Paul Dawson and safety Chris Hackett will have their chances to produce game-changing plays defensively, as they have all season. -- Trotter
How Texas can control the game: Charlie Strong will always answer this question with defense, and his has been responsible for allowing just 16.1 points per game in Big 12 play. The bye week gave his staff more time to find ways to confuse and pressure Trevone Boykin. Takeaways and responsible run defense are a must this week. On offense, a patchwork line has to continue progressing and find a way to win more battles than it loses up front. -- Olson
TCU's X factor: The interior offensive line trio of center Joey Hunt and guards Brady Foltz and Jamelle Naff. They will be facing off against one of the top defensive tackles in the country in Malcom Brown, who has the talent to blow up the middle of opposing lines. The Horned Frogs need to keep Brown at bay so the rest of the offense can function on schedule. That tall task will fall on Hunt, Foltz and Naff, who will have their biggest challenge of the season on Thursday. -- Trotter
Texas' X factor: Tyrone Swoopes, of course. Texas has a few speedsters up its sleeve in Daje Johnson and Armanti Foreman, who change the game in an instant. Keep an eye on them. But ultimately, Texas' hopes of pulling the upset will hinge on Swoopes stepping up in big moments and avoiding costly mistakes and turnovers. It might take an A-game from him to beat these Frogs. -- Olson
What a win would mean for TCU: This will be the final chance for TCU to impress the playoff selection committee. A win, especially a dominant one, would leave a lasting impression in the minds of those 12 committee members. A win would also put TCU a home win over Iowa State away from gaining at least a share of the Big 12 title. -- Trotter
What a win would mean for Texas: A home win over one of the nation's best probably wouldn't greatly alter the Longhorns' bowl destination, but it could be a total game-changer for Strong and his rebuilding efforts. In terms of recruiting, fan support and offseason morale, beating TCU to finish the Big 12 season on a four-game win streak would be monumental and set Texas up to take the next big step in 2015. -- Olson
TCU QB Trevone Boykin: He's had a terrific season. He's made big plays and won big games. He's had a couple Heisman moments along the way. On Thursday night, the spotlight shines bright on Boykin in front of a national TV audience and against the Big 12's No. 1 scoring defense. A huge game just might secure Boykin's ticket to New York. Oh, and TCU also needs to win to keep it College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Texas Tech CB Tevin Madison: The true freshman has quietly had a really solid debut season (six pass breakups, 49 tackles, one INT) and will be put to the test by Baylor in a week when top corner Justis Nelson (concussion) is questionable and might also have to play some safety. No matter which Bears receivers he gets matched up against, Madison and fellow rookie Nigel Bethel II have to hold their own. No question Bryce Petty will try to pick on them.
Texas WR/RB Daje Johnson: When will the Texas speedster finally get unleashed? Since returning from suspension and a subsequent injury, Johnson has been used almost exclusively on sweep plays. He's averaging 12.5 yards per rush. Against No. 5 TCU, the program he decommitted from to become a Longhorn, Texas will need all the offensive firepower it can muster. So now might be a good time to let Johnson loose and see what he can do in the pass game and in the open field.
Kansas State RB Charles Jones: Last week, I put K-State running back DeMarcus Robinson on this spotlight list. That did not go well. His six rushes against West Virginia netted minus-7 yards, and the Wildcats had a grand total of 1 rushing yard on the night. So how about you, Charles Jones? What do you have to offer this week against the Kansas defense that just gave up the best rushing performance in FBS history?
Baylor CB Ryan Reid: Give the Bears credit: Entering their final two games of Big 12 play, they have few lingering injury issues. They've replaced their losses on the right side of the offensive line and at defensive end. Tion Wright did a solid job of replacing Reid last week, but Art Briles says the starting corner's hip injury won't hold him out this week. He's a critical piece for the finale against Kansas State and especially if the Bears make it into the playoff.
Iowa State RB DeVondrick Nealy: What is it going to take to win a conference game? The Cyclones came close against Texas Tech and might be able to surprise a slipping West Virginia team. You have to like what Nealy provided last week with 109 total yards of offense, his best performance since the last time ISU won a game (Oct. 11 vs. Toledo). Get the ball in this dude's hands and see if the Mountaineers can catch him.
We've been tracking this not-so-advanced statistic on Texas' defense throughout the season because it continues to amaze.
Texas' defense has been responsible for allowing a total of 129 points in Big 12 play this season, an average of 16.1 points per game. Throw out the special teams TDs and the offensive turnovers for scores and you get 129. It's a pretty impressive number.
Last season, against these same eight Big 12 opponents Texas has already faced, the Horns' defense was responsible for 185 points allowed. Scoring against Texas' defense is down 30 percent in Big 12 play under Charlie Strong, Vance Bedford and the new coaching staff.
You can credit that substantial improvement to a few things, and the number of veterans Texas has on D is certainly one of them. But it seems pretty clear Strong, Bedford and the staff have gotta much more out of this group than the previous coaches did.
2. Ten and nine
Tyrone Swoopes' first season as Texas' starting quarterback has evoked a lot of good statistical comparisons lately, from the first seasons of Teddy Bridgewater to Colt McCoy to Vince Young. But what about Trevone Boykin?
TCU's Heisman contender quarterback debuted under similar circumstances in 2012. He started TCU's final nine games after Casey Pachall (rehab) was lost for the season. Boykin wasn't supposed to start. He was supposed to back up and learn from a veteran. He was thrown into the fire, and some weeks went better than others.
Take a look at the stats from Boykin's nine starts in 2012 and compare them to Swoopes' numbers so far in 2014. A little too similar, aren't they?
Boykin made the leap this year because of a new offensive scheme and better QB coaching, but also because he's in his fourth year. It required a lot of time and patience and tough games, but he got there. His rise this season ought to provide Swoopes with a little inspiration.
This is still one of my favorite stats about last year's TCU team, one that just looks insane now that the Horned Frogs' offense has come this far.
A year ago, TCU was averaging 3.7 points per game in the first quarter and 8.8 points per game in the first half. That's a pretty good and simple explanation for why they were playing so many close games. Gary Patterson's defense kept them in games they had no business winning. They went 4-8. When you can't score early in games, you're only putting more pressure on your whole team.
This year? The Frogs are putting up 13.2 per game in the first quarter and outscoring foes 230-120 in the first half. They took 14-0 leads against Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. If TCU can do that again on Thursday, how will Texas respond?
Three more to remember
18.6 percent: We mentioned this one a few weeks ago. Going into the Texas Tech game, the Longhorns were 3-5 and their odds of reaching six wins were 18.6 percent, per ESPN Stats & Info. So yes, Strong, his coaches and his players pulled off something kind of improbable here.
74 percent: In terms of "game control," TCU is indeed one of the nation's best. The Frogs rank No. 7 nationally in that ESPN metric and have held a lead for 74 percent of their total plays this season. In Big 12 play, that percentage is nearly 66 percent.
Two: The number of plates Strong says he loads up when he eats Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy the holiday and enjoy the game, everybody.
Why TCU will win: This is going to be a back-and-forth, physical fight in which Texas will throw everything it's got at TCU. All the pressure is on the Frogs -- not that they can't handle it. If Charlie Strong's D can slow down Trevone Boykin, it's anyone's ballgame. A difference that might matter: the kicking game. TCU's Jaden Oberkrom can be trusted with a game-winning kick. Can Texas' Nick Rose? TCU 20, Texas 17 — Olson
Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. The Longhorns have the Big 12’s best unit, and their disruptive front will make life hard for Trevone Boykin. UT just won’t score enough points to cement its upset bid. TCU 28, Texas 27 — Chatmon
Other unanimous selections
Baylor over Texas Tech: The Bears won't aim for 82, but they know they need to score a bunch of points. In addition to having a brutal run defense, Texas Tech's secondary is also banged up this week. So, you know, moving the ball should not be terribly difficult for Bryce Petty and his many weapons. Tech can keep up early, but for how long? Baylor 52, Texas Tech 24 — Olson
Kansas State over Kansas: The Wildcats have focused on resuscitating their running game, and their instate rival might provide the perfect tonic. The Jayhawks are still reeling from giving up an FBS record 427 rushing yards to Samaje Perine last week. K-State won't get that many on the ground. But the Wildcats will have a big day offensively to prime their trip to Waco in the season finale. Kansas State 38, Kansas 13 — Trotter
West Virginia over Iowa State: The Mountaineers will get the losing taste out of their mouths because of their superior offensive firepower, no matter whether Clint Trickett or Skyler Howard is behind center. West Virginia 42, Iowa State 28 — Chatmon
- Trotter: 61-7
- Chatmon: 60-8
- Olson: 58-10
There is one two-loss team, however, that may have an argument for inclusion when all is said and done.
UCLA faces Stanford Friday (3:30 ET, ABC) with a chance to clinch the Pac-12 South. With a win against the Cardinal, UCLA will face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. If UCLA wins out, it will have a résumé worthy of discussion for the playoff.
UCLA has played the hardest schedule in the nation, according to ESPN’s strength of schedule rankings. The Bruins have not only played a nine-game Pac-12 schedule, but their out-of-conference slate also is the hardest of any Power 5 team.
The Bruins opened their season at Virginia in a game that kicked off at 9 AM PT. In Week 2, they faced Memphis, the current first-place team in the American Athletic Conference, and followed that game with a trip to Arlington to face Texas in Week 3.
The Bruins traveled close to 8,000 miles (counting return trips) before their first conference game and escaped with a 3-0 record. Two of those wins were against fellow Power 5 opponents; excluding Notre Dame, Florida State is the only other Power 5 team with multiple out-of-conference wins against Power 5 opponents.
Add in that UCLA’s conference schedule is the 12th-hardest in the nation before a potential Pac-12 Championship Game, and there will be no argument from the committee that the Bruins were not tested.
A difficult schedule affords the Bruins more opportunities for signature wins. UCLA has six wins against teams currently ranked in the top 40 of ESPN's Football Power Index, second-most in the FBS behind Alabama. If the Bruins win out, they will add two current FPI top 20 wins to their résumé.
One of the arguments against UCLA is that it played close games in the beginning of the season against lesser opponents. Since those games, however, the teams that UCLA beat have risen in the rankings. UCLA’s first six opponents all rank 42nd or better in the FPI after two of those teams began the season outside the top 42.
If UCLA were to beat Stanford and Oregon, the average current FPI ranking of UCLA’s 11 wins would be 33, the best in the nation.
Strength of Record
Many will point to UCLA’s two losses, to Utah and Oregon. The Oregon game was not even as close as the 12-point final scoring margin suggests.
ESPN’s Strength of Record metric accounts for both wins and losses to measure the difficulty of achieving a team’s record, given its schedule. UCLA, with two losses, currently ranks sixth in Strength of Record, ahead of one-loss Baylor and Ohio State. That means that it would be harder for an average top 25 team to achieve UCLA’s 9-2 record than either Baylor’s or Ohio State’s record.
If UCLA beats Stanford and Oregon it will likely jump into the top four in Strength of Record. The Bruins would likely have the same record as Oregon but will have played a tougher schedule in achieving that record. Similarly, assuming TCU and Baylor win out, the Bruins would have as many wins as those teams but significantly more quality wins, including a victory against one of the top teams in the nation (Oregon).
All of these arguments are contingent on UCLA winning out. Beating Stanford at home and Oregon on a neutral field is not an easy feat.
ESPN’s Football Power Index projects that the Bruins have a 24 percent chance to win out, but if they were to do it, could the committee really leave a two-loss Pac-12 champion, with the hardest schedule in the nation, out of the playoff?
- It's looking more and more like the Big 12 could be on the outside looking in when the College Football Playoff committee releases the final rankings on Dec. 7, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. I had previously believed Baylor or TCU would be in if they won out and finished 11-1. Not anymore. There's a real chance that both teams finish 11-1 and neither makes the College Football Playoff based off the committee's current rankings. Ohio State is looming and Mississippi State remains in the top four. It looks like the Big 12 will definitely need help if it hopes to cement a spot in the top four.
- West Virginia's starting quarterback against Iowa State remains unknown, reports Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune. Starter Clint Trickett didn't practice on Tuesday but is expected to return to practice on Wednesday after suffering a concussion against Kansas State last weekend. Skyler Howard impressed while replacing Trickett against the Wildcats but Holgorsen maintains Trickett will start if healthy. As good as Howard was against KSU, I agree with Holgorsen's commitment to Trickett. The senior is a big part of WVU's return to a bowl game this season and should be rewarded by remaining the starter (if healthy) despite his recent struggles (5 interceptions during WVU's three-game losing streak).
- It's been a tough season at Iowa State but Sam B. Richardson could set a school record for touchdown passes in a season in the Cyclones' final two games, writes Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. The record is 20 and Todd Bandhauer, the current record holder, didn't even realize he still holds the record. It's shocking to think 20 touchdown passes is a season record for a Big 12 school considering 34 FBS quarterbacks passed for more than 20 touchdowns in 2013. Richardson has 16 through 10 games and would need to average more than two touchdown passes per game in ISU's final two contests to secure the record.
- Kansas coach Clint Bowen is making a point to educate his players about the Sunflower Showdown rivalry with Kansas State, reports Jeff Deters of the Topeka Capital-Journal. The Jayhawks interim coach has set aside some time this week to make sure his players understand why the rivalry matters in the state of Kansas. I don't know that it will help KU's motivation when they take on K-State, but it couldn't hurt.
- Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown was named a finalist for the Outland Trophy Award (nation's top interior lineman) on Tuesday. There's no doubt in my mind Brown should be the clear favorite for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He's been disruptive in the middle of Charlie Strong's defense and is one reason I wouldn't be surprised to see the Longhorns upset TCU. And in case you missed it on the Big 12 blog on Tuesday, Max Olson had a terrific read on why football is not Brown's No. 1 priority.
Texas’ defense ready for final exam
There’s no school on Thanksgiving, but TCU presents a final exam for Texas’ defense, a unit that has rapidly improved during coach Charlie Strong’s first season. The Longhorns have allowed just one passing touchdown in the past four games (just nine all season) and only five third-down conversions in their opponents’ past 30 attempts.
Texas’ defense now ranks fifth nationally in adjusted QBR, 12th in yards per play, sixth in yards per pass attempt and eighth in sacks per passing play. It held Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to their lowest yards totals since 2007 and 2009, respectively. But TCU poses a different test with the nation’s most improved offense, led by the nation’s most improved player in quarterback Trevone Boykin.
“They play with five or six receivers, and he throws it to all of them, and the running backs. It’s going to be tough to slow these guys down.”
How can the Longhorns tame TCU?
TCU remained at No. 5; Baylor stayed at No. 7.
As a result, nothing changed from last week's bowl picture.
Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team that can still play its way to bowl eligibility. But the Cowboys will have to upset Oklahoma in Bedlam on Dec. 6 to get to six wins.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: TCU
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia
Cactus Bowl: None eligible
Sic Everyone in Frisco, Texas, writes: Assuming Baylor would jump TCU eventually based on head to head if they win out, who should the Bears root for Thursday? Would a Texas win possibly move them into the top 25 giving Baylor four wins over top 25 teams and an unshared conference title? Or does a win over a Top 5-6 TCU help them more?
Bryce Petty in Midlothian, Texas, writes: What are my chances of going to NYC with my buddies Marcus Mariota and Melvin Gordon? Also, will Jameis Winston be there?
BC: I don’t like your chances, Bryce. You lead the Big 12 only in yards per completion and touchdown percentage and rank outside of the top 10 nationally in pretty much every category. You’ve had a great season, but I don’t see a trip to New York in your future.
Dave Clouse: How many yards and TDs does Samaje Perine need to be an All-American (not just freshman All-American)?
BC: Roughly 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns against Oklahoma State in Bedlam. Perine has had a great season, but he’s not a first-team All-American quite yet. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in just four of OU’s 11 games so consistent greatness appears to be the next step for the Sooners’ freshman.
Luke in Fort Worth writes: What does TCU need to move back in the No. 4 spot to get into the playoffs when the final rankings are released on Dec. 7?
BC: The Horned Frogs need to win out and Baylor needs to lose to Texas Tech or Kansas State. If they do that, while they’ll need some help from other upsets around the nation, I think they will finish in the top four.
Leadfoot in Kansas writes: What do you think the chances are that the Big 12 amends the conference policy of co-champions?
BC: I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but I hope it does. The whole co-champions thing is silly to me.
Double Dan in Austin, Texas, writes: Will more teams be taking the Baylor scheduling route or the Kansas State/Auburn Michigan State/Oregon scheduling route in the future? I bet Kansas State would love to have that extra win right now no matter who it was against, and Baylor's weak schedule certainly hasn't seemed to hurt it in the playoff rankings.
BC: Baylor’s weak schedule has definitely hurt the Bears. The committee has pointed to “quality wins” week after week. I must say all the talk about scheduling and how it will changed based on the committee’s final rankings is odd for me. The committee isn’t about sending messages about scheduling. It is about finding the “best teams”. Just ask Marshall.
Lillian in Austin, Texas, writes: Is it possible Texas will be a playoff contender by 2016? Earlier? Later?
BC: I could definitely see Charlie Strong’s program battling for a playoff berth next season. TCU turned everything around this season, why can’t Texas in 2015?
Tyler J in Nashville writes: Kansas State gained a grand total of 1 yard on the ground against WVU. KU gave up 510 against Oklahoma! Something has to give during the Sunflower Showdown. Is this the week that K State finally reestablishes even a hint of a running game?
BC: At this point in the season, you are who you are. I don’t see K-State becoming a running force anytime soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wildcats have running success against KU. I’d be surprised if that is what ultimately decides that game however.
Jeff in Rockwell, Texas writes: West Virginia now has five losses. WVU's home wins? Towson, Kansas, Baylor. To me it's becoming more clear, not less, why Baylor is behind TCU. It's simple, TCU's lone loss is a quality loss (top 5 team at the time, on the road by three points) and Baylor's lone loss is to a now five-loss team. However, it seems all of the attention is on the fact Baylor beat TCU rather than evaluating the entire season and comparing losses. Oh, and then there's the OOC games. What am I missing? How many losses does WVU have to have before people notice that Baylor lost to an average team?
BC: We must travel in different circles because I have yet to hear or see someone point to Baylor’s loss to West Virginia as the reason why Baylor should be ahead of TCU. Nobody thinks that’s a better loss than TCU’s loss. The committee’s job is to find the best teams. If two teams play against each other and one team wins and one team loses, that should give you the answer, right?
Loyal all over writes: Which would you say has had the biggest impact to Oklahoma State offensive line: assistant coach Joe Wickline leaving, fresh faces, or injuries?
BC: Wickline leaving. And it’s not close.
Baylor: Baylor leads the FBS in points, yards and first downs per game, but the Bears’ remarkable ability to protect the football really stands out. BU ranks fifth among FBS teams and No. 1 in the Big 12 with a 6.0 turnover percentage. The top five teams in the FBS in that category-- BU, Rice, Oregon, Georgia and Northern Illinois -- have combined for 44 wins this season.
Iowa State: The Cyclones' defense will need to be much better on third down if ISU hopes to knock off West Virginia. ISU is allowing conversions on a Big 12-worst 47.1 percent of opponent’s third-down attempts. But last week’s 34-31 loss to Texas Tech proves some hope as ISU held the Red Raiders to 36.4 percent on third-down conversion attempts, which was a season low for Cyclones’ opponents.
Kansas: Big plays have been lacking for Kansas’ offense for much of the season. The Jayhawks have gained 10 or more yards on 16 percent of their plays this season, ranking last in the conference and No. 115 among FBS teams. New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has helped increase that number with some personnel changes, but KU will need several big plays if it hopes to upset Kansas State.
Kansas State: Is Jake Waters the Big 12’s top clutch signal-caller? The senior has a Big 12-best 79.8 raw QBR on third down. He completes 63.1 percent of his passes, averages 12.42 yards per completion and is sacked just 2.3 percent of the time on third down. Waters is a key reason the Wildcats’ offense is so efficient and productive.
Oklahoma: Baylor, TCU and Kansas State are well renowned for their offensive firepower. Yet Oklahoma sits atop the conference rankings in yards per play. The Sooners 6.72 yards per play has been built upon a running game that is averaging 265.4 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry to lead the Big 12 in both categories.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys averaged 1.87 points per possession in Mason Rudolph’s first start. With the true freshman at the helm, OSU’s offense was far more explosive in the 49-28 loss to Baylor than its previous four games. TCU (0.6), West Virginia (0.71), KSU (0.5) and Texas (0.58) each held the Cowboys below one point per possession in OSU's four losses before last weekend.
Texas: Opponents have converted just 5 of 30 third-down conversions against Texas’ defense in the Longhorns last two games. West Virginia (3 of 17) and Oklahoma State (2 of 13) struggled to continue drives. Winning the third down battle could be key if the Longhorns hope to slow Trevone Boykin and TCU on Thanksgiving night.
TCU: Gary Patterson’s team has outgained opponents by at least 330 yards on four different occasions this season, joining Alabama as the only FBS team to achieve this feat. The Horned Frogs outgained FCS opponent Samford (412), SMU (369), Oklahoma State (418) and Texas Tech (339) by that margin. It has been a part of a damatic change in TCU’s offensive fortunes under new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.
Texas Tech: The inability to finish has handcuffed the Red Raiders this season. Tech has converted 58.8 percent of its goal-to-go attempts into touchdowns, the worst percentage in the Big 12 and tied for No. 115 among FBS teams. With Baylor on the horizon, Tech will need to capitalize on every single scoring opportunity it gets.
West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen’s team heads into its final game with six wins and bowl eligibility, a pretty remarkable feat for the Mountaineers considering their carelessness with the ball. WVU has a minus-15 turnover margin, worst in the Big 12 and tied for No. 120 among FBS teams. No FBS team at minus-15 or higher has more than three wins this season.
Center Dominic Espinosa, a 40-game starter for the Longhorns, announced Tuesday on his Twitter account he will not seek a sixth season of eligibility. He started every game for Texas in 2011, 2012 and 2013 but suffered a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery during the Longhorns' opener against North Texas.
I can't imagine a better place to graduate and play football. Texas, thanks for the memories. pic.twitter.com/W5318BzWbF— DOM (@DomEspinosa) November 25, 2014
As expected, nose tackle Desmond Jackson declared Monday that he will return for one more season. He's redshirting this year after going down with a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot against UCLA. He has played in 41 games and started 16 in four seasons.
The Longhorns' Senior Night home game against TCU is Thursday. Two more Texas senior starters, linebacker Jordan Hicks and receiver John Harris, also could have an option for a sixth year due to past injuries.