For the BYU football team, this week’s matchup features a familiar face in a new situation. This will be the third conference in which the Cougars and the Horned Frogs of TCU have shared. The most recent shared conference stint, in the Mountain West Conference, saw the two programs win six conference titles between 2005 and 2011. The Horned Frogs finished in the AP top 25 six times in this span, with the Cougars accomplishing this feat four times. When the two programs departed from the Mountain West after the 2010 season, the rivalry was fierce.
After a 12-year layoff, these two programs are ready to resume their once enthusiastic rivalry. TCU is only a season removed from an appearance in the CFP National Championship game. After losing eight players from last years team to the NFL Draft, and another 19 to the transfer portal, this years team has been largely inconsistent on its way to a 3-3 record going into Saturday’s matchup with BYU. This article should help BYU fans become better acquainted with a team looking to reestablish itself as a player in the parity-filled Big 12 Conference landscape.
Questions at Quarterback
At the beginning of the 2022 campaign, Chandler Morris emerged as the starter for a TCU squad with a lot to prove. However, after an injury in the season opener against Colorado he watched his former backup Max Duggan lead the Horned Frog’s to the College Football Playoff while also finishing as the Heisman runner-up. After a solid start to through the first 5 games of the season, Chandler suffered a knee injury in a 27-14 loss to Iowa State that will keep him out of Saturday’s showdown with the Cougars.
Stepping up for TCU is redshirt freshman Josh Hoover, who went 11-of-19 for 119 yards and a touchdown with one interception in relief of Morris. Hoover also made an appearance in TCU’s week 2 blowout against FCS opponent Nicholl’s State. In that contest he went 2-3 with 50 yards a touchdown and an interception. Despite his limited experience, TCU coaches are optimistic that the former three-star recruit can lead the Horned Frogs to a victory in Fort Worth.
A Dynamic Backfield Threat
With an inexperienced quarterback behind center, TCU is likely to lean on its rushing attack. Luckily for the Horned Frog offense, it has a rushing attack that could create havoc for the BYU defense. TCU running back Emani Bailey currently is the 4th leading rusher in the country with 690 yards on 121 carries. He’s currently averaging 5.7 yards per carry while also reeling in 11 catches for 90 yards. Despite this production, he has only managed to find the endzone twice this year. As a team the Horned Frogs are averaging 192.2 yards per game on the ground, which is good for 5th place in the Big 12.
The TCU backfield has also been bolstered by junior running back Trey Sanders, who leads the Horned Frogs in rushing touchdowns this season. This includes a three-touchdown performance against Colorado, where his ability to excel in short yardage situations was evident. Absent will be the rushing efforts of Chandler Morris, whose 249 yards and three touchdowns are currently good for 2nd on the team.
When it comes to the TCU defense, the unit is characterized by its unrelenting pressure. In fact, through six games, the Horned Frog defense ranks second in the Big 12 with 16 sacks. TCU’s rush defense ranks 6th in the conference giving up only 126 yards per game with an average of 3.4 yards per attempt. The Horned Frogs have been paced by junior linebacker Namdi Obiazor, whose 46 tackles are ranked third in the Big 12.
When it comes to the passing game, The TCU defense has struggled against opposing quarterbacks. It is ranked 11th out of 14 teams, giving up an average of 241.7 yards per game. The secondary has been effective in keeping opponents out of the endzone as they have only allowed five passing touchdowns while also picking off five passes.
Kicking Game Struggles
An area in which the Horned Frogs are desperately hoping to improve is special teams. Through six games, TCU has only been able to convert on 53.8% of its field goal attempts. The Horne Frogs’ 39.4 average on punts is ranked 2nd worst in the conference. In their most recent loss to the Iowa State Cyclones, they only averaged 33.7 yards per punt. Facing a BYU team that has been especially efficient when it comes to short fields this could prove to be a massive weakness for TCU.
When it comes to the kick return game however, the Horned Frogs have found great success. Their 25.7 yard average on kickoffs ranks 2nd in the conference. Their punt return numbers , while not as impressive, stands at a respectable 10.3 yard average per return. Facing an impressive punting unit from BYU could pose a unique challenge for TCU.
The Horned Frogs are a team in a desperate position. A loss could drop them to 3-4 on the season with an 0-3 conference record. For a team that went 13-2 last year with a National Championship appearance this would be a massive step in the wrong direction. However, TCU fans have the chance to show up in a big way against a former rival with whom they share a complicated history. BYU could be entering an extremely hostile environment on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium as TCU as initiated its “Keep it Purple Plan,” a strategy employed as a way to ensure home field advantage for the Horned Frogs. This could be a make or break game for TCU, and the Cougars are going to need to play an extremely impassioned brand of football if it hopes to come away with a victory against familiar conference foe.