By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders and the TCU Horned Frogs meet on Saturday afternoon in a Longhorn State showdown between two Big 12 Conference hopefuls.
Texas Tech started the season red-hot with four consecutive wins, which landed it in the Top-25. However, it promptly dropped from the polls following a 41-20 home loss to Oklahoma on Oct. 6. The Red Raiders bounced back beautifully last week with a dominating 49-14 win over nationally-ranked West Virginia and now find themselves ranked No. 18, its highest position of the year. Head coach Tommy Tuberville knows that the ceiling is high for his team but understands that his expectations need to stay in check.
"We understand where we're at," Tuberville said. "We've just got to keep getting better. It's going to be tough. We've got to go on the road for two weeks now and play (TCU and Kansas State). We just try to convince (our players) every day don't worry about tomorrow. Just worry about today."
TCU was also one of the top teams in the country in the early going this season, winning its first four games, but it snapped its nation-long winning streak with a 37-23 loss at home to Iowa State on Oct. 6. The Horned Frogs made a statement in their last game that they are a definite contender in the Big 12 however, with a 49-21 pummeling of Baylor on the road.
"We're not going to get too excited about this win," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said following last week's game. "It's a big win, but we've got Texas Tech next week. If we can do it to Tech's defense then I'll be jumping up and down."
Texas Tech has a 28-23-3 advantage in the all-time series over TCU, but it has never faced the Horned Frogs in the Tuberville-era.
The Texas Tech offense (40.7 ppg) ranks 10th in the nation in yards per game with 537.3, thanks in large part to outstanding play from its quarterback.
Seth Doege out-dueled Heisman front-runner Geno Smith last week by throwing for a career-high 499 yards and six touchdowns. The performance added on to an already outstanding season as he has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 1,891 yards and is second in the nation in touchdown passes with 21. Doege's only flaw is that he has thrown seven interception, second-most in the conference.
Doege spreads his passes out to many different receivers with Darrin Moore (29 receptions, 314 yards, seven TDs), Eric Ward (24 receptions, 295 yards, five TDs), and Jace Amaro (23 receptions, 394 yards, four TDs) being his favorite targets. Amaro is coming off a five-catch, 156-yard performance against WVU.
Although the rushing attack plays second fiddle to the passing game, Kenny Williams (376 yards, two TDs), Eric Stephens (319 yards, three TDs) and SaDale Foster (291 yards, two TDs) all average at least 5.3 yards per carry.
The biggest surprise for this Red Raiders team is their outstanding defense (16.3 ppg), which ranks fourth in the nation behind only Alabama, LSU, and Florida State in total defense (243 ypg). The unit was put to the test last week against a high-powered WVU squad and it passed with flying colors, allowing just 14 points while holding Smith to his most pedestrian numbers of the season (29-of-55, 275 yards, TD).
Cody Davis has a team-high 45 tackles and also has two of the team's five interceptions. The unit hasn't gotten much pressure on the quarterback with nine sacks, but Kerry Hyder has three of them.
The TCU offense has also been stellar (33.2 ppg, 429.3 ypg), and it seems to have found fresh life with a new signal caller.
Casey Pachall (64-of-97, 948 yards, 10 TDs, INT) was off to a great start to the season before leaving the team following a DWI arrest. His replacement, Trevone Boykin, struggled in the loss to Iowa State but was fantastic against Baylor, completing 22-of-30 passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another 56 yards and a score.
Josh Boyce (30 receptions, 381 yards, four TDs) and Brandon Carter (26 catches, 425 yards, four TDs) make up one of the better receiving duos in the Big 12. LaDarius Brown (154 yards) also gets plenty of looks in the red zone with three touchdowns.
The Horned Frogs have not run the ball as well as they would like, with B.J. Catalon (53 carries, 247 yards) being their leading rusher. Nearly a quarter of the team's rushing output came last week when they ran for 248 yards and three scores.
TCU's defense has also been one of the best in the country, yielding a mere 14.5 ppg and just over 300 ypg.
The unit leads the nation in turnovers forced with 20 (14 INTs, six fumbles). Jason Verrett leads the team with four INTs and Sam Carter, Kenny Cain, and Elisha Olabode each have two picks. Joel Hasley (45 tackles, four TFL, two sacks) and Devonte Fields (11.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks) are also high-impact playmakers on the defense.
In an unusual bout by Big 12 standards, this matchup will consist of a pair of outstanding defenses, and both units will be put to the test against very efficient offenses. TCU has the home crowd on its side, but following a win over a top-five team, Texas Tech is bound to have confidence that it is a true contender for the conference crown. Behind another strong performance from Doege, the Red Raiders will prevail on the road.