Hello, y’all, it’s Texas-TCU game week! If you’re scared, that’s okay. Mack was all the time, after all. You remember what happened last time Texas traveled to ‘The Carter’, right? Yeah, me neither! Let’s just say, it’s been a little bit since Texas really competed with the Horned Frogs. That makes me wonder. Does that make them ‘hornier’ than Texas? Anyhow, let’s get in to it.
The Frogs are better, to put it simply. Texas’ chances rest on its defense. Texas has faced better offenses. Unfortunately, they have not faced a better defense. The Frogs defense stands head and shoulders above the rest in the league and they’re up against a bad offense.What do you expect to happen? There is one aspect you may have noticed. Big plays, the Frogs give up big plays, weird, right? That’s the sliver of chance this offense needs and though Texas is likely conservative on offense, expect some hay-makers, it’s their only chance. Go big or go home!
Nothing should surprise this Texas defense at this point. They’ve played the best offense in the league and did pretty well minus some big plays that got away. Keep eliminating those head scratching moments and you have a dominant unit, one pretty close to the other defense that’ll be on the opposite sideline this Saturday. The one concern I have is the absence of starting Nickel, PJ Locke. In his place is Antwan Davis and believe me, the Frogs will test him. The plan in this one is similar to prior plans.
Match Personnel – What I’m most curious about is how Orlando matches personnel with TCU without Locke. TCU is capable of playing two tight end sets along with a fullback type player. I can see Todd matching any two tight end sets with base 3-4, but single tight end sets? Again, much of it rests on how well Davis plays at Nickel. Orlando and fans hope he’s ready. Otherwise, expect the 3-2-6 Dime package. This places the most speed on the field and allows the defensive back outside linebackers to play run-pass to either side. With TCU’s speed and difficulty blocking up front, this is the way to go.
Disrupt – What you saw ISU do to the TCU offensive line last week is cause for concern, if you’re a TCU fan that is. The Texas defensive line is as physical and more athletic than the ISU bunch. This bodes well for Texas. Much like the OSU game, count on these guys to win for you. Expect the Nose tackle to disrupt the A-gaps most game and the ends to squeeze the offensive line blocking to free up the 2nd level behind them. Orlando can deploy these guys in conventional ways and expect good things.
N.B. What you could see Orlando do to neutralize the back is follow the back out with a defensive lineman and auto-blitz the overhang opposite the back’s path. DL follows the back, outside linebacker (defensive back in Dime) opposite rushes, smash Hill.
Spill & Kill – TCU is a Zone run team, they run both Inside and Outside Zone well. Texas likes to spill the run and let the linebackers and defensive backs clean up outside. The down linemen will need to disallow any easy ‘combo’ blocks up to the second level. This means making life hell for the TCU guards. TCU executes Zone well, often creating lanes between the guards and tackles. Deny vertical entry and force backs sideways. For the play side and backside overhang defenders, stay disciplined and maintain proper leverage against motion and misdirection, including ‘trick plays’ (think throwbacks). Like Texas, the Frogs are sneaky in that way, except theirs work.
Cover 5 – TCU will run all five skill position players into pattern. Texas will often have 5 to cover while also accounting for the quarterback. Whether 3-4, Nickel, or Dime, expect underneath defenders to keep an eye on Hill while also helping cover. This is why I expect to see Dime a lot again, more speed, it allows for novel 2-high coverages, and is surprisingly effective against the run. TCU wins big outside down the sidelines. #9 is a physical presence and a good jump-ball catcher. #18 possesses speed and is a dangerous vertical threat. Meanwhile, their backs have speed too. Luckily for Texas, when the Dime package is on the field, the defense possesses linebackers that can keep pace with almost any of TCU’s skill guys, except one.
Turpin-Time – This guy is electric. Whether you like it or not, you sort of have to keep track of him so as to avoid any major mismatches. Cumbie is good a scheming Turpin into games and winning match-ups by formation or concept. It’s up to Texas to keep him ‘unplugged’. Again, the more speed on the field, the better. Turpin is but one guy. The problem is, they are fast everywhere else as well. Lastly, special teams, play keep away from Turpin.
Trill Hill – Though he’s not Baker, Hill is mobile and will hurt you with his legs. This is problematic for any defense. Much like the Oklahoma game, Texas will need to account for 5 skill players and the quarterback. Whether it’s the read-option run game, schemed quarterback runs, or scrambles, the Texas defense will need to draw on a cautious rush, funnel, chase, and sack.
It doesn’t look good. It’s important to remember, it’s Shane Buechele’s second game back from injury. Texas shouldn’t need a lot, so long as the defense continues to play well. What they need is a simple game plan with some teeth. TCU’s strength is erasing the run game. They are also good defending the pass, but there are those pesky ‘explosives’. The biggest question, can Texas capitalize on a couple hay-makers?
Play Defense – The Texas offense isn’t good. My suggestion, play defense. First, no turnovers, this is paramount to earn an upset. Second, Tom Herman’s two first downs system will be needed. The goal each drive is to earn two first downs, that’s it! Then, thirdly, you punt! Michael Dickson is a weapon and the defense can be too. Continually giving the defense good field position increases the likelihood of success for the defense, and the offense! This sounds awful, but you can’t punt on 1st down, as it allows the other team more time (LOL). Bleed clock, play for field position, and when available, take a shot. You can make it a drinking game!
Distort – Patterson’s 4-2-5 strictly adheres to 2-high structure. Use formations to distort structure and create small advantages in numbers and or space. This could mean ‘Quads’ formations, single-receiver formations to the field, and different backfield alignments. The point, stress the safeties’ alignments and attack them. You can also motion into and out of overloaded formations.
Motion – fast pre-snap motion will often force TCU to adjust coverage. In particular, motion from strong to weak may offer enticing coverage match-ups for the screen and quick game, as it often forces TCU’s weak side linebacker or end to ‘cover-out’ to the flat or hook-curl zone. Motion needs to be run fast and if passing to it will need to be quick. You’re not going to out-leverage TCU, what you want is to physically challenge the defensive backs outside and use the motion to force more predictable coverage. It also helps to keep overhang defenders out of the box against the run. Lastly, by flipping strength, Beck will get a better understanding of the Frogs safeties adjustments, to attack them. If you know the zone, you can scheme quick and deep, hit them with speed outside.
Quick Run-Pass – With Shane in the game, this figures more prominently. TCU will be incredibly difficult to run against, but the expanded RPO package helps to mitigate that some. Runs should be quick-hitting, as well as screens and quick game passes. Any space afforded outside should be exploited. Texas should also call slow-developing plays sparingly. Instead, opt for as much explosiveness as possible. Players like Burt, Duvernay, Foreman, and Heard are important in that respect. This brings me to my next point.
Attack The Safeties – TCU loves to play downhill in both the run and the pass. Though Texas needs to protect the ball, they also need to take shots downfield. Do this by attacking the safeties. For this, explosiveness is needed, why I mentioned the aforementioned receivers. You need receivers that can get into the safeties fast, so as to lessen the time needed to protect. TCU gives up big plays and Texas needs to challenge them in this respect. In particular, attack a safety to a side with two deep routes while breaking one off inside or outside (depends on ‘split’ and boundary or hash), force him to stay over to throw under him against man or over him should he take the bait underneath. These need to hit fast because you can bet protection won’t hold up for long.
Is all this confusing? It shouldn’t be. Texas will get away with some runs, screens, and quick passes, but TCU will disallow efficiency. To that I say, nothing in between. Block like hell to make small gains and throw hay-makers. If Texas can score 4 times and the defense performs to recent standards, Texas can win the game. Add to that, the no turnovers-punt-gain good field position plan also helps the defense. Keep that in mind, Texas may need the defense to score to win. They can do that, especially against ‘Trill’. Disrupt up front and force errant passes. Of course, TCU will try to do the same. Let them. Texas should gladly accept some very ugly play this Saturday, so long as the game is in reach, grab it and beat TCU for a change! As always, let me know what you think in the comments.