Last season, TCU entered its football game against Texas with a 9-0 record on its way to the College Football Playoff and the national championship game.
This year, the Longhorns are the team in the playoff hunt, ranked No.7 with an 8-1 record, while the Horned Frogs need two wins in their final three games to become bowl-eligible.
One of the most significant differences between the two seasons has been TCU’s record in one-score games. The Horned Frogs were 7-1 in such games last season, losing only the Big 12 Championship against Kansas State, and are 0-3 in the same situations in 2023.
TCU beat Texas 17-10 in a low-scoring affair that saw the Longhorns finish with just 199 yards of offense in Austin last season. The TCU defense was a big part of its run last season, and this year’s unit has improved despite having a worse overall record.
“The biggest difference is the way the team’s built,” TCU head coach Sonny Dykes told the media of the Longhorns on Tuesday. “Texas teams over the last decade have probably not been as strong as this team is on both lines of scrimmage. The strength of this football team is both their lines, and typically, when you have a team you can say that about, then that’s usually a good football team.”
The Texas defensive line entered the season with plenty of hype, as many players returned from a 27-sack season a year ago. The unit currently has 16.5 sacks between seven players, led by sophomore Ethan Burke’s five. Burke and Barryn Sorrell set the edge for Texas, while veterans like T’Vondre Sweat, Alfred Collins, and Byron Murphy II dominate the interior.
The Longhorns also have an excellent offensive line led by junior center Jake Majors.
Texas has some decisions to make at quarterback, as a social media post from injured starter Quinn Ewers said that he may see some playing time this week. In his absence, the team has relied on Maalik Murphy, and TCU is preparing as if both will see the field.
“It makes it a little more difficult, obviously,” Dykes acknowledged. “I think that’s just the nature of college football. You look around the league, and there’s been a lot of starting quarterbacks that have gone down and a lot of backups that have come in. It’s just the nature of the beast right now.”
Regardless of their challenges this weekend, TCU’s players want to show that the game still means something to them, as does bowl eligibility and playing with effort.
“We were good [last year] because of the effort we played with and the physicality we played with,” tight end Jared Wiley told the media this week. “We just wanted to win more than everyone we played. It’s just using these games to get back into that mindset.”
TCU (4-5, 2-4 in the Big 12) and No.7 Texas (8-1, 5-1) will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday in Fort Worth.