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November 22, 2012

Horned Frogs, Longhorns set for Thanksgiving showdown

It's a special Thanksgiving edition of the Friday Night 20. TCU and Texas kickoff Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to follow along on the Purple Menace live chat starting about an hour before the game.

In the meantime, here's your 20 things:

1. Trevone Boykin couldn't have played if the Frogs had a game this past week, but he should be good to go Thursday, Patterson said.

"He's a lot healthier now," Patterson said.

If you remember, Boykin left in the first half against Kansas State with a shoulder injury. Though he returned and played the rest of the game, it was obvious he was bothered by the pain, and Patterson even said after the game that Boykin was going to be sore the next day.


2. TCU has had a knack the past two seasons of responding well on the road following a loss, Oklahoma State being the notable exception this year.

I've reiterated this before, but consider: Last year, the Frogs came out sharp after losses to Baylor (Air Force) and SMU (San Diego State), and this year they've played their best two games - at Baylor and at West Virginia - following losses.

3. Something to remember: Most of the guys on TCU's team aren't entirely unfamiliar to playing close to Thanksgiving. If any of them came from strong high school programs, odds are they've played playoff games on the Friday following the holiday. Another thing to consider is the fact that the Frogs are somewhat used to being away from home on holidays. In 2010, TCU spent Christmas Day in Los Angeles. So, yes, playing on a Thursday, especially when that Thursday is on Thanksgiving, might seem like an adjustment, but, really, it likely won't negatively affect the Frogs' preparation.

4. Which Texas team will show up Thursday?

The team that started the year 4-0 and was fueled by the Good David Ash, who ranked near the top of the country in passing efficiency, or the team that gave up 48 points at home to West Virginia then played an entirely uncompetitive game in a 63-21 loss to Oklahoma?

Or maybe it'll be the Texas team that has notched four straight wins, none of which have been overly-impressive but all of which have been consistent, solid performances.

5. It's a vexing thing, really.

The Longhorns' defense is filled with future NFL players, guys like Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor, yet it has struggled throughout the season.

Still, Texas has held opponents to 46 points the past three games (Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa State), which is an improvement considering it gave up 161 points the previous three games (West Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor).

6. Given the difference between those two sets of teams, is that even a relevant stat? Maybe not, but for any defense, especially one filled with athletes, confidence can go a long way.

7.This game shouldn't mean as much as it does, because TCU really doesn't need any further validation for its inclusion into the Big 12.

But let's not be nave - Thursday night means a whole bunch.

By whole bunch, I'm referring to bragging rights (mainly between fan bases), recruiting wars (which, really, will always be won by Texas over any program) and the debate that TCU does or doesn't belong in the Big 12, an argument Frog fans will unfairly have to be fighting for at least a few more seasons.


8. Get this: There's a four-way tie scenario in play the next two weeks. That's right. Four-way.

Texas would have to win out, meaning the Horns would hand Kansas State another loss, running the Wildcats' league record to 7-2. Additionally, Oklahoma State would have to finish 2-0 (at Oklahoma, at Baylor), and the Sooners would have to beat TCU. If that happens, all four teams would finish 7-2 in conference play.

9. Of course, if TCU wins Thursday night, then none of that really matters.

10. When Stansly Maponga and Devonte Fields are both on their game - like they were against Kansas State - then this TCU defense is pretty dang good.

11. We could see freshman Jordan Moore at linebacker some Thursday. Moore came in as a safety, but was receiving reps at linebacker during practice last week. Linebacker has been an obvious weak spot on this defense, mainly due to the lack of depth at the position. In a normal year, Moore's move might be surprising, but this year, with the influx of injuries and depth problems, has been far from normal.

12. TCU has to run the football - for both a direct and indirect reason. Let's start with the direct: The Frogs can't be so one-dimensional on offense, that one dimension being Trevone Boykin and the passing game. Hasn't worked the past few weeks, and, with Boykin possibly still sore from the Kansas State game, it won't work against the Longhorns. The indirect reason? If TCU is running the ball, that means the offensive line is getting at least some sort of push up front, something that hasn't happened much and has hampered the play of Boykin, forcing him into throws and, subsequently, stalling the only dimension of the Frogs' one-dimensional offense. It all ties together.

13. Prediction: The team that wins the rushing battle Thursday night is the team that wins the scoring battle Thursday night.

14. TCU just so happens to hold opponents to 98.4 rushing yards a game (7th in FBS), while Texas just so happens to rush for 192.7 yards a game (38th in FBS).

15. Texas features three impactful running backs - Jonathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcom Brown. Gray leads the team with 607 yards on 115 carries, while Bergeron has 16 rushing touchdowns, 13 more than anyone else on the team.


16. David Ash, for all the criticisms, has put together a nice season, throwing for 17 touchdowns and 2,354 yards with a 161.7 passer rating, second in the Big 12. Ash is good enough to win most games he starts, but is he good enough to take over a game? He might have to do that Thursday night.

17. Aside from the rushing game, one of the most important matchups Thursday will be Ash vs. the TCU secondary. Early in the game, I think the Frogs will have the advantage. A TCU secondary with fresh legs has been stingy all season. The issue, for TCU, comes late in the game when that secondary, and the rest of the defense, starts to wear down. Happened against Oklahoma State. Happened against Kansas State.

18. Chucky Hunter talked Tuesday about growing up watching NFL games on Thanksgiving Day. It was one of the first memories he recalled about the holiday, mentioning that more than the food, something you would assume a 300-pound defensive tackle would look back fondly upon.

Thursday night's game won't be the NFL, but it'll be under plenty of bright lights, not to mention 100,000 fans and ESPN cameras.

You can bet a few kids will be watching on the other end of those cameras. Pretty cool role reversal for Hunter and his teammates.

19. Oh, and, yes, it's Chucky.

Hunter cleared that up Tuesday, explaining how he goes by either Chuck or Chucky but that his father's name is Chuck. He's a junior, so he dubbed himself Chucky.

20. Something else I found out this week: Eric Tausch's brother, Nick, is a senior kicker for Notre Dame, which enters USC undefeated this week.

Nick is listed 6-foot, 201 pounds, about 100 pounds lighter and three inches shorter than Eric.

So how are these guys related? Well, Eric said he's built more like their dad, Terry, who was an all-American at Texas and later went onto an 8-year career with the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.

Thanksgiving Bonus: My initial reaction to TCU's 2013 schedule, which was released Tuesday: It sets up nicely for the Frogs.

Early games against LSU (Aug. 31) and at Texas Tech (Sept. 14) should test this team, but after that most of what should be tough games are spread evenly throughout the season.

One thing that might be difficult is playing eight straight games in between bye weeks on Sept. 21 and Nov. 23.

Texas was granted a Thanksgiving home game each year after DeLoss Dodds reportedly requested the Big 12 accommodate to such a schedule. This means Texas Tech will play in Austin next season. TCU could likely return to the slot in 2014.

My opinion: Keep Dodds and Co. happy. With conference realignment talks starting to stir up again, it's always nice to have a superpower on your side. And when it comes to conference realignment, Texas is about as big of a superpower you can find.


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