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[2023] Big XII Network Week 3 Saturday Evening Preview

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Saturday Evening


:tcu: #2/#1 TCU (1-0) at :texas: Texas (1-0) (+15.5)*


Sam Milner's last appearance in a TCU-Texas game was back in 2020 as a redshirt freshman. His 14-of-28 passing for 152 yards and a touchdown wasn't much, but it was enough to lead TCU to a win. Several inconsistent performances, a benching, two transfers, and a whole lot of growth later, and Milner is back in this game--but on the other sideline, wearing burnt orange. He's only played one game as a Longhorn, but it was a dazzler: 339 yards and 4 touchdowns on 24-of-30 passing, with career-highs in nearly every category imaginable against UTSA. The Roadrunners are a good team--but they're no TCU. The Horned Frogs have one of the best defenses in the country. William Cooper is the only starter on that side of the ball who was there when Milner was playing; everything around him has changed, but Cooper's position as #2 cornerback has stayed the same. He and Patrick Ross had an interception apiece in the win at Penn State, and part of that was the pressure the youngsters up front put on the Nittany Lions: defensive end Clinton Staton and linebacker Lardarius Pendleton each had a sack. What could be an issue for TCU is that the secondary isn't quite as deep as it's always been. When Patrick Ross was a nickel corner, there was no throwing on TCU. Now, Moussa McCullough's in that role. He's not quite the same player, and he's going to be in the unenviable position of being matched up with breakout true freshman slot receiver Shaq Dixon, who had 152 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 catches against UTSA. Maybe that was a one-off or just a good matchup for Dixon; what we know, though, is that it was the biggest receiving performance by a Texas player since 2018. If TCU gets a handle on him, I don't trust the rest of Texas's wide receivers to step up. I also expect Texas's offensive line to hold up relatively well here. They have a lot of studs in that unit, with Bobby Drake headlining the group at left tackle. But TCU can also bring pressure from just about any position in just about any direction. This won't be easy for either TCU's defense or Texas's offense.


The big question mark is what TCU's offense will look like. They were glitchy against Penn State, with Taylor Cook going 17-of-33 for 182 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and a lost fumble. Griffin McHanna had 24 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown, and every indication is that sophomore Matteo Cates will get the lion's share of the carries this week. Both Cates and McHanna are speedsters, and they'll test a vulnerable Texas edge. However, I'd expect Cook to see a lot of usage and expect TCU to try and spread out a shallow Texas secondary. They're truly a five-deep receiving unit even without McHanna running routes and even excluding tight end Miguel Aguilera. But none of them stood apart over the others; in fact, Aguilera was the only one to top 50 yards against Penn State. On paper, this is a matchup that heavily favors TCU. But it's hard to look at the results of the Penn State game and wonder if TCU has everything operating in sync just yet. I still like an out-of-sync TCU offense against Texas's defense, just because Texas is not really built to handle speed to the edge or the sheer variety of looks the Horned Frogs can throw at them. I think Milner will keep this very close. And I think TCU will get out of this one alive.


:tcu: #2/#1 TCU 30, :texas: Texas 27


Byes: :isu: Iowa State (1-1), :wvu: West Virginia (0-2), :okst: #5/#6 Oklahoma State (2-0)

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Wow. What a close prediction

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