Alamo Bowl - San Antonio, TX
TCU vs. Oregon
Saturday, January 2, 3:45 pm PT - ESPN
CRIS Opener: Oregon pk O/U 75
CRIS Current: Oregon -7 O/U 73.5
Oregon just lost offensive coordinator Scott Frost, who took the Central Florida coaching job. But the transition to new coordinator Matt Lubick should be relatively smooth. Frost was expected to get a head coaching gig; Lubick was the heir apparent, and he, too, has already attracted attention as a rising young assistant. Some pre-bowl assistant coaching changes are very meaningful, but this isn’t one of those situations.
It’s a very different story when we start to talk about the key losses that TCU has suffered. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs ranked among the best teams in the country with Trevone Boykin at quarterback and Josh Doctson at wide receiver. But Doctson’s arm is in a sling; he’s not going to suit up for the Alamo Bowl. Doctson is absolutely worth something to the pointspread, a playmaker with 14 TD’s and a 17.0 yard per catch average on his 78 receptions this year; arguably the single most dynamic receiver in the country this year.
With Doctson out, Boykin was going to have to spread the ball around and rely on his legs to move the football against the Ducks. But Boykin has been suspended following a barroom brawl in the early morning hours on New Year’s Eve; an unforeseen event for the TCU coaching staff. Between the Doctson injury and the unexpected Boykin suspension, this line has moved a full touchdown in Oregon’s direction. Frankly, I’m not convinced that’s enough!
Boykin missed two game in November, against Oklahoma and Kansas. TCU was a 45 point favorite at home against the Jayhawks. They won the game by six points, falling short of market expectations by nearly six touchdowns. They played better against Oklahoma the following week, covering the spread in defeat, but four interceptions doomed their chances.
Backup quarterbacks senior Bram Kohlhausen and redshirt frosh Forrest Sawyer are not dual threats; neither possessing the speed or rushing acumen to gain consistent yardage on the ground. And given their interception woes against Oklahoma, the lack of big game experience for both guys is clearly problematic, regardless of which backup gets the lion’s share of playing time here.
This is a very different situation compared to, say, Baylor’s issues with QB injuries. Art Briles knew his starter was out and had three weeks of practices to get his QB pecking order in place. Gary Patterson, on the other hand, has to deal with the loss of a senior leader who snuck out after curfew and got into an ugly fight, without any sort of backup plan in place. He doesn’t have three weeks to install an appropriate gameplan and get his QB’s ready. Instead, he’s got less than 48 hours to do it. I’m not expecting it to go well….
The Ducks averaged 42 points per game when QB Vernon Adams was healthy; a completely different looking offense than when Adams was hurt and head coach Mike Helfrich was forced to rely on ineffective backup Jeff Lockie. Oregon’s offense came on like a freight train down the stretch, hanging 52, 48, 38 (on Stanford’s elite D), 44 and 61 points in their last five games. And the Ducks senior laden offensive line is poised to blow holes open for their backs against TCU’s injury depleted defensive line.
The bigger question for the Ducks comes on the defensive side of the football. They finished the regular season with the fifth worst scoring defense and total defense among the Power-5 conference teams. They allowed six yards per play against FBS foes, unable to consistently stop the run or the pass. Lowly Oregon State hung 42 on them in their regular season finale.
But Ducks defensive coordinator Don Pellum put together an impressive gameplan against Florida State with a month to prepare for their BCS Bowl last year. And TCU’s offense has the potential to be a shell of what we saw during the regular season. This is a game where Oregon should be able to run the football, and Mark Helfrich has gone 25-2 SU as Oregon’s head coach when his team runs for 200 or more yards. Meanwhile, TCU closed out the season with the #80 ranked rushing defense; #66 in yards per carry allowed. Lay the points!