TCU’s first ever Big 12 Conference game didn’t exactly come with a ton of excitement. The Horned Frogs played at Kansas in the second week of the 2012 season and won easily, if sloppily, in Lawrence. The Jayhawks struggled and finished last in the league.
It was the first of four road conference wins for the Frogs, but it came with an 11 a.m. start and was broadcast on FX, a network known more for Louis CK than college football.
The atmosphere surrounding No. 24 TCU’s 2013 league opener couldn’t be more different.
The opponent is Texas Tech (2-0), an in-state rival who probably feels TCU (1-1) doesn’t deserve the respect it has received despite being a newbie to the conference. The setting is AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, often a tough place to play for an opponent with unpredictable wind and the West Texas heat. Texas Tech is hoping to have a packed stadium and is encouraging Red Raider fans to dress in black for a Blackout. The country music act Josh Abbott Band is playing at halftime.
And it comes with a national television audience on ESPN.
Yes, this is going to be much different than last year’s conference opener. I discussed the game with longtime Tech beat writer for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Don Williams, who has covered the team since 1986. He was kind enough to answer five questions on the Red Raiders and what he has seen through two games.
Still, I think his moxie and his success have blown away Tech fans who’d never heard of him six weeks ago. I do believe it’s his job to lose, for a few reasons. He has a really strong arm, and he shows good judgment for when to run. Against SFA, he ran for 12 yards on a third-and-8 and for 11 yards on a third-and-10 from his own 4-yard line. Those are the kind of plays that just kill defensive coordinators and can demoralize defensive players. Another thing you have to take into account: Michael Brewer hasn’t practiced in a month. Even if he gets cleared this week, he’ll need some time to get back into the groove, especially as conference play starts. If Mayfield somehow keeps playing the way he has, though, I don’t see how you can take him out.
And since they’ve won the first two and this storyline of the out-of-nowhere quarterback is growing, there’s been nothing to diminish the excitement Tech fans have felt since Kingsbury was hired in December. They kind of need a good showing — at home, on national television, in the conference opener — to hold on to that feeling.
And then they came out and got five sacks — most in a game since 2010 — in the season opener. So they’ll blitz a lot and disguise looks and so forth, but they’ll need to. They’re small in the front seven for a 3-4. Wallerstedt admits that. And they lost four starters in the secondary, so whatever you can do to shorten the time those guys have to cover is going to help. The tackling has been pretty good in the first two games. Can they keep that up when they’re chasing Big 12 skill players? As Kingsbury says, “We’ll see.”
Good place to eat? I like all sorts of barbecue and Tex-Mex places in Lubbock, but for proximity’s sake, how about Spanky’s? They make a good burger and it’s right across the street from the stadium. In my college days, I used to love that Spanky’s staple, The He-Man Woman Hater. And they’re still making it nearly 30 years later.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760