By Andrew Kahn
Assuming last week’s defensive performance was no fluke — and head coach Gary Patterson doesn’t think it was — TCU will have an incredibly hard time qualifying for the playoff, yet alone winning it. No national champion has allowed as many points in a game as the 52 TCU surrendered on Saturday.
“If our job on defense this year is to hold them to one less, then that’s what we’ll do,” Patterson said in his postgame press conference after the high-scoring win over Texas Tech.
Publicly, coaches prefer talking about the end result —in this case, a win — rather than the details of the game. But privately you know Patterson, who spent his career coaching and coordinating defense before taking over as TCU’s head coach in 2000, is concerned. He got defensive — no pun intended — with the media when asked about riding his star offensive players this season.
“I’ve been here 18 years now. Let’s outscore people for 12 ball games – why not? I’ve been doing it with defense, winning 17-10. How about we win nine or 10 [games] by outscoring people.
“You guys kill me,” he continued. “If I win 17-10, I have no defense. Now we win 55-52, and you’re saying we have to ride [wide receiver Josh] Doctson and Trevone [Boykin, the quarterback]…Plenty of other teams in this league do it with offense.”
That statement would imply Patterson believes a team must choose between a prolific offense and a stout defense. He knows, from his eight seasons with 11 or more wins, that he can have both. The Horned Frogs won last year’s matchup with Texas Tech 82-27. They beat tomorrow’s opponent, Texas, 48-10. They won the Peach Bowl 48-3 over Ole Miss. They’ve often dominated both sides of the ball before.
Mostly because of injuries, that simply hasn’t been the case this year. TCU is 77th in the country in yards per play allowed after ranking sixth at the end of last season. “We’re basically down nine starters on defense,” Patterson said. And he’s not counting the five all-conference defenders who graduated or left after last season. The defense was expected to be a work in progress. Injuries have only exacerbated the issues.
Missing several key pass rushers last week, Patterson anticipated problems against Texas Tech’s pass-happy offense. What’s more troubling is what he said about tomorrow’s game against the Longhorns, a team that has struggled to move the ball, especially through the air: “I don’t expect [it] to be much different.”
In other words, expect another shootout. That TCU already allowed so many points in a game does not bode well for their national championship aspirations. The highest point total I could find scored against an eventual champ was the 43 Auburn allowed in 2010 (a 65-43 win over Arkansas). Most title winners don’t ever allow even 40. I know college football has evolved: more no-huddle, up-tempo offense has led to more plays, possessions, and points. As a result, defenses have to be judged on a curve. But 52 points (and 607 yards, while forcing no turnovers) is a lot no matter how you look at it. (And just so Patterson doesn’t yell at me, I’d be writing the same thing if TCU’s offense had looked as inept as its defense.)
“If you don’t like this kind of a ball game, don’t come,” Patterson said on Saturday. Most people have no problem with a lot of scoring, so they’ll attend TCU games. They just won’t be watching a national championship team.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about college football and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.