Finally, Texas' Bijan Robinson and TCU's Zach Evans will meet in a five-star RB showdown
There are plenty of intriguing matchups in Saturday's Texas-TCU game in Fort Worth.
No quarterback in the Big 12 is playing better right now than Texas' Casey Thompson. TCU's Max Duggan, however, is 2-0 against the Longhorns. In the trenches, TCU defensive end Ochaun Mathis has 10 sacks in his last eight games and Texas right tackle Derek Kerstetter will make his 42nd career start. And Steve Sarkisian gets his first shot against Gary Patterson, who went 3-0 vs. Texas under Charlie Strong and then 3-1 against Tom Herman.
Then there's the five-star battle in the backfield.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson and TCU's Zach Evans were the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 running back prospects in the 2020 recruiting class and two of only three five-star backs that year, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Demarkcus Bowman, who signed with Clemson, was the other. Robinson was the No. 15 overall recruit in the country, Evans was No. 16.
Robinson, who has rushed for 436 yards, is the leading rusher in the Big 12. TCU (2-1) has played one fewer game than Texas (3-1), so Evans actually leads the conference with his average of 110.0 yards per game. Robinson is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Evans boasts a 7.9 average. Robinson has scored seven touchdowns in four games; Evans has three touchdowns in three games.
"He's a great running back," Robinson said. "It was more like my situation. He needed to get used to the game, used to the speed of the game. When everything got comfortable for him, that's when everything started to really show and explode for him."
Since the 2010 recruiting cycle ended, only twice have the nation's top two-ranked running backs from the same class squared off in a game. The top two prospects from 2017, Alabama's Najee Harris and Florida State's Cam Akers, opened the 2017 season against each other; Harris had only three carries for five yards and Akers led the Seminoles with 30 yards, but the Crimson Tide won 24-7. Last year, Georgia's Zamir White and Florida's Lorenzo Lingard, the top backs from the 2018 class, both appeared in the Gators' 44-28 win.
Robinson and Evans missed out on their first head-to-head showdown last year; Robinson missed the TCU game in Austin with a back injury while Evans had just one carry.
So Round 1 of Evans-Robinson will instead come on Saturday.
Evans was the first five-star recruit to ever sign with TCU. He had only the one run that went for three yards in last year's 33-31 Horned Frogs win, but many of the Longhorns didn't need an extended look to gauge what Evans can do. He's from the Houston area and was an all-state honoree who helped Galena Park North Shore win two state championships.
Texas defensive back Anthony Cook called Evans "probably the best running back we're going to face this year." Of course, Evans also was one of the best running backs that Cook faced in high school. When asked this week how Evans fared against him and Houston Lamar, Cook slyly responded, "he was successful."
In fact, Evans rushed for 174 yards and four touchdowns as North Shore eliminated Lamar from the Class 6A Division I playoffs in 2017. That Lamar team starred Cook as well as fellow Longhorns D'Shawn Jamison and Al'Vonte Woodard.
"I already know how good he is," Cook said. "He's just real physical, fast. He's everything you look for in a back."
Texas defensive lineman Keondre Coburn also hails from the Houston area. He said this week that he actually coached Evans in a youth league one season.
"Every time he got the ball, he scored," Coburn said. "Me coaching him, being on the same side with him, I was 'Yes.' Now going against him, I can't do that. You've got to get him down."
Robinson and Evans have had a friendly relationship for years. Robinson, who played high school in Arizona, said that going back to their days of being recruited, the two backs have often talked to each other about their games and how to get better.
Not surprisingly, Robinson and Evans each generated a lot of scholarship offers in high school. Texas was one of the schools that recruited both. Was there ever a chance of Robinson and Evans teaming up in the same backfield?
"I think we were always going to go our separate ways," Robinson said. "For him, I'm glad he chose a school that he's comfortable with and same for me. We're both in Texas now. I enjoy the fact that there's another good back over there at TCU. It's fun to watch that we're in the same grade doing what we're doing."
Texas at TCU, 11 a.m., ABC, 104.9