These two longtime conference rivals are having very different seasons. Baylor is playing spoiler as the Bears have only one win on the season. But nothing would pump up the Baylor fan base like preventing TCU from reaching the Big 12 Championship Game. It may seem like a given on paper, but these two teams always play good games, as they’ve split the past six head-to-head meetings. In fact, TCU has an all-time edge of 53-52-7. That’s about as close as it gets.
Baylor at TCU
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 24 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: TCU -24.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Who’s at quarterback for TCU?
TCU head coach Gary Patterson said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference that quarterback Kenny Hill is “probable” for Friday’s game against the Bears. That’s good news, but not just because it will help the Horned Frogs win this week. It also will give Hill some reps as the Horned Frogs will be playing in the Big 12 Championship Game with a victory over the Bears. TCU would not want Hill having missed two games and then having to prepare for a rematch with the Sooners, while simultaneously needing to knock off some rust. That would be a tough spot.
True freshman and highly-regarded quarterback Shawn Robinson got the job done last week, but he was clearly more comfortable with his legs than with his arm. Robinson rushed for 84 yards on 10 carries, while he completed just six of his 17 pass attempts for 85 yards.
TCU has a great defense and really good running game, but getting the senior Hill back under center is key if the Horned Frogs want any chance of winning the Big 12 title.
2. Stop the run
Regardless of who is at quarterback, TCU will want to run the ball behind Kyle Hicks (above, right), who carried the load with 22 rushes last week due to the injury to Darius Anderson. Last year when these two teams met, Hicks ran for a career-high 192 yards and five touchdowns in the Horned Frogs’ win. This season, the Baylor run defense is the worst in the Big 12, giving up nearly 200 rushing yards per game.
Meantime, Baylor made a more conscious effort last week against Iowa State to get its ground game going, which is did to the tune of 133 rushing yards against the Cyclones. But now the Bears go up against the best run defense in the Big 12. TCU is allowing only 91 rushing yards per game, nearly 20 yards per game lower than No. 2 Texas.
3. Special teams
TCU leads the Big 12 conference in kickoff returns, field goal percentage and punt return average. Baylor has the worst kickoff return average in the conference. TCU return man KaVontae Turpin is an x-factor in any game, but for Baylor to try and pull off the upset, the Bears can’t have a major momentum swing in TCU’s favor like a big kick or punt return.
In addition for playing for a trip to the Big 12 Championship Game, Friday also is senior day for the Horned Frogs, who will honor a massive class of 35 players. TCU may be banged up, but there is just too much on the line for the Horned Frogs to falter. Plus, while the Horned Frogs are defined by their veteran presence, the Bears are defined by their youth. Thirty-two different freshmen or sophomores have started a game for Baylor throughout the season.
Charlie Brewer has improved at quarterback for the Bears, but he is still a true freshman and is about to go up against the best defense in the Big 12 that includes five senior starters such as Travin Howard, Niko Small and Ranthony Texada. They won’t take it easy on Brewer in their final home game at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Baylor doesn’t have the explosive offense or the stout defense to beat TCU in fashions Oklahoma and Iowa State did. The Sooners jumped out to a big lead and TCU is not the kind of team that plays well from behind. And the Iowa State defense completely shut down TCU’s offense. Baylor is in a transition season and TCU will roll to victory in its home finale and get ready for a rematch with the Sooners the following week.
Prediction: TCU 38, Baylor 21
— Written by Pete Mundo, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as well as owner and operator of HeartlandCollegeSports.com, a site for Big 12 fans. Mundo also is a college football analyst for Sports Illustrated’s SI Now and a sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio. He can be found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.