Skip to main content

Big 12 Championship Prediction: Undefeated TCU Takes on Kansas State in Arlington

The Horned Frogs can secure a spot in the College Football Playoff with a second win over the Wildcats.

Either the TCU Horned Frogs or Kansas State Wildcats will win their first reanimated Big 12 Football Championship Game on Saturday.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 14

For TCU, the stakes are even higher in this matchup than a conference title. The Horned Frogs put together a 12-0 record this year (9-0 in Big 12 play), climbing to No. 3 in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings. Even a loss might not keep them out of college football's version of the Final Four, but head coach Sonny Dykes probably has no interest in testing that theory.

Kansas State (9-3, 7-2), on the other hand, is looking for revenge after dropping its meeting with TCU in October 38-28. Will the Wildcats settle the score, or will TCU march into the postseason with a spotless record?

Big 12 Football Championship Game: No. 10 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 3 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: TCU -2.5
Tickets: As low as $70 on*

When Kansas State Has the Ball

After losing starting quarterback Adrian Martinez to injury, the Wildcats arguably got better on offense in the second half of the season with Will Howard behind center. Howard took over for Martinez early in the first meeting versus TCU and shredded the Horned Frogs, completing 13 of 20 pass attempts for 225 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. A mid-game injury sent Howard to the bench for a stretch in the game during which TCU seized control.

Howard and workhorse running back Deuce Vaughn combine to give KSU a physical rushing attack. Head coach Chris Klieman may look to the backfield duo to help monopolize possession of the ball and keep the Horned Frogs' offense on the sideline. Despite his diminutive stature, Vaughn's durability and bruising running style will make him an especially tall order for the TCU defense.

For defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie, throwing the Wildcats off schedule will be job one. If the Horned Frogs can stand their ground on early running downs, it will blunt KSU's ability to control the clock and neutralize Vaughn's impact on the game. Don't be surprised if Gillespie commits extra defenders to the run on first and second down, daring the Wildcats to try for some deep shots.

When TCU Has the Ball

When these two teams squared off in the middle of the season, the Horned Frogs exploded for 21 points in the second half to overcome a 28-17 halftime deficit. Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award recipient and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Max Duggan had a strong showing, completing 17 of his 26 pass attempts for 280 yards and three touchdowns. The veteran quarterback hit receivers Quentin Johnston and Jared Wiley a combined nine times for 148 yards and two scores throughout the course of the game.

Although TCU's aerial attack gets most of the ink, the emergence of its running game has turned this offense into one of the most complete units in the country. Kendre Miller put together one of his best games of the season against KSU, rolling through the Wildcats for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

This time around, the dilemma for the Kansas State coaching staff is determining how many defenders they can dedicate to stopping the Horned Frogs on the ground. The Wildcats fielded one of the best pass defenses in the Big 12, allowing 6.3 yards per attempt for the season, which may give Klieman reason to believe he can ask his linebackers to key on Miller. As good as TCU's passing attack may be, Klieman would probably rather make Duggan and company beat his team through the air.

Final Analysis

You don't have to work hard to come up with motivational angles for this matchup. In fact, TCU's postseason positioning seems to be the best reason to think the Horned Frogs will win this game, given how the first meeting played out. Kansas State missed two field goals, and TCU also scored a touchdown on a drive that started at the Wildcats' 30-yard line. If that's what it takes for the Horned Frogs to beat KSU, it's hard to see the same stars aligning on Saturday.

However, TCU's detractors have talked all season as though the team's first loss is just right around the corner. The Horned Frogs keep on proving them wrong.

One underrated factor in this matchup is that TCU put together a game plan to stop Martinez the first time these two teams met up. When Howard took over on the game's second possession, the Horned Frogs didn't look prepared for the Wildcats to start bombing away. Gillespie has a better idea of what his defense will see from KSU this week. (Ironically, that means the Wildcats could possibly do some damage with a special package of plays for Martinez at QB this time around.)

With that in mind, count on the Frogs to slow Howard and Kansas State down. Meanwhile, expect the Horned Frogs to ride Miller early and force the Wildcats to expose themselves to Duggan and his receiving corps with single coverage.

TCU isn't going to leave its College Football Playoff fate up to chance.

Prediction: TCU 31, Kansas State 24

Podcast: Complete Week 14 Preview, Predictions & Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.

*Price as of publication.