Jayhawks, Horned Frogs look to get back on track
This Kansas-TCU matchup lost a lot of steam after last weekend. The Jayhawks and Horned Frogs were both felled by close losses to West Virginia and SMU, respectively, and both on their home fields too. This upcoming Big 12 matchup could very well have been 3-1 Kansas at No. 20-ranked TCU, if a break or two had gone each team's way last Saturday.
Instead, we get Les Miles and the boys coming to Fort Worth with a 2-2 mark after the 29-24 loss to the Mountaineers and the Frogs are licking their wounds from getting their defense pock-marked 41-38 by the Mustangs. Both teams have sights on a postseason game (it's never too early to look ahead) and let’s face it, this is nearly a must-win for both if they want to extend their season into December.
Kansas at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 28 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: TCU -16.5
When Kansas Has the Ball
Jayhawks KU wideout Andrew Parchment has been a game-breaker, with three straight 100-yard receiving games. Quarterback Carter Stanley has plenty of weapons, including running backs Pooka Williams Jr. and Khalil Herbert, but his connection with Parchment has been special so far. Last week vs. WVU, Parchment had two TD catches, one a 75-yard bomb to keep the game close.
KU head coach Les Miles, known for his riverboat gambling at LSU, pulled out a few gems in last week’s loss to West Virginia. On one ruse, he had his field goal kicker Liam Jones feign like he had pulled a muscle in his kicking leg on a field goal attempt, so he could stealthily put in Jacob Borcila for the kickoff, who is an accomplished onside pooch kicker. Let’s hope we see some more prestidigitation from the grass-eater in this one. Hell, the Jayhawks might need it anyway.
Prior to last weekend’s loss to SMU the Horned Frog defense had been back to its usual thorny way of D we've seen under Gary Patterson over the years, giving up just 209 yards per game. But then the rival Mustangs came to town and went through TCU like a knife through hot butter. SMU scored 31 first-half points and piled up 276 yards. On the good side, how impressive has LB Garret Wallow been? The Frog 'backer had 19 tackles vs. SMU as one of the few bright spots.
When TCU Has the Ball
The Frog fans got what they wanted when freshman Max Duggan was given his first starting assignment at quarterback, but things did NOT go as planned. Duggan was a little jittery and rushed some throws, resulting in a 1-for-10 start to the game, to go along with two fumbles. It wasn't until the fourth quarter when Duggan finally started to look comfortable and in a zone. He finished the final frame going 10-of-17 for 113 yards and two TDs. Look for more of THAT Duggan as the jitters should be gone by kickoff this week.
One way to keep Duggan as the hot hand is getting the ball to difference-makers like mercurial wideout Jalen Reagor and RB/returner Darius Anderson, who ran for 138 yards in the first half alone vs. the Mustangs. Reagor really needs to get more involved in the passing game, having just two catches for two yards vs. SMU. His game-breaking ability was missed last week.
SMU seemed to keep TCU's freshman QB rattled by sending the kitchen sink after him, especially on the game-sealing fourth-down play in the final minute. Expect to see more of this as the Jayhawks need an oskie or two. The Kansas defense hasn't forced a turnover in the last three games.
We're all wondering who was playing defense in TCU's jerseys last week vs. SMU. Head coach Gary Patterson and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen have their work cut out for them this week to regain some confidence in that unit.
Considering the Jayhawks have gone from No. 108 to No. 77 in ESPN's SP+ rankings, they are clearly better than everyone expected. And if there is one team the Rock Chalkers have played well against in recent years, it's the Horned Frogs, losing by 10 in 2013, four in '14, six in '15 and by one in '16. And as bad as KU was last year -- a 3-9 season -- their lone win in conference play was a 27-26 victory over TCU in Lawrence. So the Frogs have some payback in mind. They'll shake the cobwebs from last week and make amends for a year ago. But it will be close again.
Prediction: TCU 34, Kansas 27
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.