Horned Frogs look to stay undefeated as battered Jayhawks come to Fort Worth
With the help of losses by Clemson and Washington, the TCU Horned Frogs bumped up to fourth in the AP poll after handling Kansas State 26-6. The revenge tour continues for TCU, who is now 4-0 against teams it lost to last season (Arkansas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas State).
Meantime, in Lawrence, the brutal season continues for the Kansas Jayhawks. KU was crushed by Iowa State 45-0 and had less than 110 total yards of offense on the afternoon. Now the Jayhawks go back on the road where they haven’t won a game since September 2009.
Kansas at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: TCU -38
Three Things to Watch
1. Will history repeat itself?
Since beginning Big 12 play in 2012, TCU has won all five meetings with Kansas, but it hasn’t been easy for the Horned Frogs. Each game has been decided by 14 points or less and by a combined total of 35 points. In fact, the last three games since 2014 have been decided by one, six and four points. Last season, KU missed a field goal as time expired, allowing TCU to hold on for the victory.
When considering how bad the Jayhawks have been the past three years, along with how good TCU has been (tied for the best overall record in the Big 12), it’s impressive how the Jayhawks always play the Horned Frogs tight.
There’s no reason to believe that trend will continue. Unless...
2. Doug Meacham’s secret sauce?
Meacham, Kansas’ offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, was TCU's co-OC and inside receivers coach the previous three seasons (2014-16). Might he be able to help Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen stop the Horned Frogs, while at the same time knowing enough about potential holes in TCU’s defense to exploit those with his offense? Once again, it seems very unlikely. But at this point, it might be Kansas’ best chance to try and pull off the unthinkable.
3. Kansas’ passing attack
The Jayhawks’ only hope in this game is to get the passing attack going. TCU’s defense is the best in the Big 12, but has been slightly more vulnerable against the pass compared to the run, ranking third in the Big 12 at 238 yards per game through the air. KU QB Peyton Bender (above, right) had a rough afternoon against Iowa State last week, completing just eight of his 19 attempts for 18 yards, before being pulled in favor of Carter Stanley, who wasn’t much better (3-for-7 for 26 yards).
But Bender is listed as the starter for this week and has shown flashes, averaging 343 passing yards per game in the first three contests, albeit against FCS opponent Southeast Missouri State and MAC teams Central Michigan and Ohio.
The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense and now go up against a KU offense that is last in the conference games in pass efficiency by a wide margin (86.7, while Kansas State, at ninth, is at 119.3). But passing the ball and running his Air Raid attack is what offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was brought to Lawrence to do, so I don’t expect the formula to change much this weekend. While much of the struggles have been issues with the quarterback and/or offensive line, the wide receivers need to step up as much as possible. Steven Sims is a deep threat for KU and the supporting cast such as Ben Johnson, Jeremiah Booker and Quan Hampton need to have the game of their lives to win this one.
Kansas also needs to take advantage of any opportunities that come in the red zone. KU has actually been effective once it gets inside the 20-yard line, ranking second in the Big 12 with a 95 percent success rate and zero turnovers. The problem is, the Jayhawks have had just 20 trips inside the red zone, which is the second fewest in the conference.
In the end, TCU will establish the running game behind a healthy Kyle Hicks, plus Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua. The Horned Frogs have the best rushing attack in the Big 12. Unless KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen’s front seven, which has struggled to successfully stop the run all season, can prove otherwise, it’s going to be a long evening for the Jayhawks in Fort Worth.
Prediction: TCU 49, Kansas 10
— 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 sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio and can found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.