For years, TCU head coach Gary Patterson did little to hide his disdain for Art Briles, the architect of Baylor football’s resurrection. Since scandal brought down Briles in 2016, Patterson has directed his ire elsewhere. TCU’s three-game winning streak in the series probably has something to do with that as well.
The stakes this year are considerably lower than when these teams were squaring off for Big 12 titles: A win will send Baylor to a bowl game; TCU will lock in a sub-.500 record with a loss. That boosts the intrigue around what would otherwise be a snoozer of a game.
TCU at Baylor
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Baylor -2
Three Things to Watch
1. TCU’s ball security
TCU has turned the ball over 21 times through 10 games. That ranks 115th in the nation, and the Horned Frogs have already surpassed their total number of turnovers in the 2015, '16 and '17 seasons.
The Horned Frogs were hanging tough against West Virginia last week until a fumble on a kickoff return enabled the Mountaineers to blow the game wide open. TCU’s struggling offense can’t afford to see many of its possession cut short by turnovers this week.
2. Baylor’s run defense
The Bears are allowing 5.3 yards per carry this year, the worst mark in the Big 12 and 119th in the country. In the last four contests, however, BU is giving up 4.4 yards per attempt — not great, but better.
No one will mistake TCU’s backfield for the Four Horsemen. The Horned Frogs are only averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Junior running backs Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua can still do plenty of damage on the ground. That seems preferable to relying on the arm of sophomore quarterback Michael Collins.
3. Special teams
TCU ranks 113th in the country in Special Teams S&P+, a measure of efficiency. The dismissal of ace kick returner KaVontae Turpin has rendered TCU’s return game a non-factor. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs have received spotty place-kicking from the combo of Jonathan Song and Cole Bunce. For the year, the two have converted 67 percent of their tries.
Baylor doesn’t rate much better at 94th overall, according to Special Teams S&P+. Bears kicker Connor Martin has hit just 13 of his 21 field goal tries this season and has missed three extra point attempts on top of that.
A miscue or two on special teams could turn the outcome of this game, and these teams tend to commit more than their fair share or them.
Baylor actually played a solid game last week in a 28-14 loss to Iowa State. The Bears gained more than 505 yards of total offense, 150 more than ISU. Baylor stalled out in the red zone, however, coming up with points on just two of six trips inside the Cyclones’ 20-yard line.
Conversely, the Horned Frogs got their heads handed to them by West Virginia 47-10, in a performance that suggested TCU is ready for the offseason. TCU could only muster 222 yards of total offense against the Mountaineers’ middling defense.
At this point, these two teams look like they’re heading in different directions. You can count on an inspired effort from Baylor, who knows what to expect on the other sideline? Don’t be surprised if the Bears run away with this game.
Prediction: Baylor 28, TCU 17
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.