The TCU Horned Frogs are inching closer to a potential Big 12 conference title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. In-state rival Baylor is one of the few obstacles still standing in their way.
The Bears (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) are hosting TCU Saturday a week after getting drubbed by Kansas State, 31-3. Upsetting the Horned Frogs (10-0, 7-0) would help salvage a season that hasn’t gone according to plan for Dave Aranda's team. Doing so will require playing four solid quarters of football, as no lead is safe versus TCU and quarterback Max Duggan.
Here’s what to watch at McLane Stadium on Saturday.
No. 4 TCU at Baylor
When TCU Has the Ball
Despite pulling out a win, the Horned Frogs got shut down by Texas last week. TCU rode its ground attack to a 17-10 win, running the ball 44 times in the game for 159 yards. Junior running back Kendre Miller carried most of the load, picking up 138 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
The Horned Frogs didn’t do much through the air last week either. The Longhorns held TCU’s passing game to just 4.3 yards per attempt, with Max Duggan completing 19 of his 29 throws for 124 yards and a score.
As with every team that takes on TCU, the Bears have to find a way to contain Quentin Johnston, the Horned Frogs’ big-bodied receiver. The junior has grabbed 46 passes for 716 yards and five touchdowns already this season, and he came up with timely receptions last week. Look for Baylor to minimize its blitz attempts and drop more players into coverage to deal with Johnston and company.
When Baylor Has the Ball
Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes doesn’t hide much about this team’s attack. The Bears run the ball on roughly 60 percent of plays, setting up quarterback Blake Shapen for timely throws. For his part, Shapen is muddling through this season with a passer rating of 140.1, the third-best mark in the Big 12.
Baylor may find some success by hammering the TCU defense on the ground. The Horned Frogs are giving up 3.8 yards per rush, which ranks fourth in the Big 12 – not great, but also not terrible. If the Bears commit to the run, Shapen should eventually get a chance to take some shots down the field.
TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie may look to manufacture some negative plays throughout the game. The Horned Frogs rank seventh in the Big 12 with 53 stops behind the line of scrimmage, a sign they’re not creating much disruption on their own.
It’s easy to get caught up in TCU as 2022’s college football team of destiny. That ignores the fact that head coach Sonny Dykes has assembled a well-rounded squad in his first year in Fort Worth.
Last week, TCU won with defense – holding Texas’ potentially dangerous offense to three points. Other times, the Horned Frogs are bombing away at their opponents, as was the case when they put up 55 points on Oklahoma, 43 on Oklahoma State, and 41 on West Virginia.
All of that poses a problem for Baylor, which can’t really hope to force the Horned Frogs into an uncomfortable game. Given the Bears’ strength on the ground, their best option seems to be playing keep-away TCU’s lethal O. But can they run the ball consistently enough to pull that off?
Baylor can keep this game tight for three quarters. TCU seems more likely to find a score in the final frame to put the game away.
Prediction: TCU 28, Baylor 21
Podcast: Week 12 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread + Reaction to CFB Playoff Top 25 Rankings
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.
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