In August, many thought the result of a Week 13 matchup between the TCU Horned Frogs and Iowa State Cyclones would have major implications in the Big 12 title race. We all thought wrong.
The Cyclones (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) come limping into the final week of the regular season, having lost two straight road games and fighting to stay above .500 following a 28-21 defeat at Oklahoma last Saturday. Lack of consistency and failed late-game execution has been a common occurrence for Iowa State in 2021. Against the Sooners, it was a mixture of both as the Cyclones scored just one touchdown through three quarters before having to make a late comeback, ending with a Brock Purdy interception to close out the game.
As for TCU (5-6, 3-5), after a drubbing the week prior at Oklahoma State, the Horned Frogs bounced back with a 31-28 victory at home against Kansas. The run game was the difference for TCU as the Horned Frogs racked up over 300 total yards on the ground with four players having at least 50 yards rushing. The program is 2-1 since long-time head coach Gary Patterson resigned.
TCU at Iowa State
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 26 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -14.5
When TCU Has the Ball
The TCU offense has been riddled with injury this season, though quarterback Max Duggan was back in the saddle last Saturday, reclaiming his starting job from Chandler Morris, who is now himself dealing with an injury — though this is a move also to preserve his redshirt looking forwards to the future. There was some rust as Duggan has missed the last two games, but the junior quarterback got the job done with his legs as he always has, rushing for 74 yards and a score on 14 attempts. Duggan was one of three players with at least 10 carries as TCU split the workload in the backfield between Keandre Miller and Emari Demercado, helping the Horned Frogs rush for 300-plus yards as a team for the second time this season. Starting running back Zach Evans has not played the last four games due to a foot injury and likely will not play again this season.
A month ago, we would've said that Duggan would have to get it done through the air against Iowa State and their stout run defense that was No. 1 in the Big 12 for much of the season. Not the case anymore, as we've seen some leakage with the Cyclones allowing over 200 yards in the last two weeks with both Oklahoma and Texas Tech averaging six yards a carry. How Iowa State defends the run will play a major role in the final outcome on Saturday. Defensive end Will McDonald IV is having an outstanding season and is on NFL Draft radars with 20.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
When Iowa State Has the Ball
No secrets as to where the ball is going when Iowa State has it on offense. Running back Breece Hall has not had the Heisman Trophy-like campaign many predicted prior to the season, but he has still been one of the best players in the country with 1,230 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Hall has scored at least one rushing touchdown for 23 straight games and will be facing a TCU run defense that ranks 121st in the country with 30 rushing TDs allowed. When taking to the air, tight end Charlie Kolar has been the top target of late, amassing 25 receptions and three touchdowns in the last three games. After averaging around six targets per game over the first seven weeks, Kolar has seen 10+ targets over this last three-game span.
Of course, that all hinges on quarterback Brock Purdy playing on Saturday after he was knocked out of the Oklahoma game for two series after taking multiple hits from Sooner defenders. "I think there were a couple things that they were looking at," said head coach Matt Campbell of Purdy's injury. "I'll get the details of what exactly it was later on. Other than I know he was good to go once they got him back into the game."
Backup Hunter Dekkers came on in relief of Purdy, throwing for just 29 yards and an interception on nine attempts. TCU is only marginally better at defending the pass this season, allowing opposing QBs to complete 64 percent of their throws, and give up 237 yards per game through the air.
TCU should have some motivation coming into this one with six wins and a bowl appearance on the line. We'll side with the Cyclones here in a home spot where a decorated senior class — one of the best in school history — will close out a disappointing season on a high note. That's about as much analysis as this matchup deserves with neither team living up to expectations in 2021.
Prediction: Iowa State 35, TCU 21
Podcast: Week 13 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.