Horned Frogs look to get back to .500 when they take on the winless Jayhawks
The TCU Horned Frogs and Kansas Jayhawks are set to kick off in a Big 12 game Saturday night. TCU, which fell to 3-4 following a 24-6 loss to West Virginia in its last game, has waited two weeks for the opportunity to get back to .500. The Horned Frogs are heavy favorites against winless Kansas, but memories of the 27-26 Jayhawks victory in TCU's last visit to Lawrence are still fresh.
The Frogs were already scheduled to have last week off and have had extra time to prepare, but Kansas hasn't played since a 62-9 loss to Oklahoma Nov. 7 and has now waited a full three weeks for another opportunity to get its first victory of the season. The Jayhawks are 0-7 overall and 0-6 in conference play and took an off week ahead of a Nov. 21 date with Texas, which was postponed late last week due to COVID protocols.
TCU at Kansas
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: TCU -24.5
When TCU Has the Ball
Max Duggan didn't start the season for TCU because of a medical issue that limited him during the summer and fall camp, but he replaced Matthew Downing early in the opener against Iowa State and quickly reclaimed his rightful place atop the depth chart. Duggan has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,274 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions this season and has added 348 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 90 carries — all of which lead the Horned Frogs.
Simply, Duggan is the best and most important piece of the TCU offense — a unit that ranks 89th nationally in yards per play (5.32). His supporting cast has been far less consistent. Darwin Barlow has carried the heaviest load among running backs, gaining 304 yards and scoring three times on 53 carries, though he had only three attempts in the last game. The true freshman duo of Kendre Miller (195 rushing yards) and Zach Evans (151, TD) has added depth as veterans Emari Demercado (93 yds.) and Daimarqua Forster (72, TD) have been slowed by injuries.
The receiving corps has been impacted by injury as well, and the Frogs even lost a few expected contributors to the transfer portal during the season. Taye Barber has become Duggan's go-to guy, leading the team with 30 receptions, 320 yards and two touchdowns. True freshman Quentin Johnston (14 rec., 240 yds., TD) and redshirt freshman Blair Conwright (17, 207, TD) offer optimism for the future, and tight end Pro Wells (10, 117, TD) can be a weapon.
When Kansas Has the Ball
Like Max Duggan, Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels began the season on the sideline. But with an injury to Week 1 starter Thomas MacVittie and the inconsistency of Miles Kendrick, head coach Les Miles embraced the true freshman Daniels as both the future and the present for the Jayhawks at the position. Daniels, who has also been banged up this year, has completed 51.8 percent of his passes for 661 yards and four interceptions. He leads the team with three rushing touchdowns but has gained only 36 yards on 68 carries thanks largely to the 25 sacks he has taken (KU has allowed 38 sacks overall — most in the country).
The Jayhawks rushing attack took a hit when Pooka Williams Jr. (196 rushing yards, 2 TDs) opted out of the season after four games to attend to a family matter. Velton Gardner has taken over as the primary ball carrier and leads the unit with 325 rushing yards on 72 carries, including two touchdowns, but he did not play against Oklahoma. Daniel Hishaw gained 73 yards on 10 carries against the Sooners and has accounted for 142 yards and a one score on the ground this year.
Receivers Andrew Parchment and Stephon Robinson Jr. entered 2020 with all-conference hopes, but Kwamie Lassiter II leads the Jayhawks with 31 receptions and 324 yards. Lassiter was on the receiving end of one of Kendrick's four TD passes. Parchment has 192 yards and a team-high two touchdowns on 23 catches, but Robinson hasn't played since Oct. 17 and has just two catches for 35 yards in three games. Freshman Luke Grimm has added a big-play element to the offense in recent weeks with 142 yards on nine receptions — a team-leading 15.8 yards per catch. Takulve Williams has caught 17 passes but has just 88 receiving yards.
Kansas ranks among the nation's worst offenses in several advanced statistical categories, including No. 125 in Expected Points Added per play (-0.340) and No. 124 in success rate (26.6 percent) across non-garbage plays against FBS opponents according to cfb-graphs.com. Early downs have been very troublesome for Kansas, which ranks last nationally in yards per play (3.618), setting up an average distance of 8.714 yards to go on third down, which ranks 122nd.
As is often the case, the TCU defense has been the better unit. The Horned Frogs rank fifth in success rate allowed (32.3 percent), though TCU also ranks a mediocre 79th in yards allowed per play (5.93). Meanwhile, Kansas has allowed a 46.3 percent success rate, which ranks 111th in FBS, and has surrendered 6.59 yards per snap, which sits 110th on the national leaderboard. Neither unit has been particularly adept forcing turnovers, sharing the No. 81 spot with six takeaways apiece, though the Frogs have had better success rushing the passer with 17 sacks this season compared to Kansas' eight, which doesn't bode well for the struggling Jayhawks offensive line.
Kansas has played TCU better than most of its opponents this decade with the 2018 victory and close losses in 2014, 2015 and 2016. But the Frogs won 51-14 in 2019, and this year's KU squad is less experienced as a whole, and is also lacking punch due to a shorthanded offense missing Williams and Robinson. TCU has struggled at times as well, especially on offense, but the Horned Frogs should pick up an easy win Saturday.
Prediction: TCU 43, Kansas 17
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