Following Oklahoma’s stunning loss to Iowa State last weekend, the TCU Horned Frogs are now the only undefeated team left in the Big 12 conference. TCU was able to hold off a tough West Virginia team last week 31-24 at home and is now 5-0 for the fifth time in 15 seasons under head coach Gary Patterson.
With wins over Arkansas, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, TCU is 3-0 this year against teams it lost to last year. The Horned Frogs will look to improve that number to 4-0, as Kansas State beat TCU in the final game of the regular season in 2016. Meanwhile, Kansas State is coming off a double-overtime road loss to the Texas Longhorns last week.
The all-time series between the Horned Frogs and Wildcats is tied at 5-5, with the road team winning this game the past two seasons. Last season, Kansas State dominated teams from the Lone Star State, beating Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M in, appropriately enough, the Texas Bowl. That streak ended last week in Austin.
TCU at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: TCU -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Who’s at quarterback for K-State?
Quarterback Jesse Ertz (above, right) left Saturday’s game against Texas with an apparent injury and head coach Bill Snyder has keep quiet as to what exactly is nagging his starter. If Ertz can’t go, expect to see Alex Delton taking snaps Saturday against TCU. Delton is a gazelle running the ball and racked up 79 rushing yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns against Texas last week. But he’s not nearly the passer that Ertz is, looking shaky in his five pass attempts, completing two of them for 30 yards.
Clearly, K-State will throw the ball far less if it’s Delton who gets the call at quarterback. Ertz is currently best in the nation in yards per completion (16.91) and 10th in yards per attempt (9.30). Don’t expect a game plan like that with Delton. Expect a heavy dose of the rushing game led by the quarterback, along with running backs Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon.
2. Can Kansas State stop TCU’s rushing attack?
Kansas State has been decent against the run this year, but far from spectacular. The Wildcats are allowing 129 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the Big 12. Enter TCU. Gary Patterson wanted to get back to running the ball more this season and his team has done just that. TCU’s rushing attack is tops in the Big 12, averaging 220 yards per game, and is ranked 26th in the nation. The three-headed monster of Kyle Hicks, Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua has been giving defenses fits this season and has taken some pressure off of quarterback Kenny Hill.
3. TCU’s defensive line vs. Kansas State’s offensive line
The TCU defense has piled up 13 sacks through five games, which is the most in the Big 12. Meantime, Kansas State has allowed just seven sacks in five games, which is tied for third fewest in the conference. What’s going to give? In TCU’s upset over Oklahoma State, the Horned Frogs took advantage of the right side of the OSU offensive line that was using backups. If the Wildcats want to pull off the upset at home, they’ll have to give their quarterback, either Ertz or Delton, plenty of time to operate.
Right now, TCU is the best hope for the Big 12 conference to make the College Football Playoff. That’s a lot of pressure for Gary Patterson’s team to carry through the rest of the season. But of the 22 players on offense and defense, TCU starts 13 seniors and has 22 players with at least 10 career starts. If any team can handle it, it’s TCU.
Manhattan is never an easy place to play, but the Wildcats have not looked like themselves at times this season. They’ve had poorly-timed penalties and turnovers in their two losses against their toughest opponents, Vanderbilt and Texas. Plus, whether it’s a banged-up Jesse Ertz at quarterback or the less experienced Alex Delton, TCU’s defense will handle its business against the Wildcats.
One facet of the game Kansas State usually has an edge in is special teams. But that won’t be the case this week either, as TCU is tops in the Big 12 in kickoff coverage and KaVonte Turpin is just as talented, if not more so, a return man as Kansas State’s Byron Pringle.
Prediction: TCU 34, Kansas State 24
— 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.