Between Bryce Petty’s comeback for the notorious 61-58 game in 2014 and the ugly double overtime TCU win in a Fort Worth monsoon last season, Baylor vs. TCU has become one of the most compelling rivalries in college football. While this year’s 112th edition of the Revivalry lacks the championship and playoff implications of the past two seasons’, the matchup could still be pivotal for two teams reeling after suffering losses last week. The all-time series is currently tied, with each school boasting 52 wins.
Baylor must win to maintain its Big 12 championship aspirations, and TCU must now begin a bit of an uphill climb to reach bowl eligibility. The Horned Frogs must find two wins in their last four games against Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State in order to qualify for postseason play. Baylor’s near future features a similar gauntlet, and the Bears will really need to get rolling to put up a double-digit win season.
Expect the opposing fans to be heated and the players to get a little chippy, as it’s always a fun one when these two private schools get together. Will we see another instant classic between the Bears and Horned Frogs from McLane Stadium on the Brazos in Waco?
KICKOFF: Sat, Nov 5, 2:30 PM CT
WHERE: McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas
WEATHER: Partly cloudy, high of 77, 10% chance of rain, wind 9 mph
STREAM LIVE: Fox Sports Go
TV CREW: Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Shannon Spake
BETTING LINE: Baylor -8, over/under 69
TCU Horned Frogs (4-4)
The preseason hype around TCU as a Big 12 contender and possible playoff dark horse never really materialized, but TCU, sitting at .500, still has an opportunity for a solid season. Last week, the Horned Frogs managed to shank away a chance to hold serve at home, missing three field goals in a surprisingly defense-heavy double overtime loss to Texas Tech, 27-24.
Keys To The Game For TCU
Stop the Run – Last week, the Horned Frogs gave Texas Tech plenty of DB-heavy looks. They loaded up their secondary for the conference’s best passing attack, and it largely paid off, as they contained the Air Raid, with Kingsbury offering high praise for the TCU defensive scheme after the game.
This week, Gary Patterson and TCU DC Chad Glasgow will have to make similarly brilliant adjustments this week, as the Baylor Bears bring in the Big 12’s best rushing attack, averaging 299.3 yards per game, including a 398 yard performance against Texas last week.
The Bears’ running game out of the spread is extremely dangerous, but TCU brings in the conference’s third best run defense, allowing 347 yards per game. The game’s outcome might rest with TCU’s ability to get guys in the box plugging up holes and make Seth Russell throw the ball.
Quarterback Consistency – We all know quality quarterback play is paramount in today’s college football world (unless you’re Kansas State). Quarterback is a bit of a question mark right now for Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie’s offense. After going 16 for 29 with 160 yards and a pick, starter Kenny Hill was pulled late in the game last week. His replacement, Foster Sawyer, wasn’t much better, posting a 6 for 17 for 86 yards and a touchdown stat line. Both had near identical (and sub par) quarterback ratings of 48.6 for Hill and 47.3 for Sawyer.
On the season, Hill has done a decent job, completing 62% of his passes for 2,450 yards and 13 scores, including a five-touchdown showing against Oklahoma. Hill’s 2016 efforts are good for the fourth best QBR in the Big 12, but he has also been intercepted 10 times. The Frogs will trot out Kenny Hill this week, and he’ll need to outperform his current TD-INT ration for the TCU offense to operate smoothly on Saturday.
Defensive Line – Whether Baylor wants to beat them through the air or on the ground, I think the game largely hinges on the battle between Baylor’s offensive line and the big boys on defense for TCU. As I’ve mentioned, the Horned Frogs’s front seven must stop Baylor’s prolific running game, which will require a solid showing from the defensive line. Once they force Russell to make plays with his arm, TCU’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback could give them an edge.
TCU defensive linemen currently man the 4th, 5th, and 6th places (Mat Boesen, Josh Carraway, and Aaron Curry, respectively) in sacks in the conference. That’s a lot of weapons in a pass rush arsenal. Curry has the most sacks of any defensive tackle in the conference.
TCU gets to quarterbacks better than anyone else in the conference, averaging nearly four sacks per game. If the Frogs get stellar play out of the front four, that leaves the secondary extra pieces to use in coverage and could create a long day for Seth Russell.
Baylor Bears (6-1)
Many have pronounced the Bear’s playoff chances dead after last week’s 35-34 loss to the Longhorns in Austin. But Baylor will still have plenty of opportunities to stake their claim to a Big 12 title, and an 11-1 run to the playoff is still theoretically in play. Jim Grobe and his staff have a lot to figure out if they want that season to materialize, and that starts with taking care of business at home tomorrow against TCU.
Keys To The Game For Baylor
Accuracy – One of the most highly thought of quarterbacks in the league coming into 2016, Baylor’s senior QB Seth Russell has struggled to hit his targets of late. In the last three games, he’s posted completion percentages of 50%, 40.9%, and 54.5%. Those relatively low rates were not exactly against stellar pass defenses either. In fact, Baylor is dead last in the Big 12 in completion percentage and has not been able to dial up the big play ability through the air that has characterized the last few Baylor football squads.
Now, Russell has shown potential to play much more efficiently than he has of late, both this season and last season. In the Bears’ win over Oklahoma State, he completed 64.3% of his passes, a figure much closer to what offensive coordinators want to see.
Defense? – Baylor quietly brings in, statistically speaking, the best defense in the conference. The Bears rank sixth in the nation in passing efficiency defense and are 20th in scoring defense. The cynics can point to Baylor cakewalk early season schedule, but it was largely the Bears’ defense who secured them their best win of the season against an Oklahoma State team now fresh off a convincing win over West Virginia.
In that October game in Waco, the Bears defense forced four Cowboy turnovers, and their +2 turnover margin was likely the deciding factor in the outcome. Baylor could look to replicate that performance against TCU, whose offense has coughed up the ball seven times in their four losses.
Whether its dominating the trenches or manufacturing turnovers, we could see a shift away from 2014’s shootout. I’ll predict tomorrow’s game is decided by someone’s defense, not an offense.
4th Quarter – Baylor has played some shut down football in the fourth quarter this year. Their defense allows a NCAA-leading 1.3 points per game in the fourth. However, failing to get stops in the fourth quarter doomed Baylor against Texas, as the Longhorns were able to outscore Baylor 9-3 in the final period of last Saturday’s contest.
Baylor shut out Oklahoma State in the final quarter of that ballgame. The Cowboys four possessions in the fourth quarter resulted in a turnover on downs, a fumble, an interception, and the end of the game. I see tomorrow’s matchup being decided in the fourth quarter, if not overtime. Can Baylor rekindle their clutch suffocating defense in crunch time?
After a few fireworks early, the defenses settle in until a Baylor offensive breakout in the 4th quarter. Kenny Hill tries to engineer a comeback but is intercepted. Bears defend home field but TCU beats the spread. Baylor 27, TCU 21