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Horned Frogs, Wildcats Jockey for Bowl Position in Final Regular Season Tilt

Previewing and Predicting the Wildcats vs the Horned Frogs as the regular season comes to a close.

Getty Images - Peter G Aiken

Amon G. Carter Stadium will host a purple on purple regular season finale to sort out who ends up the league’s fourth best team and likely who heads to Houston for the Advocare Texas Bowl to take on an SEC foe for postseason play.

Date/Time:  Saturday, Dec 3, 11:00 AM CST
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium (Ft. Worth, TX)
Forecast: Chance of Showers, High of 49 degrees
Stream: Fox Sports Go
TV Crew: Aaron Goldsmith, Ben Leber
Betting Line: TCU -4.5

Kansas State 7-4 (5-3)

After outlasting the Kansas Jayhawks’ in the second half, coach Bill Snyder earned his 200th win. But in doing so, the Wildcats reminded fans of their inconsistencies despite being well ahead of pre-season projections of the league’s 8th best team.

When Jesse Ertz was out of the game and Freshman phenom Alex Barnes was not receiving handoffs, the Wildcat offense looked every bit as mundane as its 97th national ranking for total offense.

Speaking of inconsistencies, the Wildcats gave up the deep ball once again last week. A bugaboo that has haunted their pass defense stats all year long. Last week it was to three-time starter Carter Stanley of the Jayhawks for 95 yards. The defense has shown flashes of greatness at times, but has primarily been most reliable in stopping the run. The Wildcat defense still possesses the league’s top overall defense holding opponents to under 392 total yards per game, where only 110 come from the ground game.

But if anything about the word inconsistency is a positive in the K-State camp, it is how much it annoys Coach Snyder and how well he can turn that into a mantra to work towards getting better regardless of it being the final game on the schedule.

Keys To The Game For K-State

Stay On The Plus Side – the Wildcats lead the league at plus 11 in the turnover margin, whereas the Horned Frogs appear near the bottom at negative three on the year. Kenny Hill is prone to throwing the interception and this Wildcat secondary recorded eight interceptions in the past four games.

Run The Ball Without Creativity – Tailback Alex Barnes has proven himself a tough target to bring down. The Kansas State coaching staff has elected to give everyone in the rotation a shot at getting carries, but there should be no need to rely on anyone else than Barnes  quarterback Jesse Ertz or fullback Winston Dimel unless injuries are involved. The offensive line has meshed well with the recent rushing commitment, but the Wildcats will also have to present enough of a passing game to keep the safeties from coming up in run coverage too often.

The Little Things – two of the things not present with this year’s roster as most recent Snyder teams is number of penalties – though relative to the league they are the second least penalized. The Wildcats have had a 12 penalty game, three 8 penalty games, one with 7 and another three with 6. Against Baylor, six of the eight came in the first quarter. The remaining games were 4 penalties or less, so it is feast or famine for the Wildcats. If the Wildcats can be focussed, penalty yardage could go a long way, as TCU is second to last (Baylor) in the conference with total penalties. Let the home team make the mistakes. When trying to win a conference road game and the margin of error is always much thinner.

Texas Christian 6-5 (4-4)

The Horned Frogs made sure it was a Black Friday to remember for Texas Longhorns last week. For one, the black helmets and black pants was the uniform of choice. Secondly the 31-9 victory marked the end of the Charlie Strong era in Austin. The win capped off the third victory in a row over the flagship institution.

Similar to the Wildcats, the Horned Frogs have seen their share of highs and lows through the schedule. Early, Coach Gary Patterson defense did not quite look like the old-fashioned defense struggling to keep the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at bay in game one of the year letting 41 points be tallied by the opposition. It was brought to the nation’s attention a week later when the Horned Frogs struggled to stop the Razorbacks of Arkansas at home. But Patterson has slowly got his squad back to the number two spot in total defense in the conference, second only to the Wildcats.

To draw yet another similarity to their opposition besides team color, the Horned Frogs have found a renewed confidence in the rushing attack in the form of a freshman, Darius Anderson. Anderson accounted for 103 (in three caries) of the team’s 309 rushing yards versus Texas, 70 of it coming on one run. Only the Wildcats (33) have more rushing touchdowns than the Horned Frogs (29) in this conference.

Keys To The Game For TCU

Connect Deep – The Kansas State pass defense has given up 29 passing plays of greater than 30 yards. TCU quarterback Kenny Hill on the other hand has connected on 43 passing plays of greater than 30 yards. Look for co-offensive coordinators Sonnie Cumbie and Doug Meacham to scheme a way to get some guys open down field especially with speedster Kavontae Turpin back from injury to complement team leader Taj Williams.

Backfield Battle – Think of a pitcher’s duel in baseball. The TCU running backs cannot be directly facing the Wildcat running backs on the field at the same time, but they can let pride motivate them to make sure they are out  in front their counterparts on the stat sheet. Season leader Kyle Hicks is questionable for Saturday’s match-up, so it is important that Anderson is mentally prepped to back up what he started last week. If the Horned Frogs can find success against the conference’s top rated rush defense, TCU will have a nice complement to that passing game.

Bottle Up Ertz –  The Horned Frogs are second in the conference in sacks, trailing Texas (whose season is over) by one. Given the pedestrian passing game that the Wildcats have, the trick will be getting pressure on Jesse Ertz to frustrate the Wildcats and make their offense even more one-dimensional. However Ertz is the leading rusher for the Wildcats, so when the pocket collapses the Horned Frog pass rush needs to be accurate.

Game Prediction

All things considered, these two teams are very evenly matched. From a coaching standpoint, two of the conferences’ best are going at it. The biggest advantage any team has on the other is the TCU Passing game versus the Kansas State passing defense. It likely will come down to the smallest of things that decides the outcome. Can the Horned Frogs harness the emotion of Senior Day and the home crowd? Or do the Ft. Worth faithful elect to put up the Christmas Tree with the bleak forecast?

Neither team has a particular strong kicking game especially with the injury to Kansas State season starter Matthew McCrane. If the Horned Frogs lose the turnover battle, expect Kansas State to win. If the Wildcats cannot get the extra stops from turnovers and cannot find decent success through the air, Horned Frogs likely emerge victorious.  On paper this game sets up to be Championship Weekend caliber of close.

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