During the 2014 and 2015 seasons you would have been hard pressed to find two fan bases that disliked each other as much as TCU and Baylor. However, in the aftermath of the scandal that engulfed the Baylor football program, the rivalry has lost some heat. Both teams struggled in 2016 going 6-6 before their bowl games. This season however has seen the two teams head in completely opposite directions. Under first year head coach Matt Rhule, the Bears have gone 1-10. The Horned Frogs have bounced back though, and are sitting at 9-2 with a shot at the Big 12 championship game on the line. Despite the difference in current trajectory, this is a rivalry that both teams desperately want to win year in and year out. As Gary Patterson noted earlier this week, this is Baylor’s bowl game, and TCU will regret it if they take the Bears lightly.
DATE & TIME: FRI, NOV 24, 11:00 AM CT
LOCATION: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
FORECAST: Sunny and 71 Degrees
BETTING LINE: TCU -25.5
BAYLOR BEARS (1-10, 1-7)
For Baylor this season has gone about as bad as anyone could have imagined. Despite a new coaching staff, and a loss of some quality players, there was optimism that this team would still be in the upper half of the Big 12. A bowl game seemed like a certainty to just about everyone. There was even one member of the college football media who predicted Baylor to win the Big 12.
However, for Baylor, this season has played out like the movie Groundhog Day. Every week Baylor is hanging in against their opponent, but each week they can’t seem to pull out a victory. Of their ten losses only two of them have been by more than fourteen points. What that tells you is that this is a team that has refused to fold. Despite working with a lack of depth, this is a team that has some talented players, and those players are still fully bought in to this season.
Offensively the Bears have looked much better since true freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer has taken over. After taking over for Zach Smith midway through the season, Brewer has thrown for just over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns. The thing that makes Brewer a better fit for this offense is his mobility. Despite not taking a snap in the first four games of the season, Brewer is already fourth on the team in rushing yards. With the offensive line struggling this season, Brewer’s feet can get him out of situations that Smith’s couldn’t.
Helping Brewer out is sophomore wide receiver Denzel Mims. Mims is a big-bodied receiver standing 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. Mims has over 1,000 yards receiving on the season, and leads the team with eight touchdown receptions. The TCU secondary is going to have to account for Mims, because he is the biggest threat on the field for Baylor’s offense. Knowing that TCU is susceptible to giving up big plays, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mims get open more than a few times.
Defensively, Baylor has struggled this season. Currently Baylor ranks 112th in scoring defense, 116th in total defense, and 120th in opponents yards per play. While Baylor has never been known for its defense, this year in particular has been made tough by injuries. Heading into Friday’s game both starting linebackers, Taylor Young and Clay Johnston, will be out. Additionally, Baylor has been missing multiple starters from their secondary. Tacking these injuries on to the already shaky depth of this team has made it near impossible for Baylor’s defense to stop almost anybody.
The good news for Baylor is that they might have had their best defensive performance of the season last week against Iowa State. After giving up an average of 38 points per game in Big 12 play to this point in the season, Baylor only allowed 23 points to Iowa State. Additionally, TCU is facing its own injury issues on offense, specifically at quarterback, which could greatly help the Bears pull the upset on Friday.
TCU HORNED FROGS (9-2, 6-2)
TCU could be looking at their third different starting quarterback of the season come Friday. Earlier this week, Gary Patterson said in his weekly press conference that both Kenny Hill and Shawn Robinson are questionable for the game against Baylor. Hill did not play last week against Texas Tech after dealing with a reported concussion following the Oklahoma game. Robinson started against Texas Tech, and played the entire game. However, he did take more than a few shots, and it seems that one of those might be keeping him out come Friday.
If neither Hill or Robinson can go then TCU will be turning to third stringer Grayson Muehlstein. Muehlstein is a 6-foot-4, 210 pound junior from Decatur, TX. Muehlstein has yet to see the field once this season, but is a talented dual-threat quarterback. While Patterson is known to be cagey about what he does or doesn’t say regarding injuries, this will be something that could drastically shift expectations for how this game will unfold.
The good news for TCU though is that they still have tons of talent to surround whoever starts at quarterback. Kyle Hicks will likely see a lot of work in this game, and if his performance is anything like the one he had against Baylor last year, then TCU fans will be more than happy. Last year, Hicks went off in Waco with a 192 yard, five touchdown performance. With Darius Anderson done for the season, Hicks will likely shoulder the bulk of the rushing attack for TCU.
Defensively, this side of the ball for TCU continues to show up. Last week against Texas Tech, they held the Red Raiders to three total points. This was the sixth game of the season in which TCU has held an opponent to single digit scoring. This was also the fifth game in a row in which TCU has not allowed a second half point. TCU is seventh in the country in scoring defense, and fourteenth in the country in total defense. In a conference that is known for the amount of points scored, it is truly impressive to see these kind of defensive numbers.
While the defense continues to thrive, they are not without their own set of injuries. Last week against Texas Tech, TCU played without their two starting linebackers, Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson, as well as being without their starting safety Niko Small. It would be a huge boost for the Baylor offensive attack if these players were out again this week.
Keep an eye on the TCU defensive line vs. the Baylor offensive line. The TCU defensive line has been one of the best units in all of the Big 12. Conversely the Baylor offensive line has struggled this year, specifically in run blocking. If TCU is winning this battle with consistency then the Bears will be in for a long game.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR BU
FEED MIMS – He is without a doubt the best offensive weapon that Baylor has. He has the ability to stretch the TCU defense, and to make big plays regardless of what the coverage looks like. Brewer should be taking deep shots to Mims on a regular basis in this game.
STOP THE RUN – Regardless of who is at quarterback for TCU, it seems likely that offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie is going to want to run the ball to help out the quarterback. Baylor should try to shut down the run, and force whoever is behind center to win the game with their arm.
LEAVE IT ALL OUT THERE – This is the last game of the season for Baylor. No bowl game awaits them after this. Baylor has no reason to hold anything back. Go for it on every fourth down. Use every trick play you have. Do whatever you have to do in this one to try to send your seniors out with a win against their rival.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR TCU
GET UP EARLY – I think it will be important for TCU to get up early in this one to try to take Baylor out of it. If TCU allows Baylor to hang around late into the game it could easily come back to bite them. Baylor has played too many good teams close to think that they aren’t capable of finally pulling off the big upset. TCU needs to get up early, and never look back.
PRESSURE BREWER – While Brewer has looked very good at times, he is still a freshman and prone to freshman mistakes. If TCU can get pressure on Brewer then they should be able to force a fumble or get an interception. Look for Matt Boesen in particular to be coming hard off the edge from his defensive end spot.
DON’T LOOK AHEAD – With a win against Baylor, TCU will have locked up a spot against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. It might be easy to just assume a victory against Baylor, and start thinking about a revenge game against Oklahoma. Don’t do it. TCU needs to stay fully focused on the game at hand. Not only is it a rivalry game, and a spot in the Big 12 title game, with a win on Friday TCU will have reached 10 wins in a season in three of the last four years. Not many teams can boast about doing that especially in the round robin format of the Big 12.
With the uncertainly at quarterback for TCU, its difficult to predict exactly how this will play out. There is a big difference between if Kenny Hill starts or Grayson Muehlstein starts.
With that being said though, I still believe that TCU should win this game comfortably. The edge that TCU has on both the offensive and defensive line is going to tilt this game heavily in TCU’s favor.
The Baylor offense can score points though, and they do have some big play threats at receiver. I don’t expect this one to get out of hand by a crazy margin. I think Baylor will cover the 25.5 spread, but that TCU will win by three touchdowns.