At first glance this weekends matchup between #4 ranked TCU and Kansas offers little intrigue. However, over the last five years these two teams have consistently played tightly contested matchups. TCU has won all five of the contests since joining the Big 12, but the largest margin of victory in those games was in 2012 when TCU won 20-6. Adding to the intrigue of this matchup is former TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham is now the offensive coordinator for Kansas.
While these teams seem to be on completely opposite ends of the college football world right now, Kansas always plays the Horned Frogs tough, and Meacham will no doubt be pulling out all the stops to get one over on his former school.
DATE & TIME: SAT, OCT 21, 7:00 PM CT
LOCATION: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
FORECAST: Cloudy and 80 Degrees
BETTING LINE: TCU -37.5
KANSAS JAYHAWKS (1-5, 0-3)
After going 2-10 last year, including a victory over Texas, and an opening week victory against Southeast Missouri State many people thought that Kansas could be a team that might surprise the Big 12 in 2017. Not as a real contender for the conference, but more as a team that might steal a game or two. Unfortunately, what has unfolded has been anything but surprising for most long time Jayhawk fans. Kansas has followed that win against Southeast Missouri State with five consecutive losses.
For most of the season Kansas has been able to score points, averaging just under 30 points a game through their first five weeks of the season. That all came to a screeching halt last week as Iowa State shut Kansas out to the tune of 45-0. The last time Kansas was shut out was against West Virginia in 2015. The strength of their offense is Sophomore running back Khalil Herbert. The 5-foot-9 200 pound back from Florida is on pace for a 1,000 yard season, and is averaging just over seven yards per carry. When he gets going, like he did against West Virginia earlier this year, then the Kansas offense can be hard to slow down.
On the other side of the ball the Kansas defense has surprisingly been the biggest weakness for this team. Coming into the season the defense, particularly their defensive line, was being talked up as one of the best in the conference. Through six games though, Kansas ranks near the bottom of every measurable defensive statistic. Most notably they are giving up 44.8 points per game, which is the 2nd worst mark in the country. If Kansas is going to have any hope of finding another win on their schedule they are going to have to start making more stands defensively.
TCU HORNED FROGS (6-0, 3-0)
TCU came into the season without much in the way of expectations. Depending on where you looked TCU was pegged by most outlets to finish in the Big 12 standings somewhere between fourth and seventh place. Most of that was predicated on the Horned Frogs finishing 2016 with a bowl loss to put them under .500, and Kenny Hill returning as the starter. While Hill has always been able to show flashes of brilliance, dating back to his time as the starter for Texas A&M, his inconsistency has plagued him and the teams he has played for. Enter the 2017 season and some small, but significant changes have led Hill and the Horned Frogs back into national prominence and knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff.
While Sonny Cumbie was already the co-offensive coordinator since 2014, this is the first year where he has been the man making the play calls each Saturday. That switch has been one of the main reasons that Hill and the Horned Frogs are experiencing so much success. Cumbie has been leaning more on the run this year. The trio of Kyle Hicks, Darius Anderson, and Sewo Olonilua are all more than capable of shouldering a heavy workload out of the backfield. TCU is running the ball on roughly 57 percent of their offensive play calls, and in doing so taking a lot of pressure off Kenny Hill. The trio of running backs are able to keep TCU in manageable 3rd down situations, and Hill has really improved on making smart decisions to keep the chains moving.
Defensively, this is looking like a vintage Gary Patterson defense. Up to this point in the season TCU has held every opponent below their season average in scoring. That becomes more impressive when that list of opponents includes Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and SMU. All three of those teams rank in the top six in scoring offense. The biggest difference this year compared to 2016 is the size and talent on the defensive line. Defensive tackles Ross Blacklock and Corey Bethley are both newcomers this year, and both are over 300 lbs. Defensive end Ben Banogu is another new addition who sat out last year after transferring in from Louisiana-Monroe. There is already some buzz that Banogu could be a first round pick come next year’s NFL Draft. When Patterson can get pressure with just his front four on a consistent basis, it makes the rest of the defense that much better.
Keys To The Game For KU
ESTABLISH THE RUN – Khalil Herbert is your best offensive weapon. If you want to have a shot at pulling the upset it is imperative that Kansas get Herbert going early and often. TCU won’t make it easy, but you have to at least try to establish the run game.
MAKE TCU ONE-DIMENSIONAL – Kansas State showed last week that the TCU run game can be slowed down. The K-State defense was able to hold the TCU rushing attack to under 100 yards. Putting the game on the shoulders of Kenny Hill should be the way they attack the TCU offense.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO FOR IT – You have nothing to lose here Kansas. Don’t be afraid to pull out all the stops. Go for it on fourth down. Try every flea-flicker, double reverse pass, and onside kick. Don’t be afraid to empty the playbook, because it might take all of that to get the job done.
Keys To The Game For TCU
PRESSURE BENDER – Kansas QB Peyton Bender has thrown nine interceptions on the season. If TCU can get pressure on Bender, and force him into some bad throws, there should be plenty of opportunity to get a couple of interceptions on the day.
ESTABLISH THE RUN – After rushing for under 100 yards against Kansas State, TCU should look to establish the run. With the three-headed monster of Hicks, Anderson, and Olonilua in the backfield, TCU should look to grind the Kansas defense down with a bevy of run plays.
DON’T LET KANSAS LINGER – TCU needs to come out, and set the tone that this will not be like the games they have played over the past five years. TCU needs to score early and score often to make sure that they don’t give Kansas hope late in the game. If this past weekend was any indication, you can’t take any team in the country lightly.
The spread for this game is currently TCU -37.5. In TCU’s five wins over Kansas since 2012 the Horned Frogs have won by a combined 35 points in those five games. So that spread might be just a little bit high. For whatever reason TCU has been unable to put Kansas away in a convincing fashion since joining the Big 12.
I think that changes this year. The TCU run game is going to be overwhelming for the Kansas defense. Even more concerning for Kansas is trying to keep Peyton Bender upright. Patterson and Cumbie are going to have their guys ready to show out for a game that will be nationally televised. On top of that this is only the second night game for TCU, and its homecoming. The TCU players should have more than enough reasons to come out and play with intensity. This game should be over by the early 3rd quarter and TCU fans will get to see a lot of backups get reps.