Baylor, which owns the highest scoring offense in college football, averaging nearly 57 points and 662 yards of total offense every time out, had its high-octane motor throttled last Saturday by a pumped up Oklahoma State team. The Bears’ loss at Oklahoma State, after starting the season 9-0 and reaching No. 4 in the BCS standings, means they must win their final two regular-season games in order to earn no w0rse than a share of the Big 12 championship.
First up for coach Art Briles’ squad in what boils down to a two-game season and an outside shot at the conference crown and the Big 12 automatic bid to the BCS Fiesta Bowl is a trip to Ft. Worth to take on TCU. Saturday’s game will be the 109th meeting between these two schools, and the all-time series couldn’t be closer in terms of wins and losses. TCU holds a very narrow one-game edge in the all-time series, 51-50-7, after winning last season at Baylor, 49-21.
TCU (4-7, 2-6) has been one of the Big 12’s biggest disappointments this season. The Horned Frogs started out the season No. 20 in both the AP and USA Today preseason polls, but their only two conference wins this season have been over Kansas and Iowa State, two teams that have only four wins between them all season.
The Horned Frogs have one of the best defenses in the Big 12, which they will need going against the country’s best offensive attack, but their offense has been a big concern all season. TCU is averaging just 23.9 points a game and their run game is last in the conference, averaging 118 yards per game.
When senior quarterback Casey Pachall is in the game for the Horned Frogs, they are a better passing team than when backup Trevone Boykin is under center. And TCU is going to need its passing game if it hopes to move the ball against a stout Baylor defense that is No. 1 in the conference defending against the run.
In the three games Pachall has been back in the starting lineup after injuring his non-throwing arm he has completed 65 percent of his pass attempts and thrown for a total of 884 yards. Unfortunately, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 4:5.
The Baylor defense doesn’t get near the credit it deserves because of how spectacular the Bears’ offense has been all season. The Bears are 25th in the country in total defense (allowing 350 yards per game) and second in the Big 12. Baylor’s opponents are averaging 20.6 per game, which places the Bears 22nd in the nation in scoring defense. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett’s Baylor defense has given up 14 or fewer points in six of the Bears’ nine wins this season. The past two weeks, however, the Baylor defense has yielded 34 and 49 points, respectively, to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson had this to say earlier this week about the Baylor defense: “They play very well on defense. They are at the top of the league in almost everything. They also play well on special teams. They’ve had some big returns and are causing problems in all areas.”
Six Things To Watch For In Saturday’s Baylor-TCU Game
- The only chance TCU has in this game is to shorten the contest by keeping its offense on the field, running clock and sustaining drives. They can’t afford to give up the ball on plenty of three-and-outs, something that the Baylor defense has been extremely proficient at this season, and give the high-powered Bears’ offense too many scoring opportunities. TCU will get crushed if this game turns into a shootout.
- Baylor still has much to play for and is going to score points, although it won’t be as much as the Bears season average (56.8) because TCU does play good defense. The good news for Baylor is it won’t need 56 points. Thirty-one or more should put this game away, regardless of how well TCU is playing offensively.
- Picking up good yardage on first down and converting on third-downs will be key for TCU in staying in this game. The problem is, TCU is second worst in the Big 12 in third-sown conversions, while the Baylor defense in third in the conference in stopping teams on third down, with a 65 percent success ratio.
- The anticipated matchup between Baylor’s Antwan Goodley, fourth in the nation in per-game pass receiving yardage, and TCU defensive back Jason Verrett, one of the best in the country, could have an important affect on the Baylor passing game. Another factor could be TCU’s overall pass-efficiency defense, which ranks second in the Big 12.
- Baylor leads the conference in rushing offense, but the potential unavailability of Lache Seastrunk, the conference’s leading rusher, and backup Glasco Martin will diminish the Bears’ ground game against the league’s best defense against the run game.
- Baylor is 13-2 in the months of November/December in the last three seasons.
Game prediction: Baylor 45, TCU 17
Other Big 12 Picks This Week
Texas Tech 16 @ Texas 41 (actual score from Thursday night)
Kansas State 41 @ Kansas 21 – The Wildcats’ will be angry and hungry after losing to OU in their final home game of the year. The Jayhawks will be easy prey and end the year with a loss but with one more win overall than last year.
Iowa State 14 @ West Virginia 34 - It’s difficult to figure out this West Virginia team. You would think any team that lost to Kansas should also lose to Iowa State. But the Mountaineers play like a different team at home. That’s bad news for the Cyclones, who won their first conference game last week, over Kansas.
Last week’s results: 2-1
For the season: 52-17 (.755)