The time for talk is almost over. Friday night, the Baylor Bears and the TCU Horned Frogs meet once again on the football field. It isn't the Top-5 matchup most expected when the schedule was released last year, but it is still a very big game with conference and national title implications. Balyor (9-1, 6-1) will have to travel north I-35 up to Fort Worth where TCU (9-2, 6-2) looks to bounce back after a tough 3-game stretch that saw them lose to both Oklahoma schools and squeak by winless Kansas.
The Bears are heavy favorites when looking at this game through the eyes of computers. Baylor is ranked higher in every poll listed above, and finishes over 10-spots higher on average. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both had better rankings than TCU does, at least at the time of their game with the Bears. Baylor started its climb back up the rankings after falling to 7.33, they are back up in the same range, and even slightly higher, that they were when they faced OU (5.88 to 5.52).
Players to Watch
Aaron Green - Senior Running Back
The top name on this list would have looked quite a bit different a few weeks ago. First, it probably would have been Josh Doctson, the tremendous wide receiver that was Corey Coleman's biggest challenger for national awards. Then it would probably have been Trevone Boykin (who appears, just lower), the Heisman contender at QB and the Big 12 Player of the Year favorite just a few weeks ago. Both are injured, Doctson lost for the year to a wrist injury, and Boykin with an ankle injury that may or may not keep him out of this game.
Green has been the consistent guy for the Frogs in an injury-riddled 2015 campaign. He leads the Frogs with 1,100 yards on the ground, averaging 5.42 yards per carry to go along with 10 touchdowns. Green is a shifty back with tremendous agility. He is a big-play guy, and that is a good thing and bad thing. He will sometimes try and press to hard for the homerun, rather than taking the easy double. He was a backup for most of the 2014 season, just attempting 6 or fewer rushes 7 games into the season. Injuries opened the door for him, and he finished as one of the best returning backs in the Big 12.
Kolby Listenbee - Senior Wide Receiver
The Frogs have been destoryed by injury this year, especially at the wide receiver position. Star Josh Doctson is out for the year, the third Horned Frog to be lost for the season. That leaves senior speedster Kolby Linstenbee as their biggest weapon on the outside. A true track star, Listenbee deserves to be in the conversation for the fastest football player in college. He is a star in the 100-meter race, running a 10.09 last year in the NCAA Championships. He has run as fast as 10.04, and has added a 20.6 in the 200 meters.
Listenbee has also battled injuries this year, being limited to 9 games and just 28 receptions. He averages 21.18 yards per catch, second best in the conference. He is not a proven underneath route runner at all, and really is just a deep threat at this point in his development.
Derrick Kindred - Senior Safety
The leader of the Frogs defense, Kindred has been one of the few consistent presences the last two years. He is a very good tackling safety, playing closer to the line of scrimmage quite a bit. He has improved in converage the past few years, with a combined 6 interceptions in 2014 and 15. He is their best player by far in a young and inexperienced secondary after the loss of several players to graduation and injury.
Josh Carraway - Junior Defensive End
The junior end is one of the better pass rushers in the Big 12, leading the Frogs with 7 sacks after played 2014 in primarily a reserve role.
Trevone Boykin - Senior Quarterback
There should be no questions about how good of a quarterback Trevone Boykin is. He has been sensational the past two seasons. However, a high ankle sprain suffered against Kansas kept him out of the Frogs loss to Oklahoma, and threatens to keep him out of the Baylor game as well. Athletically, he is as good as you will find at the quarterback position. He played wide receiver and running back for TCU earlier in his career, and it is easy to see why. He has a very strong arm, to go along with a quick release. He does take some risks on plays, and has struggled with turnovers more this year than last.
Will he play though? Boykin has started to practice with the Frogs, though little is known about the extent of those practices. High ankle sprains are notorious for taking multiple weeks to recover from, and with Boykin's strength being his athleticism and mobility, how will he do as a limited running threat? Freshman Foster Sawyer started the Oklahoma game for the Frogs, but senior backup Bram Kohlhausen stepped in to close the game, and performed well in their comeback attempt. He will probably be the start, if Boykin cannot go for TCU.
Keys to the Game
1. Don't get Too High or Too Low - Emotions will be running high in this game, especially with a desperate and injured TCU team. Baylor fans should remember the last time they went into Fort Worth on a Black Friday. In 2013, the Bears barely escaped with a 41-38 win to keep their Big 12 championship hopes alive. That wasn't nearly as talented of a TCU squad as this current version.
Just like we saw in 2014, this game will take twists and turns. TCU will throw everything they can at Baylor. Trick plays, reverses, WR passes, onside kicks. Whatever they need to do to pull off the upset, and ruin the Bears hopes of a conference championship, they will do. Baylor will have to make sure to stay even. Don't celebrate the wins, or mourn the losses too much. The Frogs will want to make this an emotional game, one where the Bears swing or hit second (and thus get the penalty).
Baylor has won three of the last four games in this series, with all three being decided by 3 points or less. TCU's one win was a dominant 49-21 win at Floyd Casey (the Bears most recent home loss before their loss to OU 2 weeks ago), where the Bears turned the ball over 6 times, and just could not stop a freshman making his first career start. That freshman was Trevone Boykin.
2. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers - In 2014, the Horned Frogs were +18 on turnovers, 3rd best in the nation. They forced 40 turnovers on the year, the second most in all of FBS. In three fewer games, they have forced just 13 turnovers. That is a massive downfall for any team. They have gone from 2nd best to in the bottom-25 in just one offseason. A lot of times, turnovers are sometimes a luck of the draw type thing. You are trying to predict how an oblong ball will bounce. Luck though, is not the reason. TCU has actually recovered a higher percentage of fumbles than they did last year (65% compared to 58.54%). The TCU defense has just not been nearly good enough to make big plays happen.
The Bears have just committed 16 turnovers, 48th fewest in the nation. Baylor takes care of the ball, it is one of the pillars that Art Briles builds his offense on. With Chris Johnson set to make his first career start, that pillar needs to be wached closesly. He had one awful interception in the OSU game, on a ball that should never have been thrown. With wet and rainy conditions expected Friday, ball control will be very important for both teams.
3. Big Plays Baby! - There are two of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Baylor ranks 2nd in the nation in plays of 20 yards or more, while TCU is just behind them in 5th. The Bears rank 1st in 40+ yard plays, while TCU is tied for 6th. These are two offenses that try and hit homeruns.
Defensively, TCU has struggled with big plays all year, allowing 55 plays of 20 yards or more (86th), and 18 plays of 40 yards or more (111th). The Bears have been middle of the pack in both, ranking around in the 57th in both categories. The secondary of the Frogs has been beaten badly at times in 2015, especially struggling with speed receivers. They rank 119th in Explosivessness according to Football Study Hall (where the Bears offense ranks 1st). The Bears will need to press the action down the field, where they feature some of the nations fastest, and most accomplished deep threats.
With Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson healthy, the TCU offense was playing at a level that was just under the Bears offense. However, since they lost Doctson early in the Oklahoma State game, their offense has taken a large step back. They scored just 29 points against Oklahoma State, followed that up with an ugly 23 against Kansas, and then scored 29 in their loss to Oklahoma. With Doctson out, this is just not nearly as dangerous of an offense. Add in the possible loss of Boykin for this game as well, and you are looking at a completely different offensive attack.
Massey Ratings – Bears win 42-40
RealTime RPI – Bears win 40-37
S&P+ Rating - Bears win 38-35
Vegas Line - Baylor -1.5 (Over/Under - N/A)
Staff Predictions COMING SOON!