Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

How do the Baylor Bears bounce back from their first loss, with rival TCU coming to town?

The Baylor Bears have 5 games left in 2016 until their bowl game is decided. How they react to their first loss of the season, a 35-34 loss to Texas, will tell us a lot about where this team will be headed.

1. The Baylor Bears (6-1,3-1) host the TCU Horned Frogs (4-4,2-3) Saturday afternoon at 2:30.  Both the Bears and Frogs are coming off of losses, though the Bears was just their first.  While Baylor's disappointment is new, the Frogs have been managing lowered expectations since the second week of the season, which saw them lose at home to Arkansas 41-38.  The Frogs have also lost to ranked opponents in Oklahoma and West Virginia before this past weekend.  

The low point might have been this past Saturday afternoon. While the Bears were facing off against Texas, TCU was hosting a 3-4 Texas Tech team that was giving up over 40 points per game on the season.  With two high powered offenses, and a traditionally high scoring affair, the general public was expecting this to be another "Big 12" battle that saw the final scores start with 6 or 7.  Of course, we ended up with a 17-17 game at the end of regulation before Tech escaped with a 27-24 victory.  

While the loss is not the end of the season for TCU, it is the end of their Big 12 title hopes.  A niche pick by some, TCU's vaunted defense has left town and cannot be found.  They have allowed  41 points to South Dakota State and Arkansas in their first two games.  Oklahoma scored 52 on them, before 34 points from West Virginia.  With three losses in their last four games, a bowl game is not guaranteed the Frogs with trips to Baylor and Texas on their schedule, along with Oklahoma State and Kansas State coming to Fort Worth. 

2. So how has this TCU team fallen apart? Well, it helps to have both the offense and the defense take big steps back.  The offense was expected to dip a little bit. That is what happens when you lose Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson to the NFL.  Kenny Hill was supposed to be the new savior of TCU football, but the inconsistencies he displayed at Texas A&M have been in full bloom at TCU as well.  Hill's 10 interceptions have already matched Boykin's total from last year in 3 fewer games.  His 13 touchdowns though pale in comparison to the 31 from his predecessor.  

Without an elite receiver in Doctson to go to, the Frogs have turned to a cast of highly rated and thought of players, but little production. Taj Williams is the leader with 31 catches and 594 yards.  Jaelan Austin leads the Frogs with 5 touchdowns. Junior running back Kyle Hicks has probably been their best receiver, matching Williams with 31 catches.  With no weapons on the outside, and KaVontae Turpin missing for the past 4 games, the Horned Frogs simply haven't had enough weapons to make defenses pay. 

Defensively, the passing game is also hurting TCU.  They are allowing 50 more yards per game through the air than in 2015.  Opposing quarterbacks are having their way with the TCU secondary, seeing their completion rate (49.8% to 62.5%), yards per attempt (6.3 to 7.7), quarterback rating (112.6 to 139.98) and TD/INT ration (17/7 to 14/4) all increase considerably this year over last. 

3. Kyle Hicks has been one of the best Horned Frogs this season, taking over as the leading running back for Aaron Green. Hicks is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has 7 touchdowns.  As a team though, this is not nearly as dangerous of a rushing attack.  Kenny HIll has found the endzone a lot (7 rushing touchdowns), but his 3.55 yards per carry pale in comparison to Trevone Boykin's 4.98. TCU is attempting 10 fewer rushes per game, and is getting little help from their backups. Trevvoris Johnson and Derrick Green are the two backup running backs, but have combined for 60 carries for 268 yards and 5 touchdowns. 

As a team, they are averaging roughly 50 yards less per game on the ground, though they are still right at 5 yards per carry.  Defensively, this has been the one bright spot for TCU.  They are allowing under 3.3 yards per carry and doing a good job of stuffing the run. That should be expected as the strength of the defense is the front-4, led by Josh Carraway, Aaron Curry, Mat Boesen and Tipa Galeai.  This might be one of the better front-4 units in the Big 12.  

4. What has let the Horned Frogs down in their back-7, which has seen a huge step backwards for linebackers Montrel Wilson and Travin Howard. Cornerback Ranthony Texada was expected to be one of the best cover guys in the Big 12, but has struggled in 2016.  Julius Lewis was inexperienced coming into the season, and it has shown.  Safeties Niko Small and Ridwan Issahaku are inexperienced as well with Denzel Johnson being the lone senior playing major minutes.  This is a young and inexperienced defensive secondary that is getting beaten by opposing wide receivers. 

5. On paper, this is simply not a very good TCU team, but with this game, anything can happen. This is both opponents most hated rival, with tremendous passion and focus on this game for both teams.  Even without Boykin and Doctson. Even without Art Briles for Baylor. It is the standard old cliche of throw out the records.  It just does not matter that TCU is 4-4 and have lost 3 of four games.  So did Texas coming into last weekend.  This is about a longstanding (and long-missed) rivalry that both teams are fixated upon.  61-58, winning in a blizzard, or on a perfect day.  The Revivalry is here and Baylor needs to be ready. 

How ready the Bears will be is the most interesting part of this game.  The Bears have lost and there are reasons to doubt now.  You would have to be blind not to see the issues and differences between this team and the one under its former head coach.  The swagger and the energy is missing.  It just is.  Good or bad.  Against TCU, those should be supplied no matter who the head coach is.  Can the Bears respond now that they have been punched in the mouth and have fallen to the canvas?  Can they get up and strike back?  Can they save their season, one that still has Big 12 title aspirations well within sights?  The Bears control their destiny still, having to travel to Oklahoma and West Virginia.  But it all starts with old friend TCU.


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