Coming off a 52-46 loss to Oklahoma that all but ended any hope for a playoff bid, the TCU Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) now have to leave Texas for the first time this season as they travel to Lawrence to face the Kansas Jayhawks (1-3, 0-1 Big 12).
And if history truly repeats itself, this one will be a potential shocker, as the lowly Jayhawks have played the Frogs to within 10 points each of the last three meetings. So, will the trend stand, or does Gary Patterson’s squad finally get that blowout win against the team they should have blown out each of the last three years? Here’s what to expect as the teams hit the gridiron for an 11 a.m. matchup Saturday.
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, Kansas has always been the biggest mismatch on the schedule favoring TCU within conference play. In 2014 it was the No. 4 team in the country versus a three-win team that had just lost by 46 points to Baylor. In 2015, it was a top 20 team versus the first winless team in Big 12 history. Yet you would never guess that if you watched those games, as TCU faced a double digit second half deficit in Lawrence in 2014 while they were tied with Kansas 10-10 at halftime in 2015. The Frog have survived both of those and are 4-0 against the Jayhawks over the past four years, but it’s puzzling as to why this Kansas team always seems to be the Achilles heel for the Frogs in recent history. Of course 2015 may be a bit of a free pass since Josh Doctson was 50 percent and Trevone Boykin left mid-game with an ankle injury, but you can’t help but raise your eyebrows at the sight of a close game between Patterson and Dave Beaty’s teams.
What a win means for TCU
The Frogs are certainly riding the biggest low of the season after what happened last weekend against the Sooners – 46 points against the preseason No. 3 team and still not good enough, plagued by a 42-3 stretch where the TCU defense went on a holiday. So what better way to get your chin back up by exorcising your demons of the past against a team that you should be beating by 40 points each season? That’s going to have to happen if the Frogs want to get the momentum train rolling, with the final destination being another 10-2 season and potentially a Big 12 championship. If the defense can get back to form and TCU can get a blowout win heading into its first bye week, maybe it will be a rebirth for the Frogs as they head into a trap game against West Virginia in Morgantown on Oct. 22.
What a win means for Kansas
It’s been nearly a decade since the Jayhawks were last relevant on the national scene in College Football, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better anytime in the near future. But a win over TCU, that elusive win against a winning team that Kansas has been so close to achieving in the last two years, would be the first step in the right direction. I guess anything is better than last year’s winless season, and while the Jayhawks have gotten back in the win column in 2016, they are still looking for that first Big 12 game-victory since 2014 against Iowa State. Will quarterback Ryan Willis be the one to do end the in-conference drought? We shall see.
TCU players to watch on offense and defense
WR Taj Williams: If you didn’t know who Taj Williams was before last week America, you probably do now. Williams caught for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, each of the scores on receptions of at least 60 yards. He also made a spectacular catch downfield in the first quarter to help set the Frogs up for touchdown that helped them jump out to an early 21-7 lead before the offense shut down for two quarters. In a conference where defense is nearly nonexistent this season and with Hill now more comfortable using deep pass, expect Taj Williams to be off to the races again at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
DE James McFarland: For a veteran fifth year senior, James McFarland has had a pretty quiet season thus far, only making five solo tackles on the season. So what better time to break out of a slow stretch than in a game against one of cellar-dwellers of the Big 12? It’s about time that saw McFarland return to the dominating force that he was in 2014, leading the team in sacks that season and being named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl, highlighted by that incredible diving pick in the end zone off then Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace. I think this is the game where we see McFarland dominate once again.
Quote to note: “We need to pay more attention to detail. Doing little things right will lead to the bigger things falling in place. Everybody is focused on the big picture, so we need to take a step back and focus day to day.” – TCU center Patrick Morris.
Reasons for concern
Okay, sure, we are all a little uneasy about this game after what has happened the past few seasons. The Frogs turned the ball over too many times in a 10 point win at home in 2013. The next year it was 28 degree weather and Ranthony Texada’s inability to hold onto the football that almost doomed the Frogs, and many will tell you that game was the difference-make in TCU missing the playoff. Then last year it was Trevone Boykin going down and Kansas not trailing at halftime for the only time all season. Weird stuff has happened against Kansas my friends. And while the Jayhawks are nothing special, they have improved from last season. They’ve remarkably recorded the third most tackles for losses in the nation this year, only trailing Texas A&M and the University of Miami. Kenny Hill is going to have to get comfortable handling the pressure in the pocket, and if he can’t, the Frogs will have to be creative in moving the ball downfield.
It’s always hard to enter a game with high spirits coming off a loss no matter who you are. It’s even harder when you’re on the road, but thankfully there won’t be any sub-freezing temperatures in Lawrence to battle like there was last time, with the forecast calling for sunny with highs in the upper 60s. That said, I do think that the game will be close in the first quarter, because I am sold on the fact that Kansas is specifically out to crush TCU’s hopes and dreams after seeing them go head to head the past few seasons. But once, the Frogs get a better footing in this contest and find their groove, they will pull away easily.