We all remember what happened the last time the TCU Horned Frogs (4-4) and the Baylor Bears (6-1) battled it out in Waco two years ago. In a game of two undefeateds, the Frogs jumped out to a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, only to give up 21 unanswered points before Baylor won the game on a game winning field goal. Just like that, TCU suffered a loss that would ultimately keep them out of the inaugural College Football Playoff, and the score 61-58 was forever engraved into our minds.
Last November, the Frogs got their revenge against their rivals with a 28-21 double-overtime victory on a cold, rainy night to dash the Bears' slim playoff hopes. And after an offseason that saw that saw the dismissal of Baylor head coach Art Briles, Gary Patterson and the Frogs now look to snap a two-game losing streak and make it two in a row against Baylor by winning their first contest in Waco since 2012.
But this year’s game has a bit of a different feel. We’re just beyond the halfway mark of the season, and the playoff is essentially dead for both squads (at the very least for TCU). The Briles-Patterson dynamic is no more. And the events that transpired in Waco during the offseason has all but downplayed the intensity of what may have been the most intense rivalry in college football the past two seasons.
With the current outlook, this game may be the last between Baylor and TCU in quite some time where the game has the potential to go either way; where both squads have potential for an offensive outburst. So, let’s take an in-depth look as we are just one day removed from the 2016 edition of the “revivalry.”
Many have seen TCU and Baylor to be two evenly matched squads in recent seasons, which makes it only perfect that the all-time series between the two at 52 apiece. In the time both schools have been part of the Big 12, each team has two wins, with Baylor prevailing in 2013 and 2014 while the Frogs prevailed in 2012 and 2015. Rewind the clocks back 10 years though, and TCU has prevailed in five of the last eight meetings (TCU and Baylor didn’t play each other in 2008 and 2009). And if you want to win, you’re probably going to need a lot of points, as the winner in all but one meeting since 21 has scored at least 40 points. Of course, that’s no surprise in the Big 12, even if TCU and Baylor have been two of the better defensive teams in the conference. But long story short, it’s hard to determine who has a series edge entering this contest, if an edge even exists at all. And even with Baylor at 6-1 while TCU is 4-4, keep in mind that Baylor has yet to play Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia, the three Big 12 opponents that have downed the Frogs thus far.
What a win means for TCU
Certainly it would be nice to for the Frogs to get a win in McLane Stadium after the events that took place two years ago. Only a sliver of the active TCU roster can say they played in that infamous contest, such as linebacker Sammy Douglas and defensive-ends Josh Carraway and James McFarland to name a few. But even though the Frogs are an entirely different team than the one that suffered that gut-punching loss, everybody can find some motivation if it means getting a win in a venue where the road team has only one twice its three seasons, much less your rival’s house. But the most prominent task on the TCU to-do list is to get those two more wins for bowl eligibility, and they only have four more games left to do so. Win in Waco this Saturday and you’ve gotten half the remaining job done in arguably toughest game left, with two games remaining at home. Assuming the Frogs don’t finish the season with a 2-5 record at home, the pressure for bowl eligibility is all but off with a win over Baylor.
What a win means for Baylor
With only one loss on the season, we could say that a win over TCU could keep whatever flicker of playoff hope was left for the Bears alive for at least another week, but at this rate it’s hard to even see a 1-loss Big 12 champion have any chance at cracking the final four, at least not when a two-loss team is already ranked ahead of you. What the Bears are really playing for from here on out is the Big 12 title and a trip to the New Year’s Six, and if that goal is to become a reality, it starts with a win over the Frogs. They’ll still have a lot of work to do even then, likely needing to run the table and defeat Oklahoma in Norman, but it’s not impossible. For the Baylor, it truly is one game at a time, and right now all their eyes are set on getting some momentum back by defeating their rivals to the north on Saturday.
TCU players to watch on offense and defense
Kenny Hill, QB) – For the first time this season last Saturday, quarterback Kenny Hill was pulled for backup Foster Sawyer in a situation where it wasn’t a matter of resting your starter with a comfortable lead. After throwing for more than 350 yards in four of the first five games, Hill has gone 260, 148, 160 in his last three starts, a significant drop-off that appears that could potentially cost him his job as starter if it continues. Patterson said that Hill is likely to be the starter on Saturday, but we should not rule out split action between him and Sawyer. If that doesn’t serve as some motivation for Hill to get back to the form that he showed in the opening weeks, I don’t know what does. All eyes will be focused on him in this game, as he could either break out for an offensive explosion and take the snaps from start to end, or once again struggle early on before spending time on the bench for a solid chunk of the contest.
Mat Boesen, DE) – The junior from Torrance, CA may be latest force on defense after his break-out performance against Texas Tech last week. Boesen recorded five unassisted tackles, two for losses, in addition to forcing one fumble on Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Boesen had only recorded 21 total tackles in his TCU career before his 10 total on Saturday, so look for the momentum to carry over into this weekend as the Frogs head 90 miles south of Fort Worth.
Quote to note: “Even though we’ve had some close losses, in the back of our heads we know we can play well. It shows what we’re capable of. We just try to get better and better each week. The defense is night and day from what it was at the start of the season.” – DE Josh Carraway
Reasons for concern
It’s no secret that Baylor is one of the better teams in the Big 12. Certainly they’ve had some close calls, and the loss last week to Texas was anything but pretty. At the end of the day though, they are still 6-1, and that’s nothing to complain about in this day and age of college football. The defense, which has rivaled West Virginia’s as the best in the conference this season, has potential to cause serious problems for TCU should the Frogs remain stagnant on offense, and the Baylor offense is just as much of a threat. Though not quite what it was a year ago, the offense has still put up at least 34 points in every contest, and the Frogs will be getting their first crack ever at ever-dangerous quarterback Seth Russell. Russell was out for the season by the time TCU and Baylor faced-off in 2015, and after undergoing concussion protocol mid-week, he has been cleared to play this weekend according to acting Baylor head coach Jim Grobe. Russell has thrown for 1,969 yards with 18 touchdowns on the season. If his game is on point, the Frogs defense is going to need another solid performance as we saw last week.
Rivalry games are always hard to predict. Even when the matchup favors one team heavily on paper, all it takes is the extra boost of emotion for the underdog to prevail. This weekend, TCU is that underdog, and while players said this week that they aren’t preparing for the contest any differently, it’s hard to believe there isn’t even at least a little extra motivation. Of course the hype has been deflated as both teams are coming off crushing defeats, but it doesn’t kill it entirely.
I think we will see a close one this weekend along the shores of the Brazos. Kenny Hill will finally wake up after nearly losing his job last weekend and return to form, catching the Baylor defense off guard. The Frogs and Bears engage in what turns out to be a shootout, similar to two years ago. There will be a lot of lead changes throughout, but in the end, the Frogs get a critical go ahead touchdown before the defense hangs on to secure the upset victory.
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