For the final time in 2016, the TCU Horned Frogs will take the field at Amon. G Carter Stadium as they host Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats in the regular season finale. With TCU at 6-5 and K-State at 7-4 entering the contest, the Big 12 title is well out of reach for both squads, but the winner will likely earn a trip to play the Texas A&M Aggies in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston later this month. The loser, on the other hand, is projected to be sent to Memphis for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30. So, with a kickoff forecast of 49 degrees and rain on Saturday, who will prevail in the battle of purple? Here’s what we know.
In comparison to most of their regular season opponents, the Frogs’ history with the Wildcats is brief. Saturday will be just the 10th time in history that TCU has taken the field against head coach Gary Patterson’s alma-mater, with TCU holding a 5-4 lead. The Frogs have prevailed in the last two meetings, and each win was memorable in its own way. In 2014, the Frogs made a statement in a top-10 matchup on home turf, as No. 6 TCU soundly defeated No. 7 K-State 42-20 after we were all treated to the now famous “Boykin-flip” touchdown. Last October in Manhattan, Kansas, No. 2 TCU avoided a stunning upset by overcoming an 18-point deficit en route to a 52-45 victory over the Wildcats. If TCU intends to make it three in a row against Snyder’s squad on Saturday though, they will have to overcome dual-threat quarterback Jesse Ertz and the K-State running game, one of the best in the league. Ertz leads all Big 12 quarterbacks with an average of 70.5 rushing yards per game.
What a win means for TCU
As noted, a win for either squad in this one all but guarantees a trip to NRG Stadium in Houston to face an old conference rival in the form of Texas A&M, but the Frogs have more to play for than just their bowl destination. With a win, TCU can put an end to a three-game losing streak at Amon G. Carter Stadium, the longest of such since the Frogs dropped four in a row at home during the 2012 season, their first in the Big 12. It would also clinch a third straight winning season for TCU and a 4th place finish in the conference, as TCU would own the head-to-head advantage over Baylor and K-State. Patterson has repeatedly remarked that the teams goal year in and year out is to give the senior players “the best season possible,” so what better way to salvage a rather disappointing season with a victory on senior day?
What a win means for K-State
Just like TCU, a victory gives the Wildcats a 4th place finish in the Big 12 and a probable trip to Houston. Sitting at 7-4 though entering the game though, an 8-4 finish to 2016 would be a pleasant turnaround from a 2015 season that saw K-State fail to record a winning regular-season for the first time in 5 years (6-6). With Jesse Ertz returning for his senior year and Snyder for his 26th season as head coach in 2017, you have to think that K-State is back on the rise to a top 10 team if they were to soundly defeat TCU in tough conditions on the road this weekend. They would also finish the year undefeated against Texas Teams, having already downed Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor this season.
TCU players to watch on offense and defense
Kyle Hicks, RB – 49 degrees and rain isn’t exactly optimal weather for throwing the football, so look for Kyle Hicks to get the ball a lot on Saturday. With 894 rushing yards on the season, he needs just 106 more yards to reach the 1,000 yard mark on the year. As the case against Oklahoma State though, he’ll have his work cut out for him once again, as K-State ranks 10th nationally in rushing defense. That’s not to mention either that TCU is only one of two Big 12 schools with a grass-field, making conditions even that much sloppier on the ground when it comes to wet weather. Nonetheless, keep an eye on the junior, because the ground may be the best route the Frogs have to move the ball given the current forecast.
Josh Carraway, DE – With Saturday’s game marking senior day, it will be the final time that Carraway puts on a TCU uniform in a regular-season contest. Carrway has only recorded eight tackles since recording 27 and 16 in back-to-back games against Kansas and West Virginia, but look for him to step things back up to his old ways as hit gets one last crack at it in the Carter. Carraway enters Saturday with 44 tackles on the year and 128 in his career as a Horned Frog.
Reasons for concern
The most glaring concern in this one, as aforementioned, is K-State’s premier rushing defense. We already saw what happened this season when the Frogs had to go up against Oklahoma State’s defensive line two weeks ago, and given the Frogs’ struggles on the offensive line this season, it’s not exactly an ideal matchup when facing the 10th best rushing defense in the country. Certainly the rain could be the wildcard, but that’s another issue of its own; that TCU has yet to play in a “bad weather game” all season. Of course, it worked out pretty well last time the Frogs found themselves in such circumstances, beating Baylor 28-21 in 2 OT last November the middle of a deluge in Fort Worth. That contest also happened to be the regular season finale. Déjà vu much?
TCU opens the contest as four-point favorites, but with the Frogs being the home team, this contest is basically a toss-up. Two teams, both out of title contention, trying to end the regular season on a high note. While the game could be a very sloppy one, it’s a given that both teams will rely on the run game – the only difference is that K-State knows how to stop it, while the Frogs have shown struggles in that department from missed tackles and beyond. But with an 11 a.m. start, you never know how either team will come out of the gate. My gut also tells me that the Frogs are due for a home win after nearly two and half months without one. It will be close, but get ready for a TCU-Texas A&M matchup in a few weeks, everyone.