No. 11 Baylor at TCU
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 9, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas, Noon EST.
Looking to gate-crash the College Football Playoff, Big 12 Conference-leading Baylor puts its unbeaten record on the line Saturday with a tricky contest at TCU.
A lack of finishing put Baylor's perfect record in jeopardy, but it survived to record a 17-14 victory over West Virginia on Oct. 31. The 11th-ranked Bears (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) had more than double the yards of the Mountaineers, outgaining them 453-219, but committed three turnovers and also were stopped on a goal-line stand.
Charlie Brewer threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns while completing 20 of 26 passes but was also sacked seven times. The defense did not let West Virginia get closer than the Baylor 31-yard-line in its final three possessions, and Bravvion Roy blocked a potential game-tying 48-yard field goal with 3:33 to play.
"We didn't play a great game (on offense or special teams), but I do think we played a great game on the defensive side of the football," Bears coach Matt Rhule told the school's official website. "As I told the guys, don't apologize for going 8-0, for winning this game. We just have to improve as we try to move forward."
Baylor has won 10 straight dating back to last season, tied for the second-longest winning streak in school history, and seeking just its second 9-0 start in school history -- the other came in 2013. Brewer has thrown for 2,143 yards and 14 TDs while the backfield duo of John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty have combined for 934 yards and power a Bears ground game that has averaged 199.4 yards.
The pair could be in line for a big day considering how the Horned Frogs (4-4, 2-3) were overrun by Chuba Hubbard in Saturday's 34-27 loss at Oklahoma State. TCU gave up 301 rushing yards, including touchdowns of 92 and 62 yards by Hubbard. It was just the fifth time an opponent rushed for 300 or more yards against TCU since Gary Patterson took over in 2000.
All four touchdowns allowed by the Horned Frogs came on big plays, with the two first-half touchdown passes from Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders to Dillon Stoner covering 57 and 22 yards.
TCU has won its only game against a ranked opponent this season, upending then-No. 15 Texas 37-27 at home Oct. 26. The Horned Frogs are seeking a fifth straight win over the Bears after grinding out a 16-9 road win last year.
Jalen Reagor's 37-yard touchdown run with 2:02 to play snapped a tie, and TCU forced three turnovers while limiting Brewer to 163 passing yards and no touchdowns.
Rhule looking to keep Bears focused on field, not CFPBaylor's turnaround began with the last team to deal it a loss -- which came 357 days from Saturday's kickoff with a 16-9 setback to the Horned Frogs. At his weekly availability Monday, Rhule noted how the defeat served as a turning point for his program.
"The week before, against Iowa State, I thought we were like we were this past week. We were way too tense, way too worried about winning. So, we came against Iowa State like that. We came out against TCU, and it was a lot of the same things. We got into that battle in that game, and it was the same thing. We talk about the fourth quarter, they just made more plays than us down the stretch," Rhule recounted.
"I thought we came out the next week against Texas Tech, and we were losing at halftime, and there was no, ‘I can’t believe we’re losing at halftime.’ It was like, ‘We’ve got to win this half to go to a bowl game, so our season wasn’t over.’ It wasn’t all these things in our head, it was, ‘We just have to win this game, and we’ll get another game.’ That’s the humble mindset that I love, humble confidence."
Rhule is not particularly worried about the first College Football Playoff poll that will be released Tuesday night, noting he was "pretty sure they are not going to put us in the top four." One point Rhule did stress to his team about the rankings is that all the talk around the program will go away if Baylor does not keep winning.
The Bears lead the Big 12 in scoring defense, yielding 18.5 points per game which is good for 20th overall in the country. Baylor has forced at least one turnover in each game and carries a plus-5 margin into this contest, but it is only a plus-1 in the last three games since Rhule's team has committed seven turnovers.
Brewer was responsible for two of the three turnovers the Bears committed in last year's loss with an interception and lost fumble and also took a couple of drive-killing sacks in the fourth quarter searching for a potential game-tying touchdown.
Since that loss, Brewer has thrown for 300 or more yards six times while amassing 19 TD passes against five interceptions. His only three INTs this year came in Baylor's 37-24 victory over Texas Tech on Oct. 12.
"In the last two years we’ve faced them we’ve turned the ball over six times, three times each game and we haven’t taken the ball away from them so people love to talk about this play and that play and all this, "Rhule said, adding, "if you win the turnover battle you have a chance and we lost a turnover battle for the first time against West Virginia and that hurt and so we’re going to get back to what the fundamentals of protecting the football versus a group that’s taken the ball away from us a lot.”
Patterson confident Duggan will play despite hand injuryPatterson is well-versed in what Rhule is trying to accomplish -- TCU has been a national underdog darling both before and after joining the Big 12 during his tenure, though his team this year has yet to find that level.
True freshman quarterback Max Duggan has shown plenty of promise, throwing for 1,405 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he also took a step back versus Oklahoma State in getting picked off three times. Duggan did not throw an interception in his first six collegiate games, covering a total of 142 passes, and has four overall.
Duggan did not practice early in the week due to what appeared to be an injury to his throwing hand late in the contest, but Patterson sounded optimistic his freshman will be under center Saturday.
“I think Max will play,” Patterson said Tuesday according to the Dallas Morning News. “See, you guys should quit listening to Twitter. We won’t know until Saturday. I’ll find out more today because he hasn’t practiced."
Backup Michael Collins is now the only other quarterback with game experience on the roster following the departure of Alex Delton from the program. Delton, who was a graduate transfer from Kansas State, started the first two games before Patterson made the switch to Duggan.
Georgia transfer Matthew Downing and Ohio State transfer Matthew Baldwin are also on the depth chart, with the latter just cleared to play Sunday.
Regardless of who is under center, TCU will need a stellar performance from wide receiver Jalen Reagor. The junior had seven catches for a season-high 128 yards versus Oklahoma State and became the 10th player in school history to surpass 2,000 receiving yards.
Patterson, though, is concerned about his defense after it was run into the ground by Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs are holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry overall, but the coach saw far too many breakdowns for his liking last weekend.
“Five times, we had a guy in position to make the play, and they don’t make the play,” Patterson said. “We have to tackle. The first play of the game is exactly the blitz we drew up, how we wanted it to happen. They had to block the outside guy, the linebacker’s standing there, and you watch the tape, we didn’t make the tackle and the guy went 35 yards. I can’t draw it up any differently than that.”
- 6-0 ATS in its last six games following a loss.
- 5-1 ATS in its last six road games.
- The road team is 4-1 ATS in the last five games between the teams.
- 7-20 ATS in its last 27 home games.
- 4-12 ATS in its last 16 games vs. Big 12 teams.
- 4-11 ATS in its last 15 games vs. above-.500 teams.