Big 12 Previews

TCU vs. Kansas State: Preview and Prediction

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Christian

Here is everything you need to know as the Kansas State Wildcats take on the TCU Horned Frogs in Big 12 action.

3 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Records: Kansas State (2-1, 2-0 Big 12); TCU (1-1, 1-1)

TV: FOX (Tim Brando , Spencer Tillman)

Radio: K-State Sports Network, Sirius Ch. 83, XM Channel 385, Internet Ch. 975; WBAP 820 AM, KTCU 88.7 FM, SiriusXM 83.


Key players

Kansas State

RB Deuce Vaughn. After two weeks of Big 12 action, Vaughn would be the leading candidate for Big 12 Freshman of the Year. As a rusher he’s already scored three times, as he’s gained 205 yards on 36 carries. He also leads the Wildcats in receiving. Vaughn has 368 yards from scrimmage in his first two Big 12 games, was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after the Wildcats’ win over Oklahoma and he’s just the fifth running back in K-State history to register 100 receiving yards in a game (and the first freshman to do it). So, you want to slow down the Wildcats? Well, slow down Vaughn first.

The quarterback. We’re going to have to be vague here because the veteran starter, Skylar Thompson, is questionable after last week’s injury, which fortunately didn’t result in any broken bones or torn ligaments, something that likely would have put Thompson on the shelf for multiple weeks. So, as of mid-week, it was mental reps for Thompson, as head coach Chris Klieman hoped that Thompson could take actual reps later in the week. If Thompson can’t, then it’s up to either Will Howard or Nick Ast. If Thompson can’t go, then the likely starter is Howard, who threw for 171 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win. If Howard starts, it would be his first collegiate start.  

S Jahron McPherson. In his first two games in Big 12 action, McPherson has 19 tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and two interceptions. His performance against Oklahoma was so good that he was named the Walter Camp, Nagurski Trophy, Thorpe Award and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. McPherson could do it again against a TCU offense that been inconsistent in its first two Big 12 outings. 


QB Max Duggan: The Horned Frogs need the sophomore to keep doing what he’s doing. After two games he’s fourth in the country in completion percentage (73.5), 10th in the nation in pass efficiency (170.5), led TCU in rushing five times in his first 14 starts (which is something TCU would like to see stop happening) and is coming off leading the Horned Frogs to a road win over Texas. He’s not a finished product yet, but he’s shown remarkable progress from his true freshman season and appears to be the solution to the Horned Frogs’ QB issues in the post-Kenny Hill era.  

WR Taye Barber. So Taye Barber leads active Horned Frogs in career receptions and career receiving yards right now. He also leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (12), yards (133) and tied for the lead in touchdown receptions (1) through two games. If Duggan is looking for a reliable target, Barber is getting the first look, and he’ll be a player the Wildcats will have to account for on Saturday.  

LB Garret Wallow. Yeah, he’s good, to say the least. He’s come out of the game like a rocket in TCU’s first two games, as he’s registered 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack and two forced fumbles (and in considering TCU’s 1-1 start, that last number is pretty critical). Wallow, along with two other TCU Horned Frogs, was named a preseason All-American by multiple outlets. He is, far and away, the Horned Frogs’ active leader in tackles (220) and tackles for loss (26).   


Key storylines

Kansas State

This is turning into a potentially significant season in head coach Chris Klieman’s second season as head coach. A win on Saturday would make the Wildcats 3-0 to start Big 12 action for the first time since 2014. In that season the Wildcats finished 9-4 and went to the Alamo Bowl, but went 7-2 in the Big 12, finishing one game behind both Baylor and TCU (yep, it was THAT season). The Wildcats are tied for the national lead in turnover margin at plus-7. The wild part? The Wildcats haven’t committed a turnover in their first three games of the season. The wilder part? The Wildcats did this last year under, albeit only on the offensive side of the ball. 


Gary Patterson is the dean of Big 12 coaches and one of the best coaches at making in-season adjustments. Like Baylor, the Horned Frogs, didn’t get to play a non-conference game due to COVID concerns and they played flat in the first game against Iowa State. Down in Austin, the Horned Frogs inserted Max Duggan into the starting lineup and used his usual defensive charm to steal one from the Longhorns. Now, the trick is for the Horned Frogs to gather some more momentum against the Wildcats. And it’s time to cut down on giving up the big plays on defense, something Patterson talked about earlier this week. Patterson told reporters it is on him. The truth is he needs his players to execute, too.


TCU 27, Kansas State 21

If it was a lead-pipe lock that Skylar Thompson were starting at quarterback for the Wildcats, I would probably take the Wildcats on the road.  But with the prospect of a true freshman quarterback making his first start in Fort Worth, and the defensive acumen of TCU head coach Gary Patterson, it’s a recipe for the Wildcats to end up with a frustrating day on the road. I suspect that Deuce Vaughn will have another big day, but the Horned Frogs end up prevailing because they’ll do something no other K-State opponent has done to this point — win the turnover battle. 

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