Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming Big 12 match up in our TCU vs. Baylor preview and prediction.
2:30 PM CST, Saturday, November 6, 2021, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Radio: TCU broadcast: Horned Frogs Sports Network; Baylor broadcast: Baylor Sports Network
Records: TCU 3-5 (1-4 Big 12); Baylor 7-1 (3-1 Big 12)
Rankings: TCU – none; Baylor – CFB Playoff #12, AP #14, Coaches #13
Last week: TCU lost to Kansas State, 31-12; Baylor defeated Texas, 31-24
Spread: Baylor -6.5
Fun Facts: The first two games of this long-standing rivalry, in 1925 and 1926, were neutral site games in Dallas. Both games ended in 7-7 ties. When the Revivalry moved away from the neutral site in Dallas, the home team did not win until 1932 when TCU shutout Baylor, 27-0. In 2019, the last time these teams met in Fort Worth, the game went to triple-overtime before Baylor came away with a 29-23 victory.
The Offensive Line
Who starts at quarterback? Will Zack Evans be available at running back? Neither answer will matter much if the Horned Frogs offensive line plays the way it did against Kansas State last Saturday. The Wildcats had 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, and two forced fumbles that were sacks/strips but not ruled sacks because the fumbles crossed the line of scrimmage into positive territory before being recovered by the defense.
There is no way to win a game when the opposing defense is allowed to create the havoc that K-State caused in the TCU backfield. TCU’s offense has been electric for much of the season, but it will go nowhere against Baylor unless the offensive line rebounds in a big way.
WR Quentin Johnston
After catching 12 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns in two games against Oklahoma and West Virginia, Johnston was shut down by K-State’s Julius Brents, catching two passes for just five yards. Johnston can be nearly unstoppable at times, and TCU needs him to have the kind of game in which the Bears must either double-team him, as West Virginia was forced to, or get burned badly.
Baylor is second in the Big 12 in pass-efficiency defense, but the Bears are susceptible to allowing big games to big-time wide receivers like Johnston. Texas’ Xavier Worthy had 115 yards and a TD on four receptions last week. Oklahoma State’s Tay Martin had 110 yards on six receptions against the Bears in Week 5.
Baylor’s defense is stout overall, but if Johnston can force the Bears to adjust their coverage, TCU’s running game, whether Evans is available or not, will have a better chance of finding gaps in Baylor’s defense, which is allowing 3.6 yards per carry on the season.
DE Ochaun Mathis
The story of TCU’s season up until the Halloween parting with head coaching legend Gary Patterson was dominated by the defense’s woeful performances. Patterson may be gone, but the defensive struggles seem destined to continue. However, if there is a player on TCU’s defense that could spark a strong outing against Baylor, it’s Mathis.
Mathis leads the Horned Frogs with four sacks on the season. He also has three batted passes, 11 QB hurries, and five QB hits. His run defense has been shaky at times, but overall, he is TCU’s most consistent lineman against the run.
Mathis obviously can’t do everything or provide the answer to everything that ails TCU’s defense, but if he can have a big game, he could provide the spark that inspires his teammates to rally. Against a brutally efficient Baylor offense, TCU must play its best defensive game of the season or get blown out.
RB Abrahm Smith
Possibly the most underrated player in the nation, Smith leads the Big 12 and is 4th in the nation with 7.38 yards per carry. He is a big bang-for-the-buck player who has had at least one carry of 31+ yards in six of his eight games this season and four straight dating back to his season-long 55-yard TD run against Oklahoma State on fourth-and-2.
Against TCU’s rushing defense, which ranks 9th in the Big 12 with 5.31 yards allowed per rushing attempt, Smith will eventually find plenty of room to run. The Horned Frogs have a habit of allowing explosive plays in the run game:
- K-State RB Deuce Vaughn had a 42-yard TD run on fourth-and-1.
- K-State QB Skylar Thompson, wearing a knee brace, had a 26-yard run.
- WVU QB2 Garrett Greene ran a quarterback draw 67 yards on second-and-12 from deep inside WVU territory to setup a field goal.
- Oklahoma RB Kennedy Brooks had 45-yard run to setup a touchdown.
- Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams had a 41-yard touchdown run.
- Texas Tech’s SaRodorick Thompson had a 24-yard run.
- Texas QB Casey Thompson had a 35-yard run.
- Texas RB Bijan Robinson had a 27-yard touchdown run.
- SMU RB Tre Siggers had a 46-yard run.
Since Big 12 play began, TCU has allowed at least one explosive rushing play of 24+ yards in every game. Smith should have a big day.
QB Gerry Bohanon
As demonstrated by the above list of explosive running plays allowed by TCU this season, TCU is highly susceptible to the quarterback run game. Although Bohanon has yet to have a rushing attempt go for more than 10 yards this season, he has the speed and mobility to get loose against TCU.
Depending on how you look at it, Bohannon is coming off either his worst or second-worst passing performance of the season against Texas: 18 of 31 for 222 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns – good for a pass-efficiency rating of 105.3. His only worse pass-efficiency rating of the season, 102.0, came in the loss to Oklahoma State when he went 13 of 27 for 173 yards with no picks or touchdowns.
TCU ranks 9th in the Big 12 for pass-efficiency defense and is allowing just under 239 passing yards per game. The numbers would probably be worse if the TCU run defense wasn’t so porous. When Baylor passes, Bohanon should be able to take what the defense gives him and come out with a solid day.
As everyone knows, Gary Patterson and TCU decided to part ways a day after TCU fell 31-12 at Kansas State. Now Jerry Kill takes over as interim coach, but as our own Matthew Postins writes, this is not Kill’s job to win. With the loss of their iconic coach who truly has been TCU football for two decades and a true lame-duck interim coach at the helm, how do the Horned Frogs respond?
It’s already been a long season for the team. The defeat against K-State was TCU’s third straight in Big 12 play and fifth in its last six games dating back to the loss against SMU. Given the way things have gone, it will take a lot of inner strength for TCU to play the kind of game it must play to have a shot at knocking off Baylor.
For much of the season, the story has been TCU’s surprisingly dreadful defense sinking the efforts of its surprisingly potent offense.
However, the offense has also stumbled in its last two games against K-State and West Virginia, scoring just 10 points in each (the defense scored a safety against K-State and special teams ran the opening kickoff for a touchdown against WVU). The touchdown against K-State didn’t come until there was just 1:21 left in the game, and the Horned Frog offense was turned away from the goal line after advancing inside K-State’s 5 yard line three times.
TCU is staring at an uphill climb on offense and defense, and it will have to do it without the greatest coach in TCU history on the sidelines.
A season after winning just two games, everything is working for the Bears this season. The defense is formidable, the offense is explosive and efficient, and at 7-1, 4-1, Baylor is in the thick of the Big 12 title hunt. It’s been a dream season for Baylor so far, and of the Big 12 championship contenders, only Oklahoma remains on Baylor’s schedule. All the Bears need to do is win the games they should and a 10-2 finish is the worst-case scenario. However, upsets happen every week, and rivalry games such as this one can be extremely unpredictable. The last thing the Bears want is to allow TCU to spoil their magical season.
Prediction: Baylor 35, TCU 21
The Bears are simply too efficient on offense not to handle the reeling TCU defense. However, TCU isn’t going to just check out of the season and let Baylor win. TCU will look better than it has in weeks and put up a valiant fight for three quarters before Baylor’s offense proves to be too much in the fourth.