#7 Baylor Bears vs. #19 TCU Horned Frogs Preview

Baylor Bears 3rd string QB Chris Johnson has to make quality decisions in his first career start on Friday. Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch
Baylor Bears 3rd string QB Chris Johnson has to make quality decisions in his first career start on Friday against TCU. Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch

By Jeff Cantrell

Game Info
#7 Baylor Bears vs. #19 TCU Horned Frogs
Friday – November 27 – 6:30 pm CT
Amon G. Carter Stadium – Ft. Worth, Texas

After the loss to Oklahoma, the previous week, many were questioning if Baylor was a legitimate contender, believing the Bears had benefited from a weak schedule. Going into Stillwater and playing undefeated Oklahoma State, many felt the odds were against Baylor pulling out a victory. Baylor, at least for this week, proved their doubters wrong with a solid performance in a 45-35 win over the Cowboys. In doing so, the Bears won in Stillwater for the first time since before WWII, 1939 to be precise. In knocking off #4 ranked Oklahoma State, Baylor also shows they are still a team to be reckoned with.

Overall, the Bears had a solid but not perfect game against the Cowboys. Baylor put up good numbers on offense with 304 yards rushing and 396 yards passing but had three turnovers. On defense the Bears held the Cowboys to 8 yards rushing, sacked Rudolph Mason six times, forced OSU to punt on 10 of their 15 possessions, but also gave up 433 yards through the air. However, in the end, Baylor got the win, and looked like a top 10 ten team doing it.

While it was a definitive win for the Bears, it was not a game without its drama. Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham, already banged up coming into the game, had to leave the Oklahoma State game at halftime after taking some hard hits and will not be available for Baylor’s upcoming match up against TCU with a broken ankle. Enter Chris Johnson, third on the Baylor QB depth chart, and playing receiver to start the season. In relief of Stidham, Johnson threw for 5 completions on 10 attempts for 138 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

QB Chris Johnson speaks on upcoming TCU Game:

With TCU coming up, Baylor has a final chance to impress the playoff committee with a win over a ranked opponent, before finishing the season against the unranked Texas Longhorns. This will be TCU’s season finale. The Horned Frogs will be fired up to take on the Bears in front of their home crowd and avenge last year’s 61-58 loss to the Bears.

What to look for when Baylor has the ball

  • QB Chris Johnson will make his first career start against TCU. Johnson was a WR before the start of the season, then moved back to quarterback after Russell’s injury in the Iowa State game. He has not seen much game action in his time at Baylor and has played quarterback in only nine games, completing 9 passes on 14 attempts for 183 yards. However, the 6’5” 235 lb. third-year sophomore has been in the Briles system for three full seasons and knows the offense, and should be ready to lead his team into the unfriendly confines of Amon G. Carter Stadium to take on TCU for Baylor’s 10th win and a chance to keep Baylor’s championship hopes alive.
  • Baylor’s running game got back in gear against OSU after being notably absent in the Kansas State and Oklahoma games. However, Shock Linwood, Baylor’s leading rusher, was banged up in the game and how healthy he will be for the TCU game is unknown. Expect to see Johnny used heavily, especially if Linwood is limited, as Jefferson’s style is closest to Linwood’s finesse style of running. The Bears will need another high octane performance from Linwood, Jefferson and Devin Chafin to keep TCU honest and take the pressure off Johnson and the Baylor passing game.
  • Oklahoma State put a lot of effort into keeping Corey Coleman out of the end zone. Double teamed much of the night Coleman did not score and managed only 77 yards on five receptions. The problem with doing that is that Baylor has other very talented receivers in Jay Lee and K.D. Cannon. Cannon received Big 12 player of the week honors for his performance against Oklahoma State. On just five receptions, Cannon gained 210 yards and two touchdowns. Against a TCU secondary which is light on juniors and seniors and relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores, the Bears receiving corps could have a fun day. Given the space to work, Cannon could have a repeat performance, it could be Lee’s turn to light up the defense, or Corey Coleman could return to form and gash the Horned Frogs secondary.

What to look for when TCU has the ball

  • DT Andrew Billings was also awarded Big 12 honors for his performance against Oklahoma State. Billings bulled through the Cowboys O-line for two sacks on the day and generally controlled the line of scrimmage as the Baylor D-linemen consistently pushed back the Oklahoma State offensive line disrupting their ability to run the ball. With two defensive linemen, Beau Blackshear and Bryon Bonds, still questionable for Friday’s game, the Bears are going to need another solid performance from Billings. TCU should have starting QB Trevone Boykin back. Billing and the Baylor D-line will need to contain Boykin, and it will be interesting to see how well the healing Horned Frogs QB performs against the Bears beat up defensive line.
  • NB Travon Blanchard had another big game against Oklahoma State. Blanchard led the Bears in tackles with seven, along with recording one sack and being credited with 1.5 tackles for loss on the day. In his third year, Blanchard has put up solid numbers, including three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions. He also has 69 total tackles, including 54 solo tackles, which puts him in second place on the team in tackles behind only LB Grant Campbell. Blanchard played a significant role in Baylor holding the Cowboys to just 8 yards rushing, and a similar performance against TCU, would be a crippling blow to the Horned Frogs chances for victory.

TCU has been plagued by injuries all season and does not have the same dominating defense that it did last year. Baylor, which had made it through the early part of the schedule fairly healthy, has been significantly impacted by injuries in the last few games. Now both teams enter the game banged up and in need of a win to close out the season.

At the beginning of the season, many looked to this game as possibly the Big 12 “Game of the Year,” pitting last season’s co-champions in a heated battle for dominance. After TCU’s losses to OU and OSU, and Baylor’s loss to OU, that is no longer the case. However, this game is still significant and personal for both teams. Patterson and the Horned Frogs have been looking forward to this game since last year’s 4th quarter meltdown in which they allowed the Bears to score 24 unanswered points to pull out the win. It could be speculated that beating the Bears is Patterson’s obsession. After the TCU win against WVU, Patterson was caught on camera asking “What’s our chance to beat Baylor?” of Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. A week later, the Horned Frogs were handed their first defeat of the season by Oklahoma State. After the TCU 30-29 loss to Oklahoma, Patterson said that looking ahead to Baylor played into the decision to go for two instead of kicking the extra point and going to overtime. So the evidence shows that the Horn Frogs have Baylor on the brain. Could looking ahead to this game have cost them in their two losses? Who knows, but it will be interesting to see what they do in the game they’ve apparently been looking forward to all season.

Following the loss to OU, Baylor is no longer in control of its own destiny. With the new tie breaker rules put in place after the co-champion conundrum involving Baylor and TCU last season, the Big 12 put in new rules that produce one true champion based on the head to head result. Therefore, ironically, Baylor now needs Oklahoma State to knock off Oklahoma to still have a shot at the conference championship and any hope at getting into the college playoffs.

Baylor, despite starting their third quarterback of the season, looks to have the slight edge in this game. On offense the Bears appear to have an advantage over the less experienced TCU defense. Dominate offensive line play, an accomplished receiving corps and a solid line-up of running backs should allow the Bears to move down the field and put up points. On defense, the Bears have generally been outstanding in stopping the run and making teams beat them with the pass. TCU has been especially hard hit at the wide receiver position with their leading receiver Josh Doctson among four WRs lost for the season. This should give Baylor an advantage, and allow Baylor to focus more attention to stopping the run and on containing Trevone Boykin as a run threat. Coming back from an ankle injury, Boykin’s mobility is not known, but if he’s unable to make cuts and run at 100%, he may be in for a long day against the Bears.

There is a real rivalry brewing between these two schools, so look for both teams to be full engaged in this one. It should be heated engagement, and despite losing some of its attraction due to losses by both teams, it should still be fun to watch.

Prediction: Baylor 52 – TCU 49