No matter the outcome of the game on Saturday, this will be TCU's final game of the season- a testament to injuries, bad breaks, bad calls (Texas Tech) and general playcalling incompetence. Still, it's a rivalry week with (what many consider) TCU's biggest rival, and a win could greatly change the outlook for the program heading into the offseason and provide some much needed momentum on the recruiting trail. Would a well called win be enough to save the jobs of Jarrett Anderson and Rusty Burns? I sincerely hope not, but I expect that it may, which may put folks on the fence if beating Baylor would be a good thing. To me... nothing bad has ever come from beating Baylor, so let's do it and let the chips fall where they may after the season.
Series at a glance
First game: 1899 (0-0 Tie)
Last game in Fort Worth: TCU 45, BU 10 in 2010
TCU leads the series 51-50-7
Baylor is TCU's oldest rival and the TCU-BU "Revivalry" is one of the most played in all sports and also one of the most even rivalries in all sports, not just in the overall series record, but the teams have played 40 games settled by a touchdown or less. What I find most interesting is that even though the rivalry has been incredibly streaky (TCU won all but two meeting from 1955-1971, only for Baylor to win all but two meetings from 1972-1983) the overall series is still so close, and the teams are an even 7-7 since 1987. Still, despite the length of the series this is just Baylor's third trip to Fort Worth since 1995, so I expect the fan turnout will be huge despite TCU's disappointing season to date.
Baylor on Offense
Baylor runs a hurry up spread offense that thrives on speeding to the line to keep the defense from adjusting to their look. The ground game is the key to the Baylor attack, with the bears running a very zone-read heavy attack to try and get their speedy backs into space to make plays into the second level. The number one cause for Oklahoma State's victory in my estimation was their ability to stymie the Baylor inside running game with just the defensive line- Shock Linwood was often contained in the backfield and the Cowboys forced quarterback Bryce Petty to keep more often than usual, which he did with... mixed results.
This was Petty's biggest run of the day, but he's not as natural a runner as a Robert Griffin (or even a Trevone Boykin, really) and keeping the ball in his hands on the ground is going to be key to TCU's success. This is especially true as self-proclaimed Heisman candidate Lache Seastrunk is probable to make a return this week, which means that a missed tackle (an issue for TCU's defense late in games) can have 40+ yard implications. Throwing the ball is a very different proposition, however, as Bryce Petty is definitely a deserving Heisman candidate (though fairly or not, he's unlikely to win after last week's loss at OSU), completing 64.1% of his passes on the year for over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns compared with one(!) interception. Baylor hasn't exactly faced a murderer's row of defenses this year to be sure, and Petty did have less effective games against the better passing defenses of the conference, but when you take into account how often he found himself spending the second half on the bench the numbers are still quite impressive. Petty is at his best when he can get the ball out of his hands quickly, completing short high percentage passes with the ball placed in front of his receiver so that they can try to make something happen after the catch. Though the Frogs are unlucky that Seastrunk is likely to be making a return this week, the Frogs do catch a break in the absence of Baylor's top wide receiver Tevin Reese, who averaged a scary 25 yards per reception. Without him the Baylor wideouts are talented, but they don't have a man who is going to beat Jason Verrett or Kevin White with regularity, meaning that Petty could be forced to hold the ball longer than usual and take him out of his rhythm. Without Reese, TCU should take a page out of the OSU playbook and play tight coverage to keep the ball in Petty's hands as long as possible and hope that our line can get to him in time. Given our pass rush issues this plan does have its perils, but it's preferable to blitzing because Petty is simply too good not to find the open spot in a zone and Baylor's receivers are too good to not take that opportunity and turn it into first downs.
Baylor on Defense
Instead of the usual personnel focused analysis, I'm going to vary it up a bit with a bit more TCU focus.
What a difference a season makes, huh? The Baylor defense was a punchline last year, giving up 70 points to West Virginia, 49 to a Trevone Boykin led TCU attack, 42 to Louisiana-Monroe, 56 to Texas and even 35 to Iowa State in a loss in Ames. This season's defense has been an entirely different story, giving up 21 points to West Virginia in the first three quarters (the Mountaineers ran it up in the non-competitive fourth against Baylor's second string), 7 to Louisiana-Monroe, 7 to Iowa State, 14 to Kansas and 12 to Oklahoma. Baylor runs a four man front, switching between a 4-3 and 4-2-5 and they like to bring pressure off the edge. Our old whipping boy Phil Bennett has put together a defense that emulates a lot of what TCU likes to do- string plays outside to give speedy linebackers and safeties a chance to make tackles for loss to put the offense in second and third and long situations. However, the Bears can certainly be run on if you attack inside with a running back or if you change the math of the defense to force them to account for an extra man. The extra man I'm referring to in TCU's case is none other than Trevone Boykin, who has certainly had a rough sophomore year at quarterback, but his versatility and the way he changes numbers in the run game could be put to good effect against Baylor, much like KSU's running quarterback Daniel Sams who ran for almost 200 yards on 30 carries against the Bears, despite his presence on the field being a massive tipoff that a run play was coming. Not that I'm suggesting that Trevone be the starter at this one, because Baylor can be thrown on, but the key will be quick drops and quick release for Casey when he drops back to pass, because pressure will be coming and our offensive line is terrible. In essence this is shaping up to be the perfect test to see if Jarrett Anderson and Rusty Burns have learned one solitary lesson from this season of frustration, as to throw on Baylor TCU is going to have to be able to run the ball first. Can we do it? Will we even get a chance to find out? The answer to these questions will likely determine who's calling plays for the Frogs next year.
On a side note- as of yet I've had no reply from the excellent crew of Our Daily Bears (And I do mean that. Any feelings we may have about Baylor aside, they run a very nice blog and are a very classy crew) about the Q&A request, but I have something special in mind for Thursday to take it's place in addition to hopefully having a FoW Theater post for Friday. Hopefully we'll have a little something for everyone to look forward to.