The Big 12 might not play any defense, but TCU sure as heck does.
1. TCU played the best defenses in the league the last two weeks — besides its own — and paid for it. In the two games, the Frogs were 9-for-31 combined on third down, scored 31 points and went 1-1. They’re no longer the nation’s best third-down offense; in fact, they’re No. 6 at an even 50 percent, though that’s still outstanding. But the offense’s struggles were clear against Iowa State, 40th nationally in defense, and Texas, 43rd. Next up for the Frogs: the 87th-, 108th- and 121st-ranked defenses in the country, in that order.
2. Ascending to No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense has to warm Patterson’s heart. The Frogs’ 17th-year head coach loves little more than stopping the run. It’s a test of strength and will. For weeks, the Frogs have been acing it. In the last four games, TCU has allowed 70, negative-25, 53 and 9 yards on the ground. And not because teams aren’t trying. K-State, Kansas, Iowa State and Texas averaged 29.8 attempts.
Baker vs Gary. This ought to be good.
The contrast in styles between OU and TCU is jarring. The Sooners (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) put up crazy numbers in their all-offense win over the Cowboys, although Oklahoma will point out it made a key stop in the final minutes.
"We win ballgames," said Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, who passed for 598 yards and five touchdowns. "No matter how you put it, we win ballgames."
The Horned Frogs (8-1, 5-1) win with defense but will need more.
"Next week, we're going to have to move the football, and we're going to have to get stops if we want to win," Patterson said. "It will be interesting to see how it all turns out."
We will decide who’s number one Saturday. Eek.
2. TCU (3): The Horned Frogs rebounded from their loss at Iowa State with a 24-7 home win over Texas. They once again control their own destiny as one of only two teams in the league with one conference loss. Win out, and they're in the conference title game. They should still be in playoff contention, having entered Saturday at No. 8 and seen both teams immediately above them, Ohio State and Penn State, lose. A win over Oklahoma would certainly boost TCU's chances.
If whoever wins this game wins the Big 12 title game as a one-loss TRUE CHAMPION, we have nothing to worry about as a conference.
Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State in a Bedlam barnburner, and TCU eased past Texas. That leaves the Sooners 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12. TCU has an identical set of records, tied in first place.
The Horned Frogs visit the Sooners this Saturday. The winner is guaranteed to be alone in first with one loss and two games to go. That team will have a great chance of finishing with an 11-1 record. The last time a Big 12 team did that, the 2015 Sooners made the Playoff without any drama whatsoever.
Sadly for whoever wins Saturday, the conference championship game now exists. That winner will likely still have to play the second-place team in Dallas on Dec. 2 to secure a Playoff spot it probably would’ve had anyway without a title game.
Can the TCU offense keep up with Baker and co? Or will the defense be able to keep OU down enough to give the Frogs a chance?
Biggest weakness: TCU lacks a true go-to receiver, and though the Frogs have plenty of playmakers, the absence of a dominant target has hurt their explosiveness in times where Hill has struggled or faced pressure. John Diarse leads the team with 25 receptions for 404 yards, and freshman Jalen Reagor (once an OU commit) is second with 19 catches for 308 yards.
Numbers to know: 37. TCU’s past three opponents have ran for only 37 yards combined. Another telling stat: TCU entered last week as the only school in the nation to rank in the top 10 of third-down conversion percentage and third-down defense.