|TCU can claim spot in Big 12 title game by beating Baylor|
A spot in the Big 12 Championship Game is on the line for No. 12 TCU when it hosts Baylor on Friday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.
In years past, this game has been a battle, and its winner would be in the discussion for a major bowl. This time around, only the Horned Frogs will continue on to the postseason and still have a conference title within reach.
If TCU beats Baylor, it will get a rematch against No. 4 Oklahoma in the league title game on Dec. 2 in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma beat the Horned Frogs 38-20 in Norman, Okla. on Nov. 11 to take control over the top of the Big 12 standings.
Don't think for a second that TCU (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) can afford to take Baylor lightly, even though the Bears are 1-10 overall and 1-7 in league play. Expect a low-scoring game since each team relies on its defense.
TCU's final home game comes after a 27-3 victory over Texas Tech last Saturday in which the Horned Frogs didn't allow a second-half touchdown for the sixth consecutive game. TCU has allowed a lone field goal in the second half since a 26-6 win over Kansas State on Oct. 14, going 5-1 over that six-game stretch.
"Our goal is for our seniors to have the best season they can have," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "They have a chance to win 10, 11 or 12 ballgames, which is really cool. We've got Baylor on Friday, so it's an opportunity to get to 10 wins, and that's what we're trying to get accomplished."
TCU beat Texas Tech without injured senior quarterback Kenny Hill and star running back Darius Anderson, who suffered a season-ending foot injury in the loss to Oklahoma.
Patterson told reporters on the Big 12 coaches conference call Monday that Hill is "closer to probable" to playing against Baylor. Hill, a senior who has started 30 college games -- eight at Texas A&M and 22 at TCU -- ranks third in the Big 12 and 10th in the country in completion percentage. He has thrown just five interceptions this season.
"I think (Hill's) got a chance to be back," Patterson said. "You know me -- I'm going to tell the truth. I'd say, probable to questionable, and I'd probably say closer to probable. Now."
Patterson, who usually plays his cards close to the vest, provided no updates on linebackers Travin Hill and Montrel Wilson, safeties Niko Small and Ridwan Issahaku or kicker Jonathan Song after all those players missed the Tech game with injuries.
Baylor heads to Cowtown on the heels of a 23-13 loss to Iowa State.
Baylor coach Matt Rhule likes the progress his defense is making. The Bears held Iowa State to 394 yards, marking the third straight game they've surrendered less than 400 yards, a major accomplishment in the Big 12, where high-tempo spread-offenses routinely rack up more than 500 yards a game.
"The defense has gotten better," Rhule said.
"It's clicked for them at some point. A lot of our young players are getting better and better and better. If we continue to improve and continue to recruit and continue to develop, the defensive structure will continue to take off."
It's the Baylor offense that has struggled this year. The Bears' offense -- which is no longer the pass-first, spread attack employed by former coach Art Briles -- has coughed up six turnovers in the past two games, and the offensive line must get much better to allow the running game to flourish and to give freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer more time to throw.
The Bears are approaching the season finale against TCU with realistic expectations.
"TCU is a great team," Rhule said. "I do know this: We can control how we play, and we can certainly protect the football, and we don't have to just give it to them.
"I want to send our seniors out the right way, and I want to certainly continue to try to learn what it takes to win. Let's make the plays that it takes to be a great team. So that's just the next step in the progression to me."
Last year's 62-22 win in Waco gave TCU a 53-52-7 series lead over Baylor. With 112 games played, TCU has faced Baylor more than any opponent in its history.
The first game between TCU and Baylor was a scoreless tie in 1899. TCU is 6-3 against Baylor since the Southwest Conference dissolved after the 1995 season and are 3-2 versus the Bears in the Big 12 era.