5/3 BAYLOR (5-0, 2-0) vs. 9/12 TCU (4-0, 1-0)
Oct. 11, 2014 | 2:30 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,140)
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OPPONENT: TCU Horned Frogs
ODB GAME HUB: Baylor Bears vs. TCU Horned Frogs 2014
ADVANCED STATS PREVIEW: Baylor vs. TCU
ROLL CALL: Baylor vs. TCU
FIRST LOOK: Baylor vs. TCU
ODB PREDICTS: Baylor vs. TCU
MEET THE PRESS: Baylor vs. Texas
SB NATION BLOG: Frogs O' War, see on the right
SPREAD: Baylor - 8 (Open: Baylor -10.5)
TV COVERAGE: ABC/ESPN2
WEATHER FORECAST: High Saturday of 74ºF
BAYLOR UNIFORMS: ¯\(°_o)/¯
HYPE VIDEO: Revivalry, by Tedvid
If you've been paying close attention to the various weather sites this past week, you know that the forecast for Saturday has been in a state of flux for most of the week. First it was 80% chance of rain at game time, then decreased to about 30%. Then down to 10%. Then back up to 30%. After all of that, it seems that the sites have all come to an agreement that the worst of the weather will hit in the early hours of Saturday morning, with the chance of rain diminishing as game time approaches. If that's the case, while it may make for some muddy tailgating, You can count on some gorgeous weather at game time.
Because it's a Baylor game, we have to talk at least somewhat about injuries and/or players we won't be seeing, who might be as important in some respects as those we will.
TCU: The Horned Frogs have no major injuries that I can locate at this time.
Baylor: The key injuries this week were discussed in this post dealing with injuries from the Texas game. The Bears will be without starting DE Jamal Palmer, who went down with a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season, sadly. As mentioned in the linked post, the Bears will look to replace his production with a combination of Javonte Magee, K.J. Smith, and Brian Nance. It's a tough loss, but the Bears can replace his production with solid performances from the three listed. At this point, Palmer is the only player confirmed to be out.
Still questionable are RB Devin Chafin and LB Aiavion Edwards, whom I also wrote about in the injuries post. At this point, both are questionable heading into tomorrow's matchup with the Horned Frogs. While there have been rumors circulating on whether or not either or both will play, nothing has been confirmed so we'll treat them as questionable for now. Once we know more, we'll bring it to you.
Once again I stole the above chart from this week's Advanced Stats Preview, which should provide some background info on why/how Baylor and TCU are closely matched up in tomorrow's game. While FEI loves the Horned Frogs, the Bears have the advantage in the S&P+ metric.
The last time Baylor even played a game in which they were "EVEN" or worse in the edge column so many times occurred with QB Nick Florence still leading the show and Baylor welcoming the #1-ranked Kansas State Wildcats to Floyd Casey Stadium in 2012. Baylor won that game 52-24, of course, and since then has been favored against every team it has played by F/+, FEI, and/or S&P+.
Thoughts on the Game:
With a game like this where things seem so even, relatively little things loom large. Individual plays made or missed take on a new importance, as do individual players and their roles. That's to say nothing of larger issues like home field advantage or injuries that are obviously important and can change the outcome considerably.
The keys for Baylor in this game are fairly easy to spot. TCU's QB Trevone Boykin is so critical to the Horned Frogs' rushing offense that keeping contain on him in the pocket and protecting the boundary are paramount. That responsibility will fall largely on DE Shawn Oakman, a known quantity for the Baylor defense, and the combination of DT/DE Javonte Magee and DE K.J. Smith, who will be asked to step in for the injured Palmer. If they cannot set the edge and keep it, Baylor will have a difficult task ahead of it in stopping TCU's running game, which uses both the zone read and the option to force opposing defenders to make a choice and then punishes them for it, whatever it is. At the same time, Baylor's secondary will have its hands full against a group of TCU receivers that makes up for the lack of a clear #1 receiving option with tremendous depth and has several players capable of hurting you in different ways.
When Baylor has the ball, we'll be facing what is clearly the best rushing defense of the season to date. That's a problem, since virtually everything we do relies on being able to move the ball on the ground to open things up down the field. If Baylor can't run, throwing becomes more difficult. If we can, I strongly believe we will be able to have success through the air, much as the Sooners did last week in the first half. Where the Sooners basically have just one receiver for which opposing defenses must account in Sterling Shepard, Baylor has several, including Antwan Goodley, K.D. Cannon, Jay Lee, Levi Norwood, and Corey Coleman. TCU's pass rush is quite good, averaging 3.75 sacks per game so far this season, but that's one area where I felt like Baylor actually played pretty well against Texas, who was even better.
I probably sound like a broken record at this point saying this every week, but how Baylor plans to play Boykin defensively is pretty easy to guess. You're going to see a lot of man coverage designed to stop short, easy passes and to force Boykin to hold onto the ball, giving our pass rushers a chance to get home. Baylor is going to challenge Boykin to beat them as a one-man team, and if he can do it, fine. I foresee us basically selling out to stop the run with Boykin and B.J. Catalon, hoping that a hostile crowd can rattle the TCU offense and we can take advantage of the opportunities given us on the other side. I don't know that it will be as successful as we've seen it against less talented QBs, but it's a pretty clear path to follow. I'll be watching to see how much Baylor uses the 3-4 front to get more speed on the field at the linebacker spot, since TCU does attack the edges so often and it might make sense to have a player like Trayvon Blanchard there rather than someone like Beau Blackshear on the inside. Of course, it's a lot harder to go to a 3-man front when the opponent is playing extremely wide splits, as TCU did against OU a week ago, so we might not have that option in the first place.
One aspect of the game that I don't think can be overstated in importance is Baylor's home field advantage at McLane. At this point, I strongly believe that Baylor is a significantly better team, particularly on offense, at home than on the road. That comes, I think, from being more aggressive in play-calling and dictating a higher tempo that eventually wears down or overwhelms our opponents. There's a reason we've only lost one game since 2012 in the friendly confines, even if that one loss was a turnover-filled game with these same TCU Horned Frogs.
Before giving my prediction, I need to thank Peter for everything he did this afternoon in helping prepare this post. I've been under the weather basically all day due to a severe allergic reaction that threw my whole planned Friday into chaos, and he stepped up in my absence to do a lot of the more time-consuming aspects of this post.
The spread for this game seems to have stabilized around Baylor -7.5 or 8 after opening at -10.5 and initially jumping to -12 or -13. At the same time, the over/under has actually increased from 62.5 points to 65, which probably reflects a growing appreciation for both offenses and the potential that this game could be a little higher scoring than initially expected.
You're going to be shocked to hear this, but I think Baylor will win and cover, if only barely, at home tomorrow in what should be the best atmosphere for a Baylor game since the Thursday night blackout against OU. The game will be close until the very end, when the Bears will score a final TD to ice our first win over a top 10 team in the history of McLane Stadium.
Final Score: Baylor 35, TCU 24
Give me your predictions in the comments below and vote in the poll!