TCU Can Win the Big 12 Championship
December 1, 2017
Happy December, everyone! Just 24 shopping days to Christmas and just one day until the much-awaited matchup between the Frogs and Sooners in the “new” Big 12 Championship. It’s the first Big 12 Championship since 2010. OU has appeared in eight of the league’s 15 title games. Its record in such games is 7-1.
Lots swirling around this game:
· The ongoing discussion about OU quarterback Baker Mayfield’s November 11 pregame pass that didn’t show up anywhere on the stat sheet (intended receiver TCU’s Niko Small). Irony is that it might be his most famous throw of the year so far.
· The impact of this game on the Big 12’s chances to get a team into the College Football Playoff.
· Bowl implications for the Frogs – Cotton or Alamo. Fiesta and Peach are outside possibilities.
· The “new” Big 12 Championship – born from the 2014 Final CFP committee that dropped the Frogs from No. 3 to No. 6. Then-chairman Jeff Long told the Big 12 that no title game hurt the Frogs because of the lack of a “13th data point.” Then, in 2016, while the Big 12 planned this year’s inaugural Big 12 Championship, the committee plopped Ohio State into the playoff despite the fact that they didn’t even qualify for the Big 10 Championship game. Every time I hear the term “13th data point” I get “that feeling” in my belly.
· The oddness of playing an opponent twice in three weeks – it doesn’t happen often in college football. More on that later.
We’re all very familiar with OU. You know all the players. Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield went from walk-on to wonder. If he wins the Heisman, it’s due to this year’s supporting cast. OU offense came out of no where to put the Sooners at the top nationally at 593 yards per game, 8.6 yards per play and 72 offensive touchdowns. OU’s offensive line is mammoth. TCU needs to figure out a way to get pressure – great coverage in the secondary will help that. Having sack machine Mat Boesen for an entire game will help. OU tailback Rodney Anderson punished TCU by air and land three weeks ago in Norman for 290 all-purpose yards (151 rushing, 139 receiving). He must be contained. Mayfield likes to go to the backs out of the backfield if tight end Mark Andrews or speedster Marquise Brown are not open. Again, the key to quieting all this mayhem is controlling Mayfield.
Defensively, OU comes in as No. 4 in total defense in the Big 12, allowing 390 yards per game and 25.7 points. It’s No. 3 in pass defense at 241 yards per game. Up front is all about #31 Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (my game chart says o-BO-ny-uh k-kor-RON-kwo), who has a habit of making plays behind the line of scrimmage. #4 Emanuel Beal is the leading tackler as weakside linebacker and the secondary is young with two freshmen in the lineup.
OU’s kicking game is solid with Austin Siebert handling the kicking and the punting duties. He hit a career-long 51-yard field goal last week against West Virginia.
Keys for a Frog win will be:
· A fast start – don’t let OU run away with the game. The first 10 minutes will be key. Make plays, keep your head and settle in – no mental errors or dumb penalties.
· Keep the Sooners below six yards per play (they average 8.6).
· Tackle on first contact – the Frogs had a season-full of missed tackles three weeks ago in Norman.
· Contain and confound Mayfield and create at least one turnover. In three games against the Frogs, Mayfield has never thrown an interception.
· Score in the kick return game.
· Hold OU to 33 points or less.
· Play the full 60 minutes (and be prepared to go longer).
This will be an epic slugfest. I predict Frogs win 34-31.
Notify the committee.
Did You Know?
The last time TCU played the same team twice in a season exactly three weeks apart was 1909? Coach J.R. Langley’s Frogs won at Baylor 9-0 on October 23 and then beat Baylor again “at home” 11-0 on November 13 in what was then a cross-town rivalry. Both schools were located in Waco at the time.
We’re on the air at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow from AT&T Stadium. Join Brian, Landry and me on the TCU Sports Network on WBAP 820AM, KTCU 88.7FM and Sirius/XM83.