TCU at Baylor
September 1, 2011
TCU has posted double-digit win totals in seven of the last nine seasons and has won 11 games or more in six of those years. Coming off a perfect 13-0 season that was capped by a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, the Horned Frogs will embark on their farewell campaign in the Mountain West Conference when they open 2011 at Baylor on Friday night.
As of Thursday morning, most betting shops were listing Gary Patterson’s team as a 4 ½-point favorite with a total of 56. Gamblers can take Baylor to win outright for a plus-175 payout (risk $100 to win $175).
TCU returns just three starters on offense and five on defense. Andy Dalton, a first-round selection of the Cincinnati Bengals who won a school-record 42 games, is one of the eight offensive starters that must be replaced.
That job falls to sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall, who saw limited playing time as a redshirt freshman. He ran for a pair of touchdowns and passed for another, but he has only nine career pass attempts.
Paschall’s job will be made easier by the return of junior RB Ed Wesley, who ran for 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry last year. Paschall also has one of the MWC’s best WRs in Josh Boyce, who garnered first-team freshman All-American honors by catching 34 balls for 646 yards and six TDs in 2010.
But if TCU is going to go to a third straight BCS bowl game, it will be about the defense that’s been one of the country’s most ferocious for six years running. During this stretch, the Horned Frogs have never given up more than 18.7 points per game in a season. From 2008-2010, they surrendered the following PPG averages: 11.3, 12.8 and 12.0.
TCU has two of the nation’s premier LBs in senior Tank Carder and junior Tanner Brock. Carder was named first-team All American last year when he had six tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks. Brock led the Horned Frogs in tackles with 106 stops on his way to earning third-team All-American honors.
This LB duo will have its hands full with Baylor junior QB Robert Griffin, who is quietly enjoying a dazzling career in Waco. Griffin led the Bears to their first bowl game since 1994 last season, throwing for 3,501 yards with a 22/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He is equally effective with his legs, rushing for 635 yards and eight TDs in 2010.
Griffin burst on the scene as a true freshman in ’08, rushing for 843 yards and 13 TDs while passing for 2,091 yards with a 15/3 TD-INT ratio. Thanks to Griffin’s presence, expectations at Baylor were high in ’09, but that optimism went out the window in Week 3 when he tore his ACL.
With Griffin back under center, Art Briles’ team jumped out to a 7-2 start last season, only to drop its last four games including a 38-14 loss to Illinois in the Texas Bowl. Baylor beat only one team with a winning record, capturing a 47-42 home win over a Kansas State squad that finished 7-6.
The Bears return eight starters on offense and five on defense. Therefore, they once again appear to be candidates for high-scoring games galore.
However, Griffin will have to adapt to life without two of his best weapons. RB Jay Finley completed his eligibility by rushing for 1,218 yards and 12 TDs last season. WR Josh Gordon is also gone after leaving the program two weeks ago.
Gordon, who had 42 receptions for 714 yards and seven TDs in 2010, was suspended indefinitely in late July. Baylor does return Griffin’s favorite target, Kendall Wright, who is coming off a 78-catch campaign. Wright had 952 receiving yards and seven TD receptions.
Baylor saw the ‘over’ finish 2010 on a 7-2 run. The Bears gave up 30.5 PPG and allowed 42 points or more in five of their last seven regular-season games.
TCU was one of those teams in Week 3, cruising to a 45-10 win as a 21-point home ‘chalk.’ The Horned Frogs raced out to a 35-3 lead by intermission and were never threatened. Dalton completed 21-of-23 passes for 267 yards and two TDs without being intercepted. Wesley rushed for 165 yards and a pair of scores on 19 carries.
TCU’s defense wouldn’t let Griffin get loose, limiting him to 21 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Griffin connected on 16-of-28 throws for 164 yards and a TD with no interceptions.
Since the Southwestern Conference disbanded in 1996, these old-school rivals have met only three times. TCU has won all three games both straight up and against the spread with the ‘under’ cashing in each instance.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Briles is trying to fix Baylor’s defense with new coordinator Phil Bennett, the former SMU head coach who was the DC at Pitt the last three years.
--Griffin has a 41/11 TD/INT ratio and 23 rushing TDs in his career.
--Since 2005, TCU has a 66-11 straight-up record. The Horned Frogs have won 12 of 14 head-to-head meetings against BCS schools during that stretch.
--During Briles’ three seasons at Baylor, the Bears are only 2-6 ATS as home underdogs.
--TCU is 10-5 ATS in its last 15 games as a road favorite from 2008-2010.
--Tulsa WR Damaris Johnson has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with embezzlement on Wednesday. Johnson, the NCAA’s career leader in all-purpose yardage, has basically ‘pulled a Peter Warrick’ for buying loads of clothing merchandise at an extremely reduced price from a girlfriend at a local store. The Golden Hurricane was a 21 ½-point underdog for its Week 1 game at Oklahoma, but the number has now been adjusted to 25.