The No. 7 Baylor Bears (10-1, 5-1) are holding out hope for a Big 12 title but first need a win when they visit the No. 18 TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth on Friday night.
The Bears have experienced a reversal of fortune and propelled themselves back in the conference championship picture after beating previously undefeated Oklahoma State 45-35 in Stillwater on Saturday. In order to win the Big 12, the Bears must beat TCU Friday, have Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma on Saturday and beat Texas on Dec. 5.
Winning a conference without a championship game still wouldn’t guarantee Baylor a spot in the College Football Playoff, but a Big 12 title and a single loss on its record would at least force the selection committee to give the Bears serious consideration. Baylor is currently No. 10 in the CFP rankings, which are to be updated on Tuesday.
Baylor readies for TCU without knowing who their quarterback will be after former backup and current starter Jarrett Stidham only played one half. Stidham took some big hits in the first two quarters but managed to throw for 258 yards and a score before exiting. Third-string Chris Johnson saw his first action of the season and impressed, throwing for 138 yards and two touchdowns while running for a third in relief. Sophomore receiver K.D. Cannon erupted for 210 yards and two scores on five receptions.
The nation’s No. 1 team in scoring (53.8 points) and total offense (644.1 yards) per game didn’t miss a beat changing quarterbacks once again and gained 700 yards in total offense against Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs rank No. 2 in total defense in the Big-12, allowing 402.3 yards per game but have given up the third-most rushing touchdowns in the conference (21). The Bears had six runners combine for 304 yards on the ground at Oklahoma State and rank No. 4 nationally in rush yards per game (293.4). Baylor has rushed 30 touchdowns on the season, sparked by 10 scores from leading rusher Shock Lindwood.
With Trevone Boykin nursing an ankle injury, things could be up in the air for TCU under center. Boykin, who is listed as probable, has thrown for 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions in a little over nine games this season but tossed a season-high four interceptions against Oklahoma State on Nov. 7.
Last week, Foster Sawyer threw three interceptions and was replaced in the third quarter by Bram Kohlhausen, who almost led TCU to a 4th quarter comeback at Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs scored with 51 seconds remaining on Kohlhausen’s second touchdown of the night but were stopped attempting to take the lead on an ensuing two-point conversion attempt and lost, 30-29.
The Horned Frogs were held to 161 yards on the ground despite averaging 224.2 rushing yards for the season. Baylor allows 156.6 rushing yards per game but held the Cowboys to just eight yards of rushing offense.
Prediction: Even if Boykin plays, Baylor’s quarterbacks have looked nothing like backups. Whether it’s Stidham or Johnson taking the snaps and with Linwood leading the charge on the ground, the Bears should be able to move the ball and put up points. Kohlhausen did an admirable job for TCU in relief, but Baylor has too much firepower and too much riding on this game to lose, even on the road with an inexperienced quarterback. Expect the Bears to earn a win by more than a touchdown.