An Ode to Nick Florence's Beard.
I just hate them so much. Well, actually, hate isn't necessarily the word... I guess it's more of a relationship of condescension, sort of like the whole UT/aggy thing. I mean, aren't they just so cute with their enthusiasm and brief flirtation with success? Their excitement over a 10 win season and those flimsy mesh jerseys their students opt to wear just make them a little too adorable to truly hate. Plus, we've mostly owned the Bears the four times we've played them in my years as a TCU fan. That lack of familiarity certainly makes it impossible to replicate the learned hate I have for SMU; Add in the variable that I've lived 2 miles away from SMU's campus for the past 5 years, and you get the picture: I don't like Baylor, but I HATE SMU. Plus, SMU is a dirty also-ran in a non-BCS Conference, and who could ever love THAT? All that goes to say, it's not you Baylor, it's me. I promise. But from this point forward there's a LOT of time to learn and I promise to do better.
Saturday is the biggest mystery game on TCU's schedule this season, by far. Heck, even Vegas isn't sure what to do with it as I've seen the line move from 7 to 9 and back to 7 again. All of those lines are in Baylor's favor, but I don't think I'm alone in being at least a LITTLE cautiously optimistic about the Frog's chances. Unfortunately, its these times where I am then confronted with the facts, and that sends me into a bit of a tailspin.
Fact 1: Baylor has really good receivers. I think Gary Patterson summed it up best when he said something along the lines of, "Baylor has receivers with Skye Dawson's speed, but they're all 6'2" instead of 5'11"" Terrence Williams, you might remember him - African American gentleman, last seen piling up a school record 314 yards against West Virginia. (Ironic, because I presumed he was still running loose through TCU's secondary and under Robert Griffin passes from last September, but I digress). For the season, Williams has 34 catches for 667 yards and 6 scores. a gaudy 20 yard average per reception.
But it doesn't stop there - Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson are back in the fold as well. Neither of those gentlemen played too much of a hand in the outcome of last year's game, although Sampson did have 1 catch for a long score, but they've both caught the ball 20+ times this season and will be targeted Saturday. Fortunately, RB Terrance Ganaway is gone and Baylor hasn't been overly impressive in the ground game, but they really haven't had to be with the nation's #1 ranked passing offense. This makes me sad. Sad because Baylor's WR speed is what murdered us last year. Sad because this is the last thing Kevin White needs after getting torched last week. But mostly it makes me sad because I want Baylor to be bad again.
Fact 2: Nick Florence and his beard might be better than Robert Griffin at running Art Briles' Offense: Now, before you start calling me an idiot and such because not only is that not a fact, its an opinion and a sketchy one at that, I'm not saying Florence is a better QB than Griffin, and I'm most certainly not saying he's going to win a Heisman - I just think he's better in this system than Griffin was. Do the numbers support this? KIND OF - Through 4 games last year, Griffin had thrown for 1308 yards, 18 TDs and 1 pick while Florence's numbers are 1585/16/5 through the same stretch. However, keep in mind that Griffin had Terrance Ganaway as an outlet last year and all Florence has is Jarred Salubi and this old Lache Seastrunk someone left lying around. Clearly the biggest difference between the two QBs is that Griffin was insanely accurate - 72% completions and 37 TDs against just 6 picks for the year; Florence has almost hit that number of picks already playing against SMU, Sam Houston, Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia, otherwise known as "air." So, I probably overstated the whole "Nick Florence is better in Briles' system than Griffin" thing. Is it possible I just really don't like Griffin and am inflating my perception of Nick Florence to downplay his accomplishments? Most Soitainly. Regardless, Art Briles clearly has a way with the QB's and, just as important, has a way with the QBs that involves them not taking sacks. By all accounts Baylor's offensive line isn't much better than TCU's, yet they've only given up 6 sacks this year; TCU has given up 7, but keep in mind Treebeard wasn't playing QB last week. This is because Baylor plays a hurry up, quick release type of football that doesn't give defenses much time to crash down on the QB, so if Devonte Fields is going to go on his usual murderin' spree, he's going to have to be very quick about it. The biggest issue with the Bears offense, though? Little huddlin' involved. That wasn't a big problem for TCU last week or anything... Overall, Baylor has scored 45 points in 8 straight games and put up over 500 yards of offense in 10 straight. :(
So those are the bad facts, and they are quite bad for our defense. However, there are a couple of more facts that may actually work in our favor. To wit:
Fact 3: Baylor has NO defense whatsoever. They gave up 70 points to West Virginia. Keeping in mind that TCU has been guilty of said violation, no team should EVER allow 70 points to another team. That year for TCU, of course, was 2004 - the last time TCU did not make a bowl game. I'm not saying Baylor won't make a bowl game with that defense, but when they eventually run up against a team with a not only an offense that can scorea few points, but at least a halfway decent D, there will be issues. I'm not sure TCU is that team, but I'm not ruling it out.
It's here that we come to the obligatory, "some of you jerks aren't giving Trevone Boykin enough credit" part of the preview. Yes, he threw the picks. But, he still led TCU to the third highest offensive output - 455 yards - on the season against the best defense we have faced this year BY FAR. Iowa State is only allowing 338 yards and 16 points a game, numbers that the Boykin led offense eclipsed with ease despite the turnovers. Am I crazy to think that he can't put up 500 yards and 5 TDs against a Baylor defense giving up 571 yards and 40 points each week? That 571 is dead last in the country by 40 whole yards. Phil Bennett Fail, apparently NOT confined to Dallas. Oh, and Baylor is missing one of their best CBs for the game, so there's that. On top of that, Baylor has a defensive line that our undermanned unit might finally be able to stand up to, allowing 173 yards per game and only generating 6 sacks. TCU won't score 70 points, but hopefully they won't need to.
Fact 4: Baylor struggled with Louisiana-Monroe and Sam Houston State. ULM has been getting a lot of credit for beating Arkansas and hanging tough with Auburn and Baylor in close losses, and they should should. However, those three teams all rank fairly low in total defense - each give up over 400 yards per game - so it's possible ULM picked a pretty great year to play those 3 BCS teams out of Conference and are reaping the benefits of their defensive misfortunes. Oh, and SHSU isn't even division one. Baylor actually trailed SHSU 20-10 at halftime of that game before taking care of business in the last 30. Bear in mind Baylor was coming off of a bye week just as they are now, so perhaps they have a tendency to lose focus? The issue with this particular bye week is that the Bears likely feel they could've won the game against WVU and that has been festering for 2 weeks, so if they have any pride at all they'll want to come out firing. Let's just pretend this isn't the case...
Fact 5: TCU doesn't lose two in a row under Patterson often. Coming off a loss, GP teams are something like 21-6, with the last double dipper coming in 2007, also known as 1 AD. As much as any coach in any sport hates to lose, you have to think GP is at or near the top. In the past he hated losing because, quite frankly, it was a RARE occurrence. Nowadays he hates losing because of the regionalism of our opponents. Now, I'm not naive enough to suggest that the latter part of that record won't increase going forward, but I'm not so sure it happens this week.
So what do I think will happen? I honestly have no expectations for this game, but I do think karma has to be in our favor. Don't they say the day is darkest right before dawn? Think about it all the crap that has happened to this program recently. Including Tucker, you have 21 players out. TWENTY ONE. You're down to a makeshift offensive line, second string QB, third string TRUE FRESHMAN running back and a patchwork LB group. You have a former 5A Player of the Year RB on your roster that can barely get on the field. You have EIGHT turnovers inside the 20 through 5 games, a couple of which last week that, had they not happened, probably would've had you sitting at 5-0. Then you officially lose your starting QB for the year the same week you face your oldest rival. What gives? Doesn't the cosmos have to reset eventually? I think Baylor is going to score early and probably jump out to a couple TD lead. There's just too much fire power there for that not to happen to our defense. But, they're going to settle in. Gary Patterson is not going to be embarrassed by Baylor two years in a row. There will have to be some adjustments made, and TCU will probably enter the locker room at halftime with the scoreboard against them. Then Boykin will take over. One thing we're not accounting for here is the fact that Baylor had a full week of preparation for Pachall, then had to prepare for both, then had to start over again once Pachall was officially dismissed. Our offensive failure against Iowa State was of our own making, and that's despite ISU having a great D. Baylor is bad at defense. Throw injuries and scheme uncertainty into the mix and, well, that's not exactly going to help. Yes, TCU could easily lose this game, and I'm placing a lot of hope in an offense that has yet to perform well in the red zone, but with the holes that have opened up in the Baylor secondary all year, hopefully the RZ won't come into play. Calling it.
The Pick: TCU 45, Baylor 42. Jaden Oberkrom, remember 2011.