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Kicking the Tires: TCU Horned Frogs

Fresh off bye weeks, K-State and TCU meet in Manhattan on Saturday. Both teams are desperate for a win.

#34 James Gilbert Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s contest between K-State and TCU won’t have any significance even in the Big 12 race. But it’s a crucial contest for the direction of the two teams involved.

Both teams enter Saturday’s game off a bye and on losing streaks, if you can call one game a “streak” in TCU’s case. But both teams sport identical 3-2 overall records and, in four combined conference games, only have one win total. And that was TCU beating up on KU.

For its part, K-State went from a hot start that has lost some of its luster with Mississippi State’s nosedive to an 0-2 start in Big 12 play. If the Wildcats are going to feel good about their chances of postseason eligibility, then a win over the Frogs is a must.

Players to Watch


Passing: Skylar Thompson, 69-110-1, 822 yards, 7.5 yards/attempt, 5 TDs, 164.4 yards/game

Rushing: James Gilbert, 73 carries, 415 yards, 5.7 yards/carry, 4 TDs, 83 yards/game

Receiving: Dalton Schoen, 16 receptions, 219 yards, 13.7 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 43.8 yards/game


Passing: Max Duggan, 64-113-0, 742 yards, 6.6 yards/attempt, 9 TDs, 148.4 yards/game

Rushing: Darius Anderson, 70 carries, 539 yards, 7.6 yards/carry, 6 TDs, 106.4 yards/game

Receiving: Te’Vailance Hunt, 11 receptions, 210 yards, 19.1 yards/reception, 0 TDs, 42 yards/game

In normal times, I would note that TCU’s most-dangerous receiving threat is Jalen Reagor, with 15 receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns on the season. But TCU’s passing offense has been so woefully bad this year that it doesn’t seem likely that Reagor will be the difference in this game.

TCU runs the ball pretty well, and it’s likely we’ll see former K-State quarterback Alex Delton in the game at some point to supplement Anderson in the run game. But Delton has scarcely improved as a passer since leaving Manhattan (25-48-1 for 312 yards and no touchdowns this year). Duggan has a promising future but has thus far been in over his head as a true freshman.

On the other side of the ball, TCU has mostly been pretty good this year. Giving up 49 points to Iowa State and 41 to SMU were head-scratching results, but were fueled in part by five fumbles lost in the two games. Linebacker Garret Wallow leads the way with 55 tackles on the season, including 10 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks (all numbers lead TCU in those respective categories).

Advanced Stats

K-State’s offensive numbers are creeping in the wrong direction, but they still are solidly in the upper quartile of the country by overall Success Rate and Pass Success Rate. Rushing Success Rate is still in the top 45, but as teams are increasingly keying on the K-State ground game it has been less effective.

Getting Malik Knowles back would help with that. K-State was unable to punish Oklahoma State or Baylor for their focus on the ground game, averaging only 5.1 and 6.4 yards per attempt in those two games, respectively. While the actual schemes may be different, Mike Gundy wasn’t that far off three weeks ago when he said it looks a lot like the old K-State offense. In other words, whether the Wildcats are able to find success will depend mostly on whether they’re able to find answers through the air.

On the other side of the ball, TCU also doesn’t have a lot of answers through the air, as demonstrated by their barely-top-100 passing Success Rate. Somewhat impressively, the Frogs have managed to maintain a top-30 rushing Success Rate with basically no passing threat. The concerning aspect here is that TCU isn’t terrible at generating big plays (60th nationally by Explosive Rate) and they do have Reagor out wide. So even if they can’t get it done on a down-to-down basis, there’s always the threat of a quick strike.


I was surprised to see that Bill Connelly’s SP+ projects this game to hit the over. Granted, the over/under is only 45 points, but hey. Connelly also projects TCU to win by a field goal on the road. I want to be optimistic, but without knowing Knowles’ status and seeing both the offense and defense regress the last two weeks, I’m not there yet.

Horned Frogs 24, Wildcats 20