The 2011 college football season kicks off for defending Rose Bowl Champion and 14th-ranked TCU (13-0 in 2010) with non-conference action this Friday evening September 2 (8:00pm ET) against their in-state rival the Baylor Bears (7-6 in 2010 season) of the Big 12 taking on the Horned Frogs of the Mountain West conference in Waco, TX. TCU head coach Gary Patterson knows that 2010 is over, and the path to another BCS bowl appearance starts with this game. The Horned Frogs are a much different team than a year ago, and must replace departed four year starting quarterback and NFL second-round draft pick Andy Dalton and essentially the entire defensive secondary among others this season.
TCU returns 11 starters from a year ago, and the most anticipated new starter will be sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall. Pachall saw limited action last season, and will be a dual threat out of the Horned Frog’s spread option offense, as he ran for 6.3 YPC and 2 TDs last season on 15 carries. The young QB has a shoulder injury, but is expected to play against the Bears. Junior quarterback Robert Griffin III leads a big play offense for Baylor that ranked 12th in the nation with 477.1 total YPG last season and averaged 31.2 points per contest, good for 36th best in the country. Griffin is a dual-threat under center, with 3,501 yards and 22 TDs through the air along with 462 yards and 8 TDs on the ground. The Bears must find a way to replace the production of suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon, who had 42 catches for 714 yards and 9 TDs. Lanear Sampson who had 42 catches last season and can stretch the defense with his 4.3 40 speed, will have to step up this season. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will look to improve a unit that last season was as porous as the offense was explosive. The Bears ranked 104th in the country with an average of 435.7 YPG allowed, including 265.1 through the air which ranked 114 out of 120 FBS teams. They allowed 30.5 PPG, almost exactly what the offense scored per game, a clear recipe for mediocrity that Bennett hopes to rectify.
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TCU vs. Baylor St. Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
TCU Horned Frogs -4.5
@ Baylor Bears +4.5
Over 55.5 (-110)
Under 55.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from BetOnline.com
TCU vs. Baylor Pick:
Patterson has assembled what looks to be another swarming TCU defense, led by All-American candidate and pre-season Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Tank Carder. The unit will have to carry the team until Pachall gets comfortable running the show, and in this contest they should be up to the task.
Baylor was blown out by TCU 45-10 last season, allowing 291 yards rushing and 267 passing in the process. They lost 4 straight contests to close out the season, and TCU has won the 3 most recent meeting between the two last season, and in 2006 and 2007. The under is 6-1-1 for TCU in their last 8 games against the Big 12 and the Horned Frogs are 6-2 ATS in those last 8 opposing Big 12 teams. The over is 7-2 in the Bears last 9 games overall.
The Bears posted by far their lowest scoring output of 2010 against TCU, and the offense was not as explosive at end of the season as they were early on. There is no reason to believe that Bennett will be able to overhaul the defense completely in his first game, and with a new face under center the Horned Frogs should have some trouble putting points on the board even against a defense that has been as shaky as Baylor’s has. Take the under in this game as TCU is breaking in a new QB which will hold down their point total relative to a year ago .On defense, TCU will be tough to score on as they always are under Patterson. TCU has far better coaching, and early in the season the better prepared team has a huge advantage especially when that team has more talent on both sides of the ball as well. Baylor will not come close to putting up their usual offensive output against what may be the toughest defensive unit they will see all year long. It is tempting to take the over with two potentially explosive offenses, but the under is the sharp play in an early season game with two teams that will be focused on defense.