Two seasons removed from an 0-12 finish, Coach Matt Rhule has the Baylor Bears at 8-0. Despite only one top-25 win and no power-five non-conference games, it’s still an impressive feat.
They play TCU this weekend on the road, which is a tricky matchup for any Big 12 team. The Bears are up against the 15th-ranked defense, according to Football Efficiency Index. It’s the only top-20 defense Baylor plays all year.
The Horned Frogs haven’t found consistency overall. No one would’ve predicted that the one team TCU would beat from a group of Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas, and Oklahoma State would be the Longhorns.
Even after losing three of four, TCU is still 98-20 at home with Gary Patterson at the helm, including a very respectable 11-6 versus top-25 teams.
After squeaking by West Virginia last weekend 17-14, Baylor comes in as 2.5 point favorites over TCU on MyBookie and several other top college football sportsbooks. Vegas is testing bettors to see how convinced they are about the Bears finally failing.
Here’s a wagering breakdown to decide whether they will or not.
TCU Horned Frogs Offense vs Baylor Bears Defense
The Baylor Bears give up only 17 PPG to teams .500 or below. They’re ranked 24th overall by FEI and found a sack artist up the middle of their defense in DT James Lynch.
Lynch has compiled 8.5 sacks to this point and leads a defense without their lead tackler, Clay Johnston (knee). Even without their senior linebacker, the D-line is the most valuable asset for this defense. They rank 11th in sacks per game and 18th in tackles-for-loss, with a beefy front led by Lynch and Bravvion Roy (333 lbs).
FEI ranks the Bears line 24th on early downs and 31st stuff rate (short-yardage situations), proving they’re fairly consistent no matter down or distance.
TCU offers much more offensive firepower than they did last year. They’ve jumped from 107th to 42nd in scoring, much of which has to do with RB Darius Anderson. The combination of him (6.4 YPA) and WR1 Jealon Reagor (454 yards) make for a talented duo.
But QB Max Duggan must take care of the ball if they’re going to compete. His three interceptions last week changed the course of what became a one-touchdown loss to Oklahoma State.
The Horned Frogs are 44th in FEI offense and 48th in touchdown rate. But their turnover ratio ranks only 73rd, against a team ranked 15th in that category on defense. They need to take care of the ball first because they aren’t as explosive as the better offenses in the Big 12.
For Baylor, it’s all about forcing Duggan into pressure-filled situations as the Cowboys (five sacks) did last week.
Baylor Bears Offense vs TCU Horned Frogs Defense
It’s hard to believe Gary Patterson could ever have a defense 59th in scoring. Since taking over full-time as the head coach in 2001, he’s only had a worse scoring D three times.
The coach doesn’t have a dominant pass-rusher (3.5 sacks is the leader) and leads a squad ranked only 88th in defensive turnover rate. Havoc is not the calling card for them. But they still rank 15th by FEI, by far the highest of any team Baylor plays.
That’s because they make the stops they’re supposed to make, ranking 22nd in third-down defense and 6th in first down rate. Having guys like LB/S Garrett Wallow (12.5 TKFL) roaming the middle of the field is a drive-killer for a lot of offenses.
Besides their sack rates (105th overall), this TCU line is stout. They’re 27th in stuffing runs on short-yardage situations and 5th overall in terms of line yards.
Baylor’s run game creates a strong change-of-pace for them, so this will be an interesting matchup. John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty both have combined for over 900 yards and 6.0 a carry, and there’s depth at the RB position.
QB Charlie Brewer is still the main source of offense for the Bears, though. He ranks a decent 35th in QBR, completing nearly 68% of his passes and throwing an INT on only one of every 74 passes.
He’s a precise quarterback, and that term will get a test on Saturday versus TCU’s D. Not that there are ballhawks all over for this unit. But safeties Trevon Moehrig-Woodard and Ar’Darius Washington combine for seven picks so far.
The two safeties will be taken to task with Tyquan Thornton and Denzel Mims at wideout for the Bears. The two combined for 185 yards against West Virginia.
TCU vs Baylor Betting Prediction
Patterson and the Horned Frogs are stingy at home. Baylor pulled away from two respectful (Kansas State, Oklahoma State) teams on the road.
Both teams face the toughest defensive threat they’ll play all year. There’s an offensive flair for both teams neither had last season, with future first-round talent at receiver.
But Baylor’s ability to handle a singular talent like WR Tylan Wallace (903 yards in eight games) at Oklahoma State shows they can minimize top talent. Only allowing 46 yards to Texas Tech’s T.J. Vasher shows how they can take out a team’s No. 1 option through the air.
If Reagor doesn’t get going, there’s no other receiver anywhere near 250 yards. With the Baylor front as strong as it is, the Horned Frogs can’t rely on the run game to carry them.
And while Baylor’s offense struggled last week against WVU, they’re a safe bet to win the turnover battle. Charlie Brewer shouldn’t feel too much pressure from the TCU front, allowing him to stay secure in the pocket where he wants to be.
TCU’s safeties have a nose for the ball, but with two dynamic No. 1-types at wideout for Baylor, they’re going to have a tougher time canceling the Bears’ passing attack.
With a little more chaos created on defense and more efficiency displayed on offense, Baylor will weather the tough road atmosphere and stay perfect.
Prediction: Baylor 28 – TCU 21