After a long 13 weeks, the Big 12 regular season has come to a close and K-State came through as the darkhorse candidate in the league title race this season, surviving a competitive league at 7-2 to go to AT&T Stadium.
Their opponent is an even darker horse, the Horned Frogs of TCU had zero buzz entering the first year under Sonny Dykes. TCU was picked to finish 7th, and in their first game against a bad Colorado team, struggled in the early going. TCU only led 7-6 at halftime and Max Duggan threw the ball just three times, Chandler Morris played the majority of the game.
But TCU kept on winning and when the two teams met in late October, it already seemed certain that the winner would be in Arlington, with the loser planning for a rematch as well.
Just as soon as that game started, it seemed like it was over for K-State, as Adrian Martinez left the game after the first drive and Will Howard had to answer the call. But the birth of the new and improved Howard happened at Amon G Carter Stadium that night.
Howard came in and completed eight of his first nine passes, all of which went for either a first down or a touchdown. Late in the first half K-State had built a 28-10 lead, prior to TCU getting a quick score before halftime.
TCU scored to start the second half as well, and shrunk the K-State lead to just four. The Wildcats moved the ball down the field and faced a fourth and short that Chris Klieman said K-State would have gone for if not for Will Howard getting knocked out of the game on the previous play. Chris Tennant missed the 44-yard kick to go up by a touchdown. The next two drives Jake Rubley threw an interception and failed to convert on a fourth down sneak.
By the time Howard returned, K-State trailed by ten in the fourth quarter. A lot of words to paint the picture that the Wildcats were even more in that game than what it may have felt at the end, and some more of the details that may be overlooked by outsiders in the buildup to the game this weekend.
Last time out, the TCU offense put up 48 offensive points on what had been the league’s best defense in Iowa State (14/62 points came from pick-sixes) and Max Duggan completed balls to 11 different pass catchers.
Absent from that list was Quentin Johnston, the stud wideout for the Horned Frogs who had four catches for 74 yards and a score in the first game against K-State. Johnston has been dealing with ankle injuries and Sonny Dykes said Saturday they planned on keeping him off the field if they didn’t need him.
The Wildcats come off their 14th straight win over rival Kansas. Even in a game that felt closer than most in recent memory, the Wildcats still had a 20-point edge on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
K-State had all of their passing yards come in the first half, 213 and two touchdowns from Will Howard. They only attempted three passes, as Deuce Vaughn and DJ Giddens handled the second half offense for the Wildcats.
All eyes will be on the Big 12 Championship game as it is the only high major game at the time. ESPN’s College Gameday will be in Arlington for the game and ESPN’s lead broadcast duo of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will be on the call.
Kick: 11:00 AM
Location: AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
Betting Info: TCU -2.5 | O/U 62.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)