When No. 7 Oklahoma hosts No. 18 TCU in prime time on ABC this Saturday night, there will be plenty of things on the line for both schools. Beginning with the Big 12 Championship.
Both teams have one loss on the season, so therefore if TCU (9-1, 6-1) loses on Saturday, the Horned Frogs will almost surely be eliminated from championship contention due to the two losses, while the Cowboys and Sooners would both hold the tie breaker over the Horned Frogs in the head-to-head matchup even if they finished the regular season with the same record.
If the Horned Frogs sneak away from Norman with a win on Saturday, and then Baylor also beats Oklahoma State, then TCU could be conference champions if they beat Baylor the day after Thanksgiving and OU beats OSU in Bedlam.
A lot of “ifs” are involved in those scenarios, but the point of the matter is: The Big 12 title is still up for grabs. And in a conference with no title game, this OU vs. TCU matchup is mega-huge.
A game of this significance hasn’t hit Norman this late in the season since Notre Dame came to town in 2012, and there hasn’t been a home conference game this huge since OU hosted Texas Tech in 2008. Speaking of that game against Tech, Bob Stoops would love to see the crowd get just as fired up to play the Horned Frogs as they were to see the Sooners take down the Red Raiders.
"A 7 o'clock game gives them an extra hour to get charged up, if you know what I mean. Hopefully they will be loud and crazy and hopefully we can go back and relive the similar situation we had here in 2008 when we had Tech in here,” Stoops said. “If we can have that kind of crowd it would sure help. Get that out, would you."
Coach Stoops is also very aware of what TCU’s capable of, despite the College Football Playoff committee dropping the Horned Frogs from No. 15 in the rankings to 18.
“TCU is another excellent football team that has played really well and has a high powered offense. As we’ve gone through the years, Gary [Patterson] and his staff always do a great job. Defensively they’re a very good, sound defensively team as well. [They] only have on loss. As a team, we know we have to have a great week of practice to keep improving to give ourself the best opportunity to win this week.”
There’s no question the Horned Frogs have a deadly offense, and the unit led by co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham averages 608 yards per game while scoring 44 points a contest. Those numbers are flashy, but the potency of that offense depends on the health of TCU’s star quarterback Trevone Boykin, who suffered an ankle injury in last week’s game against Kansas.
Boykin’s been considered a Heisman candidate for much of this season, and has thrown for 3,427 yards and 29 touchdowns while rushing for 596 yards and eight scores. Boykin’s a bona fide playmaker, and if he plays on Saturday the Sooners will have to pressure the senior into making poor decisions.
If Boykin has to sit due to injury, Coach Patterson will have to choose between senior Bram Kohlhausen and freshman Foster Sawyer to lead the team from the quarterback position. Kohlhausen replaced Boykin after the injury against KU and he completed 13-of-19 passes for 112 yards and an interception. After the TCU offense continued to sputter, Foster was inserted into the game and completed 1-of-7 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. It’s unlikely Patterson will announce a starter before game time, but Coach Stoops says he’ll have his team preparing to face Boykin.
“Trevone Boykin is another exceptional player. [I have] such great respect for him,” Stoops said. “Whether he’s able to play or not, we’ll operate under the assumption that he will.”
Along with Boykin, the Horned Frogs have plenty of other offensive weapons. Running back Aaron Green has 973 rushing yards on the season and nine touchdowns, while receivers Kolby Listenbee (495 yards, 4 TD) and KaVontae Turpin (483 yards, 6 TD) are major threats through the air. Turpin is capable of scoring any time he touches the ball, and also is a big contributor on special teams as a lethal punt returner.
TCU also has a fairly solid offensive line that’s only allowed 12 sacks on the season.
The Horned Frogs will be without star wideout Josh Doctson, who’s out for the rest of the regular season with a wrist injury he suffered against Oklahoma State. TCU will have to make up for its injuries against an Oklahoma defense that ranks No. 21 in the nation and held Baylor to 200 less yards than its average.
The TCU offense is the pride and joy of the team, while the defensive side of the ball is what attracts criticism from naysayers across the nation. But injuries are mostly to blame for the occasional defensive woes. In fact, the TCU injury situation has been so bad that the Horned Frogs have had to completely shift defenses from a 4-2-5 to a 4-7, and feature two starting “linebackers” who are really converted safeties.
Overall, TCU ranks No. 59 in the country in total defense, and allow teams to score an average of 26.2 points per game and rush for 158.2 yards. OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will surely keep the ball on the ground a lot throughout this matchup and utilize his two workhorse running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
While the TCU defense may have its flaws, it does have some areas where it excels. The Horned Frogs have the No. 29 redzone defense in the nation and only allow teams to convert on 29 percent of their third down tries.
Oklahoma will be rolling into the game bolstering the No. 6 total offense in the nation and the No. 3 scoring offense, so the Horned Frogs will have their hands full slowing down a group that’s outscoring teams 276-84 through its last five games (all wins).
Along with the excitement of two one-loss teams squaring off, this matchup also features a little bit of drama that carried over from last year’s game. In the 37-33 TCU win, both Patterson and Boykin accused Baker Mayfield of stealing the Horned Frogs’ offensive signs from the sideline. Mayfield was ineligible for the game, but played for Cumbie while at Texas Tech, which explains why the accusations were made in the first place.
Stoops denied any wrongdoing after the game, but the drama adds a bit more spice to this flavorful Big 12 showdown.
There are a lot of OU fans hoping for a potential playoff bid, but the Sooners must first take care of business against TCU this weekend before any of that playoff talk becomes relevant.