Just as we all expected, College GameDay will be in Lawrence October 8th to cover at matchup between unbeaten, Top 20 teams in TCU and Kansas. Both these teams have been varying degrees of surprises this year. Kansas is...well, you know where Kansas is coming from. But TCU is coming off a 5-7 season, in which they missed out on a bowl game and had to say goodbye to Gary Patterson, the man who essentially made TCU what it is. So while everyone is shocked by Kansas’ 5-0 start, no one expected TCU to get out to the kind of start they’re enjoying either.
The Horned Frogs (which, by the way, is a species of lizard and a reptile, no an amphibian like a frog would be...I know you all needed to know that), have only played four games so far this year. And while none until last week’s matchup with Oklahoma were against high level opposition, they’ve shredded everyone who’s shared the field with them (including the Sooners). TCU leads the nation in yards averaged per play, and going up against a Brent Venables defense last week didn’t hinder them in the least. They put up 668(!) yards of offense along with 55 points on Oklahoma in a game that was never even remotely close, ultimately winning by 31.
Whether passing or running, the Horned Frogs are getting it done. They average about 5 yards per carry, having run the ball 143 times compared to just 121 pass attempts. However all their games have been blowouts, which does tend to lead to a lot of second half run plays, and may not be predictive of their desired offense. Junior running back Kendre Miller leads the team in rushing with 386 yards, while Senior Emari Demercado has picked up an additional 182. Their QB, senior Max Duggan, isn’t exactly a speedster, but he ran 67 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma last week, putting him at 149 yards for the year. His legs aren’t his primary weapon, but as the Sooners learned, you can’t forget about that part of his game either.
When passing, Duggan has been very efficient, not having thrown a pick yet. He averages a whopping 10.6 yards per attempt, completing 75% of his passes for 997 yards and 11 TDs without turning the ball over. He's right up there with Jalon Daniels’ for the early season Heisman race.
Defensively, this team has been just ok. They allowed 34 points to 2-3 SMU just a week before shellacking Oklahoma, in a game they won by just one possession. If you’re looking for proof that TCU might not be quite as good as they seem, that would be the one game you can focus on, a 42-34 road win. The rest of their games have been easy victories. With their first two games coming against Colorado (maybe the worst team in Power 5 football) and Tarleton State, they haven’t been tested much. Generally speaking, their explosive offense and mediocre defense have us set up for a shootout in Lawrence, where both teams may feel some pressure to score on every drive (assuming KU gets out of whatever rut they found themselves in against Iowa State last week, in an uncharacteristic 14 point performance that earned them a win by the skin of their teeth).
The line opened at TCU -6, and has climbed as high as 7.5, though it seems to have settled at 7 points for now. The over/under is 69, so the expectation here is a bit of a track meet type of game. Shootouts frequently seem to have weird endings and/or outcomes, so that may be KU’s biggest hope. Come up with a few big stops defensively, and hope TCU struggles to do the same. Ultimately, my pick is TCU, because their offense has been even more impressive than KU’s, and after manhandling Oklahoma there’s no reason to think they’ll come into Lawrence fretting about the Jayhawks. Like TCU, the defense has been the more frustrating side of the ball for Kansas, though they came through in some big spots against ISU last week. That said, this TCU offense is far more explosive than Iowa State’s, while their defenses isn’t nearly as good, so trying to read tea leaves based on what KU did last week is nigh impossible.
At the end of the day, it just makes more sense to go with the team that’s been even more impressive on the side of the ball where KU has done their most impressive work. I’ll be surprised if Kansas struggles to move the ball or score, but likewise I’ll be surprised if they stop TCU much more than Oklahoma did. I believe Kansas will put up a fight and score points, but I believe they’ll also pick up their first loss of the season.
TCU 49, Kansas 38