Since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012, Baylor’s rivalry against the Horned Frogs has grown more bitter and much more heated.
A lot of the animosity had to do with those 16 years after the Southwest Conference broke up in 1996 when many TCU alums felt snubbed when Baylor was asked to join the Big 12 instead of them.
There’s been a buzz around both campuses this week. Emotions by both fan bases will be high for a matchup that has been nicknamed the Revivalry.
But the Big 12-leading Bears (8-0, 5-0) have tried to block out the noise and focus on what they need to do to beat the Horned Frogs (4-4, 2-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
“My freshman, sophomore year, I was definitely listening to the buzz around campus and letting it get to me and stuff,” said Baylor sixth-year wide receiver Chris Platt. “But now I’m just treating it like every other game. The most important game of the year is the next one.”
Platt, who was granted a medical redshirt following last year’s knee injury, is the only Baylor player who was on the squad the last time the Bears beat the Horned Frogs in the epic 61-58 win at McLane Stadium in 2014 when both teams were in the running for the first College Football Playoff.
Since then, TCU has won the last four games against the Bears, including a 45-22 win in Fort Worth in 2017 when both benches emptied and were assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after TCU’s Chris Bradley yelled at the Baylor bench following a hit on the sidelines to running back JaMycal Hasty.
That loss ended a 1-11 debut season for Baylor coach Matt Rhule. But last year’s 16-9 loss was just as dismal as a TCU team that came into McLane Stadium with a 4-6 record won with third-string quarterback Grayson Muehlstein on a day when the Bears were trying to clinch bowl eligibility.
The Bears rebounded with a 35-24 win over Texas Tech the following week to clinch bowl eligibility and then beat Vanderbilt in a 45-38 thriller in the Texas Bowl.
The recent losses to the Horned Frogs haven’t sat well with No. 11 Baylor’s veterans. Much like last season, TCU will come into Saturday’s game with an uncertain situation at quarterback after freshman starter Max Duggan injured the middle finger on his throwing hand near the end of the Horned Frogs’ 34-27 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater last week.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said earlier this week that he’s optimistic that Duggan will play. But it remains to be seen how effective he will be.
“Last year, they came down here and beat us with their third- or fourth-string quarterback,” said Baylor linebacker and deep snapper Ross Matiscik. “So we’re just getting prepared the same way we normally would, as if the starter was going to play, because you can’t take anything for granted as we saw last year.”
Patterson said junior backup quarterback Mike Collins is likely out after taking a hard hit on the final offensive play against Oklahoma State after he relieved Duggan. Fifth-year senior Alex Delton left the team, leaving redshirt freshman Matthew Downing as TCU’s next option if Duggan can’t play.
But regardless of who plays quarterback, the Bears will try to keep the ball out of the hands of versatile receiver Jalen Reagor, who has made a team-high 32 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns and leads the Big 12 with an 18.4-yard punt return average. Reagor returned a punt for a 73-yard touchdown against Kansas and has also rushed for a score.
Reagor made the difference in last year’s win over the Bears as he scored on a 65-yard touchdown pass and fooled Baylor on a 37-yard reverse run for a touchdown.
“He is by far one of the best players I’ve ever seen,” Rhule said. “He’s got great speed, but he’s got elite ball skills. It’s not just the ability to catch the football, it’s also the ability to adjust in areas, and he has a 40-inch vertical. You can be running with him, and he can jump up and catch the ball.”
The Bears will be without Miller at safety after he was nailed for his third targeting call of the season in last week’s 17-14 win over West Virginia. Under NCAA rules, a third targeting call results in a one-game suspension. However, safety Grayland Arnold is expected to see more playing time after injuries limited his action in recent games.
Baylor nosetackle Bravvion Roy and cornerback Jameson Houston are also questionable with injuries for a Baylor defense that leads the Big 12 by allowing 18.5 points per game. With Gabe Hall not expected to play, sophomore Chidi Ogbonnaya and freshman T.J. Franklin could be in line for more playing time on the defensive line.
Roy sealed Baylor’s win over West Virginia by blocking Casey Legg’s 48-yard field goal attempt, but even then he was hobbling with ankle and leg injuries.
“We played half the game without him last game,” Rhule said. “He’s had a bunch of things he keeps battling through. He went in to block the kick. He’s been banged up and fought through it, so we’ll see how he feels. Chidi and T.J. Franklin have been playing well.”
After West Virginia sacked Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer seven times, the Bears hope to improve pass protection against a TCU defense that leads the Big 12 by allowing 324 yards per game and has a knack for pressuring quarterbacks.
The Horned Frogs feature one of the Big 12’s best linebackers in Garret Wallow with 83 tackles and 12 for loss while Ross Blacklock is a force up front with 3½ sacks. Safety Trevon Moehrig ranks second in the Big 12 with four interceptions while safety Ar’Darius Washington has three interceptions.
“We have to play better up front,” Rhule said. “Some of those plays, Charlie could have just run around then thrown it out of bounds. But it was a bad day, and I can promise you everyone in this building knows it was a bad day.”