Frogs Today weekly predictions: 13-0 and breathing easy, or 12-1 and sweating bullets?

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The TCU flag waives after yet another Horned Frogs touchdown against Iowa State (Frogs Today/Melissa Triebwasser).


Frogs Today staff report


TCU and AT&T Stadium are separated by 20 minutes. Kansas State is eight hours away.

There’s nothing neutral about the site of the Big 12 championship game this season. Or is there?

Neither team has played there this season. There won’t be the comforts of Amon G. Carter Stadium for the Horned Frogs, even with an expected advantage of their fans in the stands. The surface is artificial, and the Wildcats play their home games on the fake stuff.

It’s going to feel different, especially with TCU playing for the highest of stakes. A win secures the College Football Playoff. A close loss might, too, but the Frogs don’t trust the CFP committee any further than they can throw it.

Kansas State, as they say, has nothing to lose against the No. 3 team in the country … other than a bid to the Sugar Bowl.

Maybe there is some pressure on Kansas State.

What’s going to happen? Here are four educated guesses:

Jeff Wilson: Kansas State caught TCU off guard in October, when starting quarterback Adrian Martinez was injured on the game’s first drive and backup Will Howard entered and guided the Wildcats to 28 first-half points and an 11-point halftime lead. The Frogs admit that they weren’t sure how to handle the QB change and it showed, but their halftime adjustments resulted in a second-half shutout and a 38-28 win.

Howard is the starter now. Kansas State is throwing more, and TCU’s defense has been very good against the pass. Howard can run, and Deuce Vaughn is dangerous as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. But Max Duggan can run, and Kendre Miller is dangerous as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Receivers Quentin Johnston, Taye Barber and Derius Davis should all play ample minutes.

TCU doesn’t do things the easy way, though they have found a way 12 times this season. They will make it 13. TCU 34, Kansas State 24.

Jamie Plunkett: This is it. TCU’s chance to rid itself of the 2014 ghost that still haunts it. A familiar opponent stands in front of the Frogs. Will Howard, Deuce Vaughn and Malik Knowles present a significant challenge for the defense, but if coordinator Joe Gillespie has shown us anything this year, it’s that he’s a master at halftime adjustments.

That’s why Frogs fans should have confidence heading into this matchup. TCU’s offense, one of the most efficient in the country, will score points. It will be up to the defense to contain this Wildcats attack. The Frogs shut out Kansas State in the second half of the first matchup, and if they stifle Howard and Co. out of the gate Saturday morning it could get ugly quickly. TCU 38, Kansas State 21.

Melissa Triebwasser: We’ve heard the same story all week: TCU is a fraud at 12-0. The Big 12 isn’t that good. Kansas State would have beaten the Frogs in October if they hadn’t had two quarterbacks go out because of injury. It’s really hard to beat the same team twice. The first two assertions are patently false.  The second two are debatable. But at the end of the day, TCU is staring at one game to culminate a season that has beyond fulfilled the wildest dreams of its fan base, putting a Big 12 title cherry on top and clearing the path to the playoffs for the first time in history.

The Frogs have been undefeated at this point in their season twice before. Once, it led to a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. The other, of course, the Rose Bowl. Neither of those TCU teams were afforded an opportunity to play for a championship.  That wrong can be righted with a win tomorrow. Kansas State is very good, and certainly playing the best football of its season right now. Will Howard has found a way to unlock the talent at wide receiver, Deuce Vaughn is one of the best weapons in the sport, and that defense is electric. But TCU may well have played its best game of the season last week and done so without two of its most important offensive players.

Nothing will come easy for the Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium, but this team and coaching staff have made it clear they didn’t come this far to drop the ball so close to the culmination. It’s going to be a heck of a game, but TCU’s offensive talent gets the job done and the defense does enough to bring home a conference championship. TCU 31, Kansas State 28.

David Beaudin:  This time around, the Frogs have prepped for Kansas State quarterback Will Howard all week long.  Last meeting, the Frogs were ready for runner Adrian Martinez, who exited in the first series.  Enter Howard, who carved up the TCU defense in the first half before another brilliant halftime adjustment by  defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie and staff.

The second half featured a fourth rusher, as opposed to the three-man rush in the first half. TCU also played a lot more man coverage and spied Howard with Jamoi Hodge.  The plan worked and the Frogs prevailed.
For the championship game, TCU won’t have the same luxury. They need to figure out the Kansas State offense quicker, not allowing the Wildcats to continue to match up running backs Deuce Vaughn and DJ Giddens with linebackers.  Kansas State will have multiple formations to try and create that exact matchup, but the Frogs will be ready to counter that with safeties on the more-than-able pass-catching threats out of the backfield.
This should keep things close enough for the Frogs to finish things out with a red hot Max Duggan, which should cement TCU’s quarterback in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and TCU in the College Football Playoff. TCU 31, Kansas State 27.
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