Check out how many points TCU has allowed in the second half since mid-October. You’ll need all of about 10 seconds, if that, to track them.
There was the field goal Kansas State kicked in the third quarter Oct. 14. And there was another field goal Baylor notched Nov. 24. In between, there was a whole lot of blank scoreboard. Talk about a clean stat line.
If a team wanted a shot at knocking off the Horned Frogs, it needed to score quickly.
So far, Oklahoma has been the lone team to really bruise TCU in Big 12 play. Heisman Trophy favorite Baker Mayfield and his Sooners raced to a 38-14 halftime lead Nov. 11 in Norman on their way to an eventual 38-20 victory.
When the two teams meet Saturday at AT&T Stadium for the Big 12 title, the key for OU will be to take an early shot, hope it holds and settle in.
If the Sooners win, they’re probably a lock for the four-team College Football Playoff. If TCU can shut down the OU offense, then the Horned Frogs might be in the playoff mix, but they will need their defense to help make that a possibility.
“These guys are really, really darn good on defense,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said this week. “I mean, they are. And it’s a challenge.”
TCU’s Gary Patterson, a defensive-minded square peg of a coach in a league of offensive creativity, said there’s really no secret to the Horned Frogs’ second-half success. It’s about fresh players.
“I think they just settle down,” Patterson said. “You change up a couple of calls, but you kind of get them on the same page. I think one of the things that’s happened to us is that we’ve been able to rotate, especially up front, a lot of players, so what happens in the second half, we’re not worn out. Last year, we’re playing Oklahoma State and Kansas State and even Georgia — at halftime really close ballgames — and the second half, at least by the fourth quarter, we just didn’t have enough people left.
“As I’ve always said, older teams play better. They play a little bit differently than the confidence level of the next guy up.”
The Sooners whacked the Frogs hard to open their game in Norman. And it was tailback Rodney Anderson, not Mayfield, who inflicted the most damage. Anderson scored four touchdowns before halftime on runs of 15 and 24 yards and receptions of 14 and 33 yards. He became only the third player in OU’s rich football history to exceed 100 yards both rushing and receiving in a game.
Overall, OU is the top-performing offense in the country. The Sooners average nearly 594 yards and 45 points a game. Texas limited them to 29 points but lost. OU’s offense scored in the 30s in three games — wins over Ohio State and TCU and a loss to Iowa State. In half of its games, OU’s offense has gushed for 49 points or more.
“Both teams are going to have a better feel for each other’s personnel,” Riley said, “so I don’t think there will be as many surprises.”
The TCU defense will be at full strength. A difference maker could be defensive end Mat Boesen, who will be eligible to play the entire game. Boesen, who was kicked out early because of a personal foul the last time the two teams met, is a pass rush unto himself. He registered 5½ sacks against Baylor a week ago.
“They understand what you’re trying to do on offense,” OU co-offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh said of the Horned Frogs. “Their defensive linemen play blocks as well as anybody I’ve ever played throughout the years. They really understand the blocking schemes and what you’re trying to do on offense by formation, backfield and things like that, so you have to change things up with them.”
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 TCU, 11:30 a.m. Saturday, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Fox