By Cody Soto
This weekend just got a whole lot more interesting.
Three weeks ago, Saturday’s Big 12 game against No. 5 Baylor football and No. 9 Texas Christian University was hardly even a top 25 matchup. With all the energy leading into the game, the national spotlight will be shining on McLane Stadium.
Baylor (5-0, 2-0) plays its Big 12 home opener against the Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) on Saturday in McLane Stadium after playing three straight road games. In the 110th all-time meeting, the series is tied 51-51-7; someone will take the 52nd win on Saturday.
Over the road stretch, the Bears picked up a 41-point non-conference win at Buffalo and took two quality conference wins at Iowa State and the University of Texas in the past two weeks. Head coach Art Briles and the Bears are ready to get back to their riverfront home for the first time since Sept. 6.
“I’m proud of our football team and the way that they hung together over the last three weeks,” Briles said. “They’ve kept us in the race, and I’m excited to be back at McLane Stadium on the Brazos River. We can sleep in our own beds and eat our own food.”
TCU comes into Saturday’s game with an impressive 37-33 win over former No. 4 Oklahoma at home on Saturday. The Horned Frogs climbed 16 spots in the AP Poll from No. 25 to No. 9. TCU posted 469 offensive yards and were 10-for-18 on third down conversions in the win.
“They’re a really good football team,” Briles said. “Gary Patterson and his staff have done a great job. They’ve done a really good job since joining the Big 12 of morphing what their philosophy and schemes are on both sides of the ball. They’ve played to the level of the league.”
Baylor’s matchup on Saturday will be the second all-time AP Top 10 contest in Waco. The last one was a 19-13 loss to Texas A&M in 1956.
“It’s going to be a big game,” junior safety Terrell Burt said. “Knowing that TCU beat Oklahoma is just going to make it even bigger.”
Baylor has proven to use its home field as an advantage against opponents. The Bears have won 12 straight games at home and have not lost in Waco since Oct. 13, 2012, in a 49-21 decision to TCU.
In the 2012 game, quarterback Trevone Boykin started for the Horned Frogs and posted 261 passing yards and four touchdowns in the win. Former Baylor quarterback Nick Florence had 289 yards and two touchdowns in the game, but four interceptions crippled the Baylor offense.
Boykin leads TCU with 1,176 passing yards in four games this season and a 61.5 pass completion percentage. The TCU quarterback tallied 318 passing yards and two touchdowns in the team’s win over Oklahoma.
“He’s definitely a dual-threat guy,” Briles said. “The TCU program runs a little more than Texas does with Swoopes, as far as his run-read options. He is a tremendous athlete that does a great job at the quarterback position.”
In Waco, Baylor is 6-0 against AP Top 25 opponents over the past three seasons.
“It’s exactly the stage we want to be. That’s why we came here: to play big games,” Petty said. “There’s a lot on the line for us, but at the end of the day, it’s still another game on our schedule. So the goal doesn’t change. We want to dominate and we want to win.”
Last year’s matchup in Fort Worth ended with a slim 41-38 Baylor win, but the Horned Frogs statistically led in passing yards and total offense. Baylor’s defense forced one fumble and three interceptions to stay in the game after the Bears were penalized 15 times for a total of 140 yards in the game.
Petty threw for 206 yards on 19 receptions and two touchdowns with an interception in the win. TCU’s Boykin started at wide receiver and had only one reception for 21 yards.
“We’re in for a tough game,” Briles said. “They were good last year, but they just didn’t show up in the win-loss column. They went to Kansas State and lost by two, went to Oklahoma and lost by three, Texas Tech may have beaten them earlier in the year by three in an overtime game, so they could’ve had a really good year last year. They’re having a good one this year.”
TCU brings a tough defensive game and ranks No. 7 nationally in total defense, only allowing 3.84 yards per play. Baylor ranks at No. 2 in the same category.
“Their whole defense is good. I know one of their strong suits is their linebackers and their defensive line,” sophomore receiver Corey Coleman said. “They are really well-coached, so they are going to be disciplined, so we are going to just have to go out there and do what we do best.”
Baylor plans on using its newly revived running game this weekend to spread the offensive, running back Shock Linwood said. Linwood ran for a season-high 148 yards and one touchdown in the Bears’ 28-7 win over Texas last Saturday.
“The run is going to open up the pass and the pass is going to open up the run,” Linwood said. “It just puts more pressure on the defense when you can have a running and a passing game. It is going to be a battle this week, so we plan on getting prepared for it.”
Petty and the wide receiver rotation look to get back on track after a scrappy performance against Texas. Petty tallied for 111 passing yards on 7-of-22 completions in a run-dominant game.
“It was an ugly win, but at the end of the day we won,” Coleman said. “We just have to go out there and play the way we know we can play. We know teams are going to give us their best, so we have to just go out there and we can’t worry about anything else.”
Baylor looks to continue its home field dominance as it opens up McLane Stadium for an important Big 12 game in the team’s quest for their second conference title. The Top 5 ranking puts a big target on the Bears’ back, but it doesn’t look to affect them, Petty said.
“As long as you win, it doesn’t really matter what your rankings are. You will end up where you want to be as long as you keep winning,” Petty said. “At the end of the day, we can only control what we can control, and that is how we play on the field, how we execute, and how we produce. Our job is to produce wins, and to do it in the fashion we want to do it.”
The Top-10 matchup kicks off at 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ABC.