Flower Power: Bears, Horned Frogs set for first-ever Bluebonnet Battle

Freshman cornerback Caden Jenkins (19) celebrates with sophomore safety Devyn Bobby (28) during Baylor football's conference game against Houston on Nov. 4 at McLane Stadium. Kenneth Prabhakar | Photo Editor

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Baylor football has no time to sulk.

The Bears may have been stomped by then-No. 25 Kansas State 59-25 last Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., but they now face TCU for the 119th time ever this weekend, which officially makes Baylor-TCU the most-played rivalry in the state of Texas. Those 119 meetings will surpass the 118 all-time Lone Star Showdown contests, which see Texas and Texas A&M face one another.

Even though the Longhorns and Aggies will reignite their long-standing rivalry in 2024, the Bears and Horned Frogs will remain one game ahead in all-time meetings for the foreseeable future.

Baylor and TCU are also squaring off under an official rivalry name, the Bluebonnet Battle, which was orchestrated by both student body governments and officially announced during a Zoom call on Monday.

Entering Saturday’s contest on a three-game skid, head coach Dave Aranda said he hasn’t noticed a sense of athletes checking out early, so to speak. With the transfer portal as an option for players to find greener pastures, Aranda said there’s always a focus on keeping athletes at Baylor, not just when the team struggles like it has this season.

“I’m sure they’re being recruited,” Aranda said. “I’m sure our guys that have a chance to move on are thinking about that. And I’m sure all of those things are invading this space. So we have to bring it back here, to this team, to this moment, to this opportunity.”

The Bears (3-7, 2-5 Big 12) haven’t won since a 32-29 victory at Cincinnati on Oct. 21, nearly a month ago. They’re also 1-6 at home this season, which is the most home losses by any team in the FBS. Stanford, UConn and Cincinnati all trail Baylor with five home losses.

Junior tight end Jake Roberts said it’s hard to keep the squad’s spirits up in the midst of a tough season, but he wants to play his hardest for the guys he’s been working hard with since spring camp.

“What keeps me going is just my teammates, my love for this team and for Baylor,” Roberts, a transfer from North Texas, said. “I want to do right by my teammates because I know how much we’ve put into it.”

Aranda added that he’s noticed coaches on his staff aren’t making eye contact with him or may be more inclined to be isolated. He said that’s part of what comes with an underwhelming season, and he and his assistants need to be a beam of light for the team amid a dark time for the program.

Aranda owns a 23-23 head coaching record in his fourth year at Baylor and is 9-14 since leading the Bears to their best season yet in 2021. He went 2-7 in his first year — a COVID-19-riddled season.

Aranda, who signed an extension with Baylor back in February 2022 that locked him in through the 2029 season, said he understands the business aspect of coaching and that fans expect more wins.

“There’s too much money in all of this to not win,” Aranda said. “And we haven’t won. … We needed a win a couple [of] weeks ago too. So we’re trying our best to do that.”

In terms of the Bluebonnet Battle, TCU is also entering this weekend on a three-game losing streak. Like the Bears, the Horned Frogs (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) have faced a setback after a historic season. TCU went 9-0 in league play last year on the way to an appearance in the College Football Playoff title game.

The Horned Frogs are still alive for a bowl game, needing wins in their last two games to hit the six-win mark. Aranda said TCU will give Baylor its best shot, and the Frogs have the fastest offense the Bears are going to play this season.

TCU ranks first nationally in plays per minute (2.80) among power conference programs, just above Tennessee (2.78) and Oklahoma (2.59). The Horned Frogs are also second in offense plays per game (75.9) for power conference programs, narrowly behind North Carolina (76.2).

Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Kyler Jordan said dealing with TCU’s up-tempo offense has been a major emphasis all week.

“Practicing how fast it’s going to be even faster so whenever you get in the game, you’re not surprised by it,” Jordan said.

Additionally, TCU’s offense is third nationally in percentage of its first offensive series, generating at least two first downs (61.7), and the Frogs rank seventh in the nation with 252 first downs. They’re sixth in the FBS for plays of at least 10 yards (179). TCU’s game against Kansas State was the only contest in which the Frogs’ offense failed to total more yards than their opponent allowed entering the contest.

TCU’s offense is led by offensive coordinator Kendal Briles — the son of former Baylor head coach Art Briles. Kendal is in his first year with the Horned Frogs after spending three years in the same role at Arkansas. Kendal was on the Bears’ staff for nine years.

Baylor has dropped three-straight games to TCU in head-to-head matchups, and the Horned Frogs lead the all-time series 58-53-7 (24-19-1 in Fort Worth). The Bears are looking for their first win in Fort Worth since a 29-23 triple overtime win in 2019.

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Forth Worth. Baylor’s contest is being streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ for the fifth-straight week.

Injury room:

  • Junior wide receiver Ketron Jackson is expected to return this week after missing the last two games with a head injury, per Aranda.
  • Aranda said redshirt freshman defensive lineman Devonte Tezino is hopeful to return on Saturday. Injury specifics were not given.
  • Freshman running back Bryson Washington is probable to return from an undisclosed injury, according to Aranda.