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Getting to know: TCU football

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TCU coach Gary Patterson yells from the sideline during the first half of TCU’s game against Grambling State on Sept. 8 in Fort Worth, Texas.

TCU coach Gary Patterson yells from the sideline during the first half of TCU’s game against Grambling State on Sept. 8 in Fort Worth, Texas.

TCU won’t be taking Kansas lightly this weekend.

Last season, KU defeated TCU by a 27-26 margin for its lone victory of Big 12 play in 2018. Of course, that result doesn’t necessarily mean anything nor does the fact that the Jayhawks’ offense was nonexistent in a 43-0 defeat in 2017 during their last trip to Fort Worth.

But this series has been closer than expected as of late, and that is at least worth mentioning.

In three meetings between 2014-16, Kansas lost by a combined 11 points to TCU. Add in the fact that the Horned Frogs are coming off a loss to SMU, and Gary Patterson should have his team focused for this Week 5 matchup.

KU is a 14.5-point underdog as of Friday afternoon after opening up as a 20-point underdog. The Jayhawks are coming off a narrow loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 opener, but have shown that they are inconsistent during this 2-2 start.

If KU’s offense looks similar to what it did in its last road game, then this game could once again be closer than expected. Is that possible? Well, let’s take a look at the Horned Frogs and find out.

BREAKING DOWN TCU:

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Last week, Max Duggan became the second true freshman to start at quarterback under Patterson. He completed just one pass in the first half before posting a 15-for-26 effort for 166 yards and three scores in the second half. This season, Duggan has completed just 50.6% of his 77 pass attempts.

Running backs — TCU will likely lean on its ground attack this week, which could be a favorable matchup against Kansas. Darius Anderson has 368 yards and four scores on 41 attempts, while Sewo Olonilua has 163 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries. KU, meanwhile, is allowing an average of 184.5 rushing yards per game.

Receivers — Jalen Reagor will be TCU’s top target in the passing game, as he has 10 catches for 102 yards and one touchdown through three games. Reagor has a touchdown catch in eight of his last 11 games. Still, the Horned Frogs have run the ball on 56.4% of their plays in 2019. That is the highest mark by the team since co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie arrived with the spread offense in 2014.

Offensive line — Offensive tackle Lucas Niang’s pass blocking grade of 86.3, which is according to Pro Football Focus, is the highest mark for a returning players in the Big 12 this season. He was the only TCU offensive lineman to start all 13 games in 2018. Niang hasn’t allowed a sack over the last two seasons.

DEFENSE

Defensive line — All four defensive linemen (Ochaun Mathis, Corey Bethley, Ross Blacklock and Shameik Blackshear) have started all three games in 2019. TCU has at least one sack in 70 of its last 73 contests. The Horned Frogs had a season-high three sacks at Purdue.

Linebackers — Garret Wallow moved to middle linebacker after the first game, but will make plays at any spot. Wallow has led the team in tackles in all three outings, posting 42 total stops in 2019. Wallow made 19 tackles against SMU, which was the most by a TCU player since 2016.

Secondary — Kansas receiver Andrew Parchment will face his toughest test yet. Jeff Gladney, who has five career interceptions, is considered a NFL-level cornerback and will likely be tasked with defending Parchment. Gladney and Julius Lewis, returning starters at cornerback, were ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, last season by Pro Football Focus in fewest receptions allowed per coverage snaps.

SPECIAL TEAMS — TCU kicker Jonathan Song, who is 8-of-8 on field goals this season, is tied for first nationally with his 2.67 field goals per game. Song made five field goals against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which was the first time a Big 12 kicker made five field goals in a game since 2012.

FUN FACT — Over the last six seasons, TCU (49-20, 30-15) has the Big 12’s second-best overall and conference records. Patterson is the nation’s second-longest tenured head coach, trailing only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz.

VEGAS SAYS… This line has moved down drastically since opening up at a 20-point spread. I make my prediction based off the latest line as of this writing, which makes this pick more difficult. I’m still taking the points, but I feel less confident about that call than I did when the line was a little higher earlier this week.

Prediction: TCU 30, Kansas 17

This year’s record ATS: 2-2

Overall record ATS: 9-6

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