TCU vs. Oklahoma: A scouting report from the coach who beat both

Iowa State recorded three turnovers in its victory over TCU, including this fourth-quarter interception by Marcel Spears Jr.
Iowa State recorded three turnovers in its victory over TCU, including this fourth-quarter interception by Marcel Spears Jr. AP

TCU and Oklahoma share a particularly troublesome storm that blew their seasons — at least temporarily — into a ditch.

Iowa State busted then-No. 4 TCU on Oct. 28 in a game that beforehand had made just about every member of Horned Frogs fandom a nervous wreck after the Cyclones had stunned then-No. 3 Oklahoma in, of all places, Norman three weeks before.

Both have picked up the pieces from the wreckage and gotten their seasons, and Big 12 and CFP hopes back on the road.

The CFP No. 8 Frogs go to No. 5 Oklahoma on Saturday for the Iowa State Bowl.

The winner will be termed the Big 12 “front-runner,” for at least a week, with perhaps another shot at the pesky Cyclones in the born-again conference championship game.

Who better to provide the scouting report.

“Quarterback play is really good,” said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell on what both teams have in common. “Team speed is outstanding. Defensively, when they’re playing their best, their defense is really good.

“Oklahoma might be a little more offensive-oriented where their success lies, and TCU probably a little more defensive-oriented. When they’re at their best, they’re playing that brand of football.”

As striking as what the two have in common, the contrast in philosophies is as illuminating.

Oklahoma statistically has the best offense in the nation. The Frogs are ranked sixth in the nation defensively, and no one stops the run better than TCU, which has made running the ball as difficult as avoiding the IRS. Not happening.

“Their front seven and [coach Gary Patterson’s] ability to consistently find an extra hat in the running game, and in the passing consistently changing up coverages … it’s really impressive,” Campbell said. “They take away tendencies you have. They do as good a job as anybody in the country doing that.”

The Frogs, 1-4 against OU since joining the Big 12 in 2012, have been involved in some good plot lines in Norman, including the stunning 17-10 triumph in 2005 over the Sooners and Adrian Peterson.

The year 1954 provided a now-often forgotten moment.

TCU went up to Oklahoma as a three-touchdown underdog and almost gave the Sooners the surprise of their season, 21-16 when the clock expired with the Frogs driving and on OU’s 7-yard line.

The significance of that game didn’t have conference or national championship implications — though OU finished No. 3 that season — but rather historic.

That victory was the Sooners’ 11th straight in what turned out to be a streak of 47 consecutive victories between 1953-57, the longest in college football history.

Neither TCU nor Oklahoma will get the surprise of their seasons like in the losses to the Cyclones, though TCU had fair warning of what it was getting into in Ames, Iowa, with the stunner in Norman that snapped the Sooners’ nation-leading 14-game winning streak.

Iowa State hadn’t defeated Oklahoma since 1990 and only one other time since 1961, and came back from 24-10 down to win on Oct. 7.

“There’s been a lot of adversity at Iowa State for a long time, and there’s been a cloud around us,” Campbell said at the time. “I think our kids said, ‘I’m sick of it, and we’re going to keep grinding, keep swinging.’ 

The way TCU and OU lost to Iowa State had a lot in common, namely costly mistakes.

The Frog committed three costly turnovers, including two in the red zone, and were called for 11 penalties. One of those flags negated an interception returned for a touchdown. Four other penalties led to Iowa State first downs.

Oklahoma allowed free passes to Iowa State as well, committing game-changing penalties. Iowa State picked up five first downs on Sooners infractions, including a defensive personal foul offense on third-and-goal.

It was, OU coach Lincoln Riley said, “bad football.”

Last year’s game between TCU and OU wasn’t exactly great football, and don’t expect a repeat at least in terms of points scored.

The Sooners upended the Frogs 52-46. TCU jumped to a 21-3 lead before giving up 28 consecutive points in the second quarter. The Frogs passed 45 times and had 29 rushing attempts. Oklahoma tried 30 pass attempts, and ran it 48 times.

“They don’t score as well on offense if they don’t have the football,” Patterson said. “We won’t get in a sprint with them. We have to control the ball. It’s all set up by the run game. You have to be able to control the run game.”

And play a cleaner game than either did at Iowa State.

No. 8 TCU at No. 5 Oklahoma

7 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/Ch. 4

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