The program has seen two quarterbacks depart with Justin Rogers opting to transfer and Alex Delton leaving the team. And, on the final offensive series of last Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State, starter Max Duggan and backup Mike Collins were injured.
We’ll look at that and more as TCU looks to spoil Baylor’s perfect season on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. Here’s five things to watch.
1. QB play
As stated, the storyline this week is on the QBs.
Duggan has practiced this week and is expected to play through an injury to the middle finger on his right (throwing) hand. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played through a middle finger injury in 2016, so it’s not unheard of.
The question is how effective Duggan will be throwing the ball. The Frogs can’t afford balls floating out of Duggan’s hand and turning into possible interceptions for the Bears.
But Duggan is the guy for now and TCU hopes that he remains effective. Collins, meanwhile, is not expected to play.
That will leave walk-on Matthew Downing as the backup. Downing is a non-recruited player who transferred from Georgia last offseason.
Patterson described Downing as “smart” player who has gotten reps during TCU’s practices on Sunday.
2. Running matters
Duggan has been TCU’s leading rusher the last three games. That speaks to his running ability, but it’s also surprising considering the Frogs have a pair of running backs who could be playing on Sundays next season.
Seniors Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua need to find a late-season burst if TCU is going to finish strong.
Anderson remains on pace for a 1,000-yard season, but hasn’t topped the 100-yard mark in the last four games. Olonilua, meanwhile, is on pace for just 519 yards (coming off a season in which he rushed for 635 yards).
TCU felt it had a promising 1-2 punch with its running game coming into the season and it’s flashed with 300-yard rushing games against Purdue and Kansas. But the Frogs are looking for consistency down the finishing stretch.
3. Containing Brewer
Baylor junior quarterback Charlie Brewer is on pace for another 3,000-yard passing season. He’s thrown for 2,143 yards with 14 TDs and just three interceptions in the first eight games.
Those three interceptions were all thrown in the Texas Tech game. TCU has to find ways to make it difficult for Brewer much like it did Texas’ Sam Ehlinger (who threw a career-high four interceptions last month).
The Frogs rank third in the Big 12 with 10 interceptions, including four in the last two games.
4. Limiting big plays
Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard torched the TCU defense a couple times last week, scoring on second-half runs of 92 and 62 yards. TCU can’t let Baylor hit on those home-run plays.
The Bears have 37 plays of at least 25 yards this season. Budding star receiver Tyquan Thornton is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He’s had four plays of at least 40 yards, including a 78-yard reception at Oklahoma State last month.
Denzel Mims remains the go-to target for the Bears. He’s averaging 77.2 yards per game and has scored six TDs on the season.
5. Stealing signals?
Patterson had one of his defensive assistants stand in front of him as he called defensive plays in last week’s Oklahoma State game.
Patterson made the decision when he noticed OSU assistants watching him closely from the opposite sideline.
“When I get a chance to wave at people cause I’ve got four guys watching me, I waved at them like, ‘You’re watching me,’” Patterson said. “I did as much as I could so it helped us.”
Patterson said it’s common for opponents to “steal signals” in an effort to gain a competitive advantage.
He doesn’t know if he’ll go with a similar setup this week, but it’s clear he’s monitoring the other team’s sidelines to see if changes are necessary.