Know Your Opponent: A battle with the unbeaten for the Big 12 title

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K-State Wildcat's then-sophomore running back, Duece Vaughn, makes his way down the field to score a touchdown. KSU defeated TCU on October 30, 2021 at Bill Snyder Stadium. (Archive photo by Madison Riebel | Collegian Media Group)

No. 10 K-State (9-3) (7-2)

Kansas State will enter their first Big 12 Championship Game since 2003. The Wildcats secured the trip with a 47-27 victory over the Jayhawks in the Sunflower Showdown. This game marked the third time quarterback Will Howard started a game this year and led the team to at least 47 points in as many games. Recent play suggests that the offense will have no issues against TCU, but the defense may struggle. Since the loss of safety Kobe Savage because of a season-ending injury against Baylor, both West Virginia and Kansas were able to score a combined 58 points in their games against K-State. The loss of Savage will be even harder to manage while facing a juggernaut offense in TCU.

No. 3 TCU (12-0) (9-0)

Unlike the Wildcats, TCU has never played in a Big 12 Championship Game. This year the Horned Frogs have not only reached the Big 12 title game but have conquered the conference completely. Throughout their undefeated season, TCU has shown their ability to win by taking over games or through close last-second plays. Quarterback Max Duggan has continued his historic season with the help of running back Kendre Miller and his multifaceted wide receiver core, led by Quentin Johnston. While the offense has starred consistently, the defense proved themselves in their regular season finale against Iowa State, holding the Cyclones to only 14 points. 

 

Matchup to Watch: Will Howard vs. TCU Secondary

The beginning of Howard’s breakout year started in his first game of the season against TCU. As he came in to replace injured quarterback Adrian Martinez, he instantly sparked the offense. The 28-point first half had the Wildcats in the lead by 18 points. They eventually lost 38-28, but the Horned Frogs would never be tested by anyone quite like Howard did. Now, with essentially five games under his belt, Howard has the full playbook aligned for his skill set and zero rust to knock off. All three starting receivers in Malik Knowles, Phillip Brooks and Kade Warner have flashed with Howard, as well as tight end Ben Sinnott. The TCU secondary can not allow Howard to slice through them at will if they want to stay undefeated.

While TCU’s weakness has been the defense, their secondary has quietly shown some consistency. The defense has collected an interception in each of the last eight games this year, including one off of Howard. Safety Bud Clark leads the Horned Frogs with four interceptions and is followed by cornerbacks Josh Newton and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, each with three on the season. An interception could be key while trying to keep the red-hot Wildcat offense to a cool. A single mistake could push the Horned Frogs to flipping momentum like they did in the previous matchup. The battle between Howard and the TCU secondary will determine the flow of the game.

 

Key Players

K-State

Defensive End Felix Anudike-Uzomah

Tight End Ben Sinnott

TCU

Quarterback Max Duggan

Linebacker Dee Winters

 

Prediction: K-State 41-38

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