TCU’s defense looks more familiar in 2017 after a disappointing 2016. The Horned Frogs rank No. 6 nationally in total defense. However, their toughest test comes this weekend.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is perhaps the best Big 12 player of the decade, and is in line to win the Heisman Trophy if he beats TCU. The Horned Frogs’ defense has tremendous respect for him.
“He’s a great quarterback,” TCU safety Niko Small said. “There’s a lot of great quarterbacks, but he just knows how to work within their scheme and offense better than anyone I’ve seen in a while.”
Mayfield comes into the game averaging 358.4 passing yards per game. He ranks No. 2 nationally with 3,226 yards, despite playing one fewer game than many opponents. The senior also leads the nation with a 71.7 percent completion rate and could set the all-time passer rating record if he keeps his 201.6.
“Baker’s been really mature in the way he’s handled things,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “He’s one of those guys, if you’re playing against him, you don’t like him.”
TCU does have experience playing against elite quarterbacks. The Horned Frogs have wins against Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and West Virginia’s Will Grier this season. Both rank top 4 nationally in passing yards.
Grier and Rudolph eventually put up strong numbers, but the Horned Frogs held two of the top offenses in the nation to 27.5 points per game. Both programs average at least 40 points per game typically. In fact, TCU’s only loss was a 14-7 slugfest to Iowa State.
The experience playing against other top quarterbacks will help.
“Those are two of the best quarterbacks in America,” Small said. “It’s very helpful they have different styles – Mason stands in the pocket, Will Grier can move around and be mobile. Baker has a great combination of both.”
Last weekend, Oklahoma dropped 62 points on Oklahoma State, a team that was playing well defensively heading into the weekend. Mayfield threw for an Oklahoma record 598 yards and added 6 total touchdowns. Stopping the freight train will be a battle, even for the elite TCU defense.
“You can’t let Oklahoma big-play you,” Patterson said. “That’s hard to do because they have a lot of good people. The difference between Baker and Mason is that this guy can take off on you quickly. One guy doesn’t necessarily always make the tackle.”
No. 6 TCU travels to face No. 5 Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., at 7 p.m. Saturday at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on FOX.
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