Big 12 Conference Championship Preview: TCU Vs. Kansas State

Big 12 Conference Championship

The regular season is now in the rearview mirror. Last week turned out to be very profitable to close out the 2022 picks in the Big 12. There is only one thing left to do, and that is to crown a Big 12 champion. We can guarantee that the winning team will have purple on its uniform. TCU and Kansas State travel to Arlington, TX to play for the Big 12 conference championship on Saturday. With one more game to pick, below are the final numbers from our Big 12 2022 picks.

Season Straight Up: 46-18

Season ATS: 32-33-2

Season Totals: 38-29

When TCU Has The Ball

Having the 2022 Big 12 offensive player of the year and a Heisman-contending quarterback is a great place to start offensively. Max Duggan, who didn’t actually start week one, has been a revelation this season. He has a 29-to-3 touchdown/interception ratio and has thrown for a career-high 3,070 yards. But Duggan hasn’t had to do everything by himself. Wide receiver Quentin Johnston is a dynamic, big-body target that can snatch any of Duggan’s passes in his radius. Johnston had suffered an ankle injury against Texas Tech earlier in November.

He hasn’t looked right in the last few games. But, head coach Sonny Dykes stated this week that Johnston “looked like his old self at practice” this week. Dykes also added, “it’s the best he’s looked in maybe a month.” Running back Kendre Miller is an offensive talent that often doesn’t get the same type of attention, but has been just as vital to this offense as Duggan and Johnston. Miller has rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns and brings game-changing threats to yet another area of this offensive attack. Duggan, Johnston, and Miller were three of the eight first-team All-Big 12 selections the Horned Frogs have on offense.

How Kansas State Can Stop Them

Kansas State’s defense is good, but not great. The Wildcats rank 45 in total defense and 31st in stop rate. But they do rank 14th in scoring defense, only allowing an average of 19.42 points per game. Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman has the 2022 Big 12 defensive player of the year at his disposal to limit this explosive TCU offense. Defensive lineman Felix Anudike-Uzomah was a disruptive force in the trenches all season.

He led the Big 12 in sacks with 7.5, had 9 tackles for loss, 37 total tackles, two fumbles forced, and one pass breakup. Uzomah can single-handedly wreck TCU’s game plan in the Big 12 conference championship game. The secondary also has a few players who will not be intimidated by this top-25-ranked passing offense. Julius Brents headlines one of two all-Big 12 selections in the secondary. Brents, a first-team selection, and Kobe Savage (second-team selection), combined for six interceptions this season. Because the TCU offense can beat teams in different ways, it will take a monster effort by Uzomah to just be a disrupter in the trenches.

When Kansas State Has The Ball

The Wildcats want to establish the run. Running back Deuce Vaughn hasn’t been as dynamic as he was last year, but still finished the regular season with a combined 1,643 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns. This rushing attack, which ranks 17th nationally averaging 210 yards per game, gets its boost from the quarterback position. Both Adrian Martinez and Will Howard have been more than capable of operating this offense. But after Martinez suffered an injury against TCU, Howard seemed to elevate the offense to another level. The offense evolved to fewer quarterback runs and the passing game opened up.

One of the beneficiaries of the passing offense transformation is wide receiver Malik Knowles. The second-team All-Big 12 selection finished the year with 679 yards receiving and five combined touchdowns. Of course, all facets of this offense are anchored by offensive lineman Cooper Beebe. Not only was he a first-time All-Big 12 selection this year, but was named the Big 12 offensive lineman of the year.

How TCU Can Stop Them

The most vulnerable unit that will take the field in the Big 12 conference championship is the TCU defense. By any measure, the defense is very average-to-below average. The Horned Frogs rank 74th nationally in total defense, 43rd in stope rate, and 53rd in scoring defense. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story. Even though their rushing defense, which surrenders 144.8 yards per game, has risen up to big challenges. Remember, this is a unit that held Bijan Robinson to only 29 yards on 12 carries. They do have a few difference-makers in the back end of this defense.

While the Kansas State passing attack has gotten better in the last half of the season, it wouldn’t be mistaken as explosive. The Horned Frogs need to simply limit the rushing attack by Kansas State. Forcing the Wildcats into obvious passing downs is when some of TCU’s difference makers on defense can have an impact. TCU had two defensive backs to make the All-Big 12 first team. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Josh Newton had a combined six interceptions this season. Because the TCU offense is so good, the defense doesn’t need to be elite. They just need to limit explosive rushing plays by Kansas State.

Big 12 Conference Championship Prediction

Kansas State had this team on the ropes in Fort Worth the last time these teams squared off. Assuming the Wildcats don’t have to shuffle through their entire depth chart again at the quarterback position, they pose a real threat to TCU. However, TCU has bigger aspirations than just a Big 12 conference championship. The scars left from the 2014 season still feel very fresh to the Horned Frog nation. This result shouldn’t have any bearing on TCU from making it into the four-team playoff. But, just as they have done all season, TCU answers the challenge and completes an undefeated regular season with a Big 12 conference championship.

TCU 38, Kansas State 35

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