RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
The biggest game in Texas this weekend is nowhere near a Ferris wheel — though there are plenty of places in Waco to stuff yourself with sloppy fried foods if that’s what you want.
No. 9 TCU turned the Red River Rivalry into an opening act for the Horned Frogs matchup against No. 5 Baylor, when they upset Oklahoma last week.
Sure, the Sooners and Texas will draw plenty of attention for their annual meeting at the Cotton Bowl during the Texas State Fair, but the 110th game between TCU and Baylor will have far more impact on who wins the Big 12.
For Baylor a huge game in their glitzy new on-campus stadium, the first top-10 matchup in Waco since 1956, is another step in the evolution of a program that for years resided in the Big 12 basement.
“It’s exactly the stage we want to be where we all kind of want to be, to play the big games and lot on the line for us, as far as nationally, but at the end of the game, it’s still just another game,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “We want to dominate and we want to win. It’s good for us as far as we’re kind of getting there. We’re making steps and making strides. It’s just another part of it.”
For TCU, the Oklahoma win represented a rebirth of sort. After years of dominance in this conference and that, the Horned Frogs slipped upon arrival to the Big 12.
Now in Year 3 it seems they are ready to be contenders again.
If TCU can pull off a second straight upset of the Big 12’s preseason favorites, the Horned Frogs should make another huge leap in the rankings and grab firm control of the conference race. Quite a turnaround after going 4-8 last season, Gary Patterson’s worst in 14 years as TCU coach.
“After beating Oklahoma, it probably put a target on us because they were probably one of the top-ranked teams in the country coming in,” TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin said. “Us competing with those guys and having a chance to beat those guys probably put us on the map.”
Some things to watch for when TCU and Baylor — yes, TCU and Baylor — play for first-place in the Big 12.
SPREAD’EM OUT: TCU’s new spread offense is suiting Boykin fine. He leads the Big 12 in total yards per game at 359 and is the Frogs’ leading rusher at 65 yards per game. He’s blossoming into the player Patterson always hoped he could become. And he’s already got a victory at Baylor on his resume. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Boykin passed for 261 yards and four touchdowns in his first-career road start and ran for a touchdown in the 49-21 victory. The Bears have won 12 straight home games since.
BEARS DOWN? Baylor leads the nation in scoring at 51.0 points per game and is No. 2 in total offense at 590.6 yards per game, but the Bears sputtered last week in a 28-7 victory at Texas. Petty was 7 for 22 for only 111 yards and said his head was spinning after the game. What gives?
“That’s what I said, but it was just kind of an in the moment kind of quote,” Petty said. “Watching tape, everything I saw on tape is what I saw on the field. I guess I was kind of searching for answers I guess after the game. As far as defensively wise, they played a good game, but just as far as the flow of the game it called for more runs. I was more or less disappointed in myself and how I played. I kind of hold myself to a high standard so, not to say you misquoted me because you didn’t, but I guess how I said it wasn’t the right way to say it.”
BLUE PRINT: The Longhorns forced Baylor to settle for small bites instead of big chunks of yardage. If that’s the blue print to slowing down the Bears’ warp-speed offense, it looked familiar to Patterson.
“If you want to know the truth about it, I saw similarities to what we’ve done over the last couple of years, so I’m not sure they were the blueprint,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to stop them, got to be able tackle and you’ve got to play the run, and you’ve got to stop them from throwing it over your head and moving the football.”
EATS: Locals will tell you the Crazy Wings at George’s, chicken, cheese and jalapeno peppers, wrapped in bacon and deep fried, hold their own against anything you can get at the fair.