Fourth-ranked TCU and Iowa State are on the opposite ends of the Big 12 standings, like they have been in one-score games all season.
Standout quarterback Max Duggan and the Horned Frogs (11-0, 8-0 Big 12, No. 4 CFP) just keep winning games, including their frantic comeback and final-play field goal last week at Baylor, to stay undefeated and in position to make the four-team College Football Playoff.
The last-place Cyclones (4-7, 1-7) on Saturday wrap up their first losing season since coach Matt Campbell’s debut in 2016. They are coming off their sixth Big 12 loss by a touchdown or less — a combined 24 points. But they could play big spoilers in their final game.
“Every game’s got a unique meaning to it,” Campbell said. “For us, getting to the end of the season and getting to a point where you want to be playing your best football. So what a challenge and opportunity to do that.”
While the Frogs with the Big 12’s best offense are already set to play in the conference championship game Dec. 3, they aren’t overlooking Iowa State. The league’s top defense allows only 277 total yards a game and held eight opponents to 20 points or less.
“They could very easily be 7-4, 8-3, 9-2. Very, very close games that come down to the very end … and it just kind of hasn’t gone their way,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “So they will be a big challenge for us Saturday.”
The Frogs, who average 482 yards and 39.5 points a game, are playing on their ninth consecutive Saturday since an open date in mid-September. Four of their Big 12 wins have been by a touchdown or less, and they had to score nine points in the final 127 seconds to beat Baylor 29-28. Only one of their league games has been decided by more than 10 points.
“Looking at the rankings and the records really don’t mean anything,” said Duggan, who has thrown for 2,858 yards with 26 TDs and three interceptions. “When you get out on the field and you’ve got to play the game, it’s pretty difficult.”
Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson is the FBS leader with 105 catches, and tops the Big 12 with 105.5 yards receiving per game.
The Frogs have athletic and physical 6-foot-4 receiver Quentin Johnston, who averages 4.5 catches per game and nearly 16 yards per catch. But he has been bothered for several weeks by a lingering ankle sprain, and didn’t even finish the Baylor game. “He’s just gutted it out,” Dykes said.
ZERO VS. CYCLONES
Iowa native Duggan is 0-3 in his career against the Cyclones. They are the only Big 12 team he doesn’t have a win against going into his 40th career start.
“He’s playing at such an elite level right now,” said Campbell, who recruited Duggan. “To me, he’s the key that is is making all those other things play at a really high rate.”
Duggan said he has a lot of respect for Campbell, and has a lot of buddies on that team, along with some GAs and analysts from his hometown.
“Should be a fun one trying to get them down here in Fort Worth,” Duggan said.
Iowa State senior defensive end Will McDonald’s 34 career sacks are tied for the Big 12 record first set by Texas Tech’s Aaron Hunt from 1999-2002. … TCU running back Kendre Miller has rushed for a TD in all 11 games this season, and his 12 consecutive games dating back to last year is the longest active streak in the nation.
TCU went into its 2014 regular-season finale at home ranked third in the CFP rankings, and won 55-3 over the 2-10 Cyclones.
But when the final CFP rankings came out the next day, the one-loss Frogs had dropped to sixth, one spot below Baylor — the only team to beat them. Ohio State moved to fourth and into the inaugural four-team playoff after a 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.
This time, the Frogs are one of four remaining undefeated FBS teams.
TCU is the first Big 12 team to reach 11-0 since Texas was 13-0 in the 2009 season, when it then lost in the BCS national championship game. The Longhorns were the last to complete an undefeated season, going 13-0 to win the league’s last national title in the 2005 season. The last team without a conference loss was Oklahoma in 2016, after the Sooners were 1-2 in non-conference play.