This season I’ll be breaking down a few of college football’s biggest games each week and giving out at least one bet I like from each matchup. 

Let’s take a look at the Big 12 title game between Kansas State and TCU.

Kansas State vs TCU Total, current line:

Kansas State vs TCU Best Bet Prediction:

These teams combined for 66 points in the last meeting, despite Kansas State using three quarterbacks 一 expert another high-scoring affair and take the over at 62 points

» Bet it now: Over 62  

When Kansas State is on Offense

Kansas State wants to run the ball and bleed the clock, especially against a high-powered offense like TCU. 

The Wildcats rank 99th in pace of play and have a 60% rush rate in neutral situations, per Campus2Canton

In their last meeting, TCU dominated time of possession (38 minutes) which limited Kansas State to a season-low 53 offensive plays. However, the Wildcats moved the ball with ease in their limited opportunities (7.4 yards per play). 

Deuce Vaughn averaged 6.9 yards per carry in the last meeting and should have continued success against TCU’s 3-3-5 defense. 

The Horned Frogs stack the box against the run at the lowest rate in the nation, which limits their ability to create early contact in the run game. 

Take a look at these numbers from Sports Info Solutions on the run-game matchup:

  • TCU: Contacts ball carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage on 34% of attempts, (ranked 96th)
  • TCU: Allows three or more yards before contact on 37% of attempts (ranked 107th)
  • Vaughn: 0.6 yards per attempt when contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage 
  • Vaughn: 7.9 yards per attempt when crossing line of scrimmage without contact

Will Howard will make his fourth start of the year at quarterback, and he played most of the game when these teams met in Week 8, coming off the bench for an injured Adrian Martinez for his first action of the season. 

Howard has opened up the Wildcats’ passing attack, as he’s significantly more dangerous as a downfield passer than Martinez. 

According to Sports Info Solutions, 42% of Howard’s passes have been at least 10 yards downfield, compared to 32% for Martinez. 

On throws 20 or more yards downfield, the numbers are even starker in contrast:

  • Howard: 16% of passes with a 62% completion rate
  • Martinez: 11% of passes with a 25% completion rate

Opposing offenses have been extremely aggressive throwing downfield against the Frogs, doing so at a rate 25% above expected, the second highest rate in the nation, ahead of only lowly UMass. 

As a result, TCU has allowed 38 completions at 15 or more yards downfield, the 25th most in FBS.

Another area where TCU’s 3-3-5 defense may hurt them in this matchup is due to their inability to generate pressure. The Frogs rank 102nd in opponent-adjusted pressure rate, per Sports Info Solutions. 

That could be a key factor in this matchup because Howard’s greatest weakness is handling pressure. 

Take a look at Howard’s numbers under pressure, via Sports Info Solutions:

  • 35.3% completion rate
  • 4.0 yards per attempt
  • 19% positive EPA rate
  • 35% rate of earning -1 EPA or worse

In their last meeting, TCU generated a mediocre 26% pressure rate, and failed to convert any of those pressures into sacks. 

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When TCU is on Offense

TCU runs Sonny Dykes’s version of the Air Raid offense, which is an offshoot of his mentor Mike Leach’s system but with considerably more emphasis on the run game. According to Campus2Canton, TCU uses an even 50/50 run-pass split in neutral situations. 

In the run game, the Air Raid spreads defenses out, allowing TCU’s ball carriers to run into light boxes on 75% of attempts, the seventh highest rate in the FBS, per Sports Info Solutions. 

With a light box, Kansas State allows 4.6 yards per attempt, which ranks 38th. 

Here’s a look at some of Kendre Miller’s numbers in the run game from the previous meeting between these squads:

  • 26 of 29 carries into a light box
  • 5.7 yards per attempt versus a light box
  • Contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage on 11 of 29 carries (38%)
  • Averaged 7.8 yards per attempt when crossing line of scrimmage without contact

Like TCU, Kansas State also runs a 3-3-5 defensive scheme, so that high rate of light boxes is likely to continue in this matchup. 

One of TCU’s greatest strengths is its explosive passing game, which generates 20 or more yards on 13.7% of attempts, the 18th highest rate.

Kansas State ranks 22nd in rate of allowing pass plays of 20 or more yards, but did give up five plays of at least 20 yards, including two touchdowns, to TCU in their last meeting. 

On the injury front, Kansas State is down to third-string strong safety VJ Payne, a true freshman, after losing starter Kobe Savage and backup Cincere Mason in consecutive weeks. 

Payne will mostly line up in the box and in coverage in the slot. Expect TCU to attempt to exploit his inexperience in coverage. 

Final Thoughts on Kansas State vs TCU Best Bets

Back in October, we took the over in this matchup at 54 points and won easily. The line has climbed to 62 points this round, but I’m still sticking with the over. 

These teams combined for 66 points in the last meeting, despite TCU dominating time of possession and forcing two Kansas State turnovers. 

Kansas State was also held scoreless in the second half in that matchup, partially because third-string quarterback Jake Rubley was forced into action for two drives, resulting in a three-and-out and an interception. 

With TCU continuing to roll and Howard playing well for Kansas State, I expect another shootout. 

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