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Big 12 Championship | TCU vs. Kansas State

Sports

TCU vs Kansas State | Image by USA Today-Sports

Texas Christian University faces Kansas State on Saturday with the Big 12 Championship title at stake. The Horned Frogs have appeared in the Conference’s biggest game just once: a 41-17 loss to Oklahoma in 2017. Saturday will mark the fourth attempt at the title for the Wildcats, whose only win — and last appearance — was in 2003.

TCU and Kansas State met during conference play in late October. The Horned Frogs came back from an 18-point halftime deficit to win 38-28. Adrian Martinez started at quarterback in that game but went down with a leg injury in the first quarter and was replaced by Will Howard. Howard has been QB 1 since and led the Wildcats to four wins in five games to close out the season, and will get the start against TCU on Saturday.

Against TCU, Howard went 13-of-20 for 225 yards passing and threw two touchdowns. He also threw an interception but has thrown just one since while completing nearly 63% of his passes. His best game came in a 48-0 blowout win against Oklahoma State University. Howard had four touchdown passes and 296 yards passing on 21 completions, all season highs for the junior who transferred from Nebraska this season.

The winning formula that head coach Sonny Dykes — this season’s Big 12 Coach of the Year — has brought to the Frogs locker room is a fast-paced, aggressive playing style that punishes defenses and forces opponents to try and keep up. The team runs an Air Raid offense that takes advantage of quarterback Max Duggan’s arm strength and accuracy to hit big plays through the air, while a punishing run game is led by running back Kendre Miller.

Duggan started the season as the backup to Morris Chandler but took over in Week 1. He is now a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. On December 1, Duggan was named the 2022 Big 12 Player of the Year. Duggan threw for 3,070 yards and 29 touchdowns against just three interceptions this season. He is the team’s third-leading runner with 297 yards and another five touchdowns on the ground.

Miller finished 2022 with 1,260 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. His 6.3 yards-per-carry average was boosted this season with a season-high 75-yard run for a touchdown during a 17-10 win against Texas. Miller also has 14 receptions out of the backfield.

The offensive production is largely a result of the physicality of the offensive line group. New offensive line coach A.J. Ricker and assistant athletics director Kaz Kazadi have the offensive line performing at a high level that allows the Frogs to push the run game and score points nearly at will in the second half of games.

Overcoming the offensive firepower that TCU has brought to the field this season will fall on the Wildcats’ defense. Over the 2022 season, Kansas State allowed opponents an average of just 214 yards per game passing and 143 yards rushing. The team will need that type of performance to keep up with a Frogs offense that averages 473 yards of offense per game.

The Big 12 Championship game will be held at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, December 3. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. ESPN Analytics gives TCU a 53.9% chance of winning the Big 12 Championship title for the first time in school history.

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