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No. 9 Baylor still plenty to play for at TCU

 

STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer


FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The national championship dream, the school-record 13-game winning streak and unblemished record are all gone for No. 9 Baylor.

But there is still plenty to play for in the final two games for the Bears (9-1, 6-1 Big 12), who are at TCU on Saturday.

"It's nothing hard about getting refocused," coach Art Briles said.

Baylor is still in contention for its first Big 12 title and could still get into a BCS bowl, even after that stunning 49-17 loss at Oklahoma State last weekend.

"We still have a lot to play for. We've got to go out and win these next two games," quarterback Bryce Petty said. "There are still goals and ambitions that we set prior to the season that we can still accomplish."

TCU (4-7, 2-6) closes out its sophomore season in the Big 12, and will miss out on a bowl game for the first time since 2004 — their only previous losing record in coach Gary Patterson's 13 seasons. Their bowl chances ended in their last game two weeks ago at Kansas State, which kicked a game-winning field goal with 3 seconds left.

"Of course you want to end it in a bowl game, which we don't have that right now," Horned Frogs senior cornerback Jason Verrett said. "But I'd be happy with a win this Saturday."

Here are five things to watch when Baylor and TCU play for the sixth time since 2006, but as conference rivals for only the second time since 1995:

STILL ON RECORD PACE: Even after being held to 17 points last week, Baylor is averaging 56.8 points a game, still ahead of Army's NCAA record of 56.0 in 1944 and the Big 12 record 51.1 by Oklahoma in 2008. The Bears' 588 points are their most in any 10-game span in school history and more than the Bears scored in 66 of the last 68 full seasons. Their 661.6 total yards per game is ahead of the NCAA record 624.9 yards per game Houston had in 1989.

TIGHT SERIES: TCU has a 51-50-7 lead in the rivalry that dates back to a scoreless tie in 1899 when both schools were still located in Waco. The main campuses are now separated by about 100 miles. Since Baylor won the last Southwest Conference game between the two teams in 1995, TCU has won four of the last five meetings — the last two in Waco. TCU scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of a 49-21 win last season to end Baylor's nine-game home winning streak. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for them," Bears coach Art Briles said. "They've earned that respect from us by how they've performed against us."

CAREER ENDERS: Quarterback Casey Pachall and cornerback Jason Verrett both got their first starts for TCU in a wild 50-48 loss at Baylor in the 2011 season opener, and now play their final games against the Bears. Pachall is 17-5 as a starter, missing the final nine games last season for alcohol treatment, and being out five games this year with broken bones in his left (non-throwing) arm. Verrett has started 33 games and his 36 passes defended since last year are the most nationally. "Here's a guy that basically didn't want to come out of his room after that Baylor game," coach Gary Patterson said of Verrett.

MISSING HAGER: Baylor middle linebacker Bryce Hager has been hampered by a groin injury that forced him to miss the Oklahoma State game. Sam Holl said Hager is a fast, smart and really physical player that "definitely hard to replace." Hager was the team's leading tackler with 71 tackles before fellow linebacker had 12 tackles vs. Oklahoma State to push his season total to 78.

NOT LIKE 2004: TCU will finish with its first losing season since 2004, though coach Gary Patterson said this year's group is nothing like his only previous losing team. "I'm not tired of coaching this group," Patterson said. "Watch how we played the last two games, there's a lot of character there." The Frogs won at Iowa State on Trevone Boykin's TD run with 38 seconds left. Jaden Oberkrom kicked a go-ahead 56-yard field goal with 2:13 left at Kansas State, before the Wildcats drove for the winning kick.
 

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Did the College Football Playoff Committee get it right?