If not for a Week 2 loss to Arizona, the 2012 season could look a lot different for Oklahoma State right about now.
And if not for some quarterback troubles, the season could look very different for TCU as well.
But here's where we find ourselves: A Big 12 matchup between unranked opponents that, if they keep winning, will make a bowl game. It just won't be the type of bowl game they wanted to be in or thought they'd be in earlier in the season.
Both the Horned Frogs and the Cowboys have two losses, and neither of them can afford another one, which makes Saturday's matchup critical in a way—especially considering what the rest of the season has in store for each of them.
After Saturday, TCU finishes its season with four consecutive matchups against ranked opponents, finishing with No. 8 Oklahoma. The Cowboys face those same four opponents before finishing their season against Baylor.
Whoever wins Saturday's game will certainly begin this unenviable journey on the right foot.
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET
According to OddsShark, Oklahoma State is the 8.5-point favorite over TCU, which is just about what we would have expected. Each of these teams may have two losses, but objectively, the Cowboys look a lot stronger on both sides of the ball—and they're playing at home. They should be favored by at least a touchdown.
Both of these teams are capable of scoring with abandon, but both of them have also shown a tendency to suffer huge defensive lapses as well. The good news for Oklahoma State is that it has managed to string together two pretty decent wins—one on the road at Kansas, and the other at home against No. 24 Iowa State.
Unlike TCU, Oklahoma State has proven capable of beating a ranked opponent, which won't matter this week but certainly will for the next four. The Cowboys must look at this game as a tune-up for the tough schedule they'll endure to close out the season, while the Horned Frogs—who will have their hands full on the road—must look at this as their opportunity to turn around the season.
OddsShark has the over/under at 63, which seems just about right—we know both of these teams can score on a good day, and that they both have their fair share of defensive issues. This certainly doesn't bode to be a chess match.
Even without quarterback Casey Pachall—who was arrested on suspicion of DWI the week before the Horned Frogs took on Iowa State and has since withdrawn from school and entered an inpatient facility—TCU has still been able to but points on the board. Big points. It has scored 125 in its last three games, but its defense hasn't been able to hold up.
After allowing an average of 7.25 points in their first four games—all wins—TCU has allowed a whopping 38 per game over its last three. Last week, it suffered a 56-53 overtime loss to Texas Tech—a win that could have been a huge boost for the Horned Frogs if they'd just managed to play a little bit of defense.
Ever since an opening week 84-0 win over Savannah State, the Cowboys haven't been lighting up the scoreboard quite as much, but they're still scoring and more importantly, they're playing defense. They're coming off a win in which they held Iowa State to 10 points, and over their last two, have allowed an average of 12 points per game.
TCU Injuries (via USAToday.com)
- DE Stansly Maponga (foot) is questionable for Saturday's game
- C Michael Thompson (knee) is out for the season
- QB Casey Pachall will miss the rest of the season after leaving school for an inpatient program at a drug and alcohol facility
- RB Waymon James (knee) is out for the season
- LB Danny Heiss could miss the rest of the season with an undisclosed injuries
- DE Ross Forrest (knee) is out for the season
Oklahoma State Injuries (via USAToday.com)
- WR Tracy Moore (ankle) is questionable for Saturday
- WR Isaiah Anderson is questionable for Saturday
- TE Justin Horton is out for the season with an undisclosed injury
- QB J.W. Walsh (knee) is out for the season
- CB Jonovan Griffin (knee) is out for the season
- LB Jeremiah Tshimanga (knee) is out for the season
It's hard to believe that either of these teams are going to work their way back into the BCS conversation, especially in light of the formidable schedule ahead.
The last time Oklahoma State faced an opponent ranked in the top half of the standings, it suffered a 41-36 loss to Texas. Now that they are moving on to their third option at quarterback, it's hard to believe the Cowboys are magically are going to pull things together in time to take down the best of the Big 12 over the last month of the season.
If they somehow do manage to accomplish four straight wins over four of the best teams in the nation, however, it could be a different story.
The same goes for TCU. Right now, a BCS bowl is out of the question. However, if it manages to beat Oklahoma State and then magically defeats West Virginia, Kansas Sate, Texas and Oklahoma all in succession, we will be singing a different tune come Dec. 2.
The odds of that happening? Not likely.
Keys for TCU
Freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin hasn't been too bad as Casey Pachall's replacement. Even in defeat last week at the hands of Texas Tech, he managed to throw four touchdowns, finishing with 332 yards and two interceptions.
There are a couple of things he—and the Horned Frogs defense—needs to do in order to triumph over the Cowboys this weekend. One of them is limiting the turnovers. A team like Oklahoma State, who has proven it can score in droves, doesn't need any extra opportunities. The second thing is fourth-quarter defense. Last week, the Horned Frogs allowed two touchdowns to Texas Tech in the final six minutes of regulation.
We know that Boykin is capable of leading this offense with at least some competency. For two straight games, he's thrown four touchdowns in each game. He obviously needs to maintain that momentum offensively, but it would help if his defense would back him up, especially when the game gets down to the wire.
Keys for Oklahoma State
We don't know quite what to expect from quarterback Clint Chelf on Saturday—if he gets the call, that is. We do know that the junior has been around for a while, but that he lost the offseason quarterback battle to not one freshman, but two.
According to The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell, Wes Lunt originally earned the starting job then went down with an injury in mid-September. His backup, J.W. Walsh, went down with an injury of his own last week against Iowa State. If Lunt still isn't able to go, Chelf will get the call. If he does, how much can we really expect from the third option?
It's safe to say that this game will come down to the Cowboys' quarterback's effectiveness, whomever that may be. According to Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken via Mizell, the battle was a close one this offseason, so even if Chelf ends up being the guy, the Cowboys will still have more than a good chance. Of course, it's hard to predict just how much can be expected of him when he's barely played this year.
The Cowboys' quarterback situation is looking pretty perilous at the moment, and over the last couple of weeks, TCU QB Boykin has proven that he can get this offense going. He may be inexperienced, but he's had plenty of time to get his feet wet this season.
The same can not be said for Chelf. Either way, the Cowboys are going to be sending out a quarterback with limited experience, or a quarterback who isn't fully recovered from a bad knee/ankle injury. That will present a good opportunity for TCU to get a big win on Saturday.