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Kansas State vs. TCU prediction: Look for Horned Frogs to stay unbeaten

In what should be a tight game, bet on favored TCU to claim Big 12 championship, CFP berth

TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan has passed for 3,070 yards, rushed for 294 yards and accounted for 34 total touchdowns this season. Duggan and the unbeaten Horned Frogs face Kansas State in Saturday's Big 12 championship game. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan has passed for 3,070 yards, rushed for 294 yards and accounted for 34 total touchdowns this season. Duggan and the unbeaten Horned Frogs face Kansas State in Saturday's Big 12 championship game. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)Read moreRon Jenkins / Getty Images

One more victory. That’s all that stands between the TCU Horned Frogs and history — that history being a Big 12 championship, an undefeated regular season and a surprising invite to the 2022-23 College Football Playoff.

To get that victory and make that history, TCU (12-0, 9-2-1 ATS) will have to defeat a talented and pesky Kansas State squad for the second time in six weeks in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

How talented and pesky? In the first meeting, Kansas State traveled south to Fort Worth, Texas, and took a 28-10 lead. Although they failed to hang onto that lead, the Wildcats (9-3, 9-3 ATS) bounced back and won four of their final five games to earn a second crack at the Horned Frogs.

Seeing that oddsmakers have had their doubts about TCU for the better part of three months, it’s no surprise to see the Horned Frogs barely favored. But is the point spread too slim? Or is this the week TCU’s magic finally runs out?

Here’s our Kansas State vs. TCU prediction for the Big 12 championship game.

Note: Odds updated as of 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 2.

Kansas State vs. TCU Prediction

  1. TCU -125, moneyline (at BetMGM)

Kansas State vs. TCU Prediction: Analysis

Real simple here: We have tremendous respect for Kansas State and won’t be shocked if they spring the upset. But we have absolutely zero interest in going against a TCU outfit that has had a “team of destiny” look about it ever since the comeback win over the Wildcats on Oct. 22.

In that contest, the Horned Frogs spotted K-State that 28-10 lead, then completely turned the tables and scored the game’s last four touchdowns to win 38-28 and cover as a 3.5-point home favorite.

» READ MORE: LSU vs. Georgia prediction: Defenses should dominate SEC championship game

After giving up a 47-yard touchdown run with 8:09 to go in the second half, the TCU defense clamped down and didn’t allow another point for the final 38 minutes of action.

The Horned Frogs then won two more back-and-forth games against West Virginia and Texas Tech, battling back from a second-half deficit in the latter.

Next came a 17-10 upset at Texas as a 7.5-point underdog in a game TCU never trailed. That was followed by a harrowing, last-second, season-saving 29-28 win at Baylor, with kicker Griffin Bell racing onto the field and nailing a 40-yard field goal as time expired.

The Horned Frogs finally enjoyed a laugher in last week’s regular-season finale, thumping Iowa State 62-14 as a 9.5-point favorite to cap their 12-0 regular season.

Along its amazing three-month journey, TCU has been a spread-covering machine. But so, too, has Kansas State, whose nine ATS wins are tied with the Horned Frogs for second most in all of college football.

Since blowing their double-digit lead at TCU, the Wildcats have completely destroyed four opponents — Oklahoma State (48-0) and Kansas (47-27) at home, and Baylor (31-3) and West Virginia (48-31) on the road.

The one blemish was a 34-27 loss to Texas as a 3-point home underdog. In that game, the Longhorns racked up 269 rushing yards on 40 carries — a whopping 6.7 yards-per-tote average.

And that’s the biggest concern heading into Saturday’s conference title tilt. Because TCU rumbled for 215 ground yards in the first meeting (albeit on 56 carries). Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan also threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns.

Duggan (3,070 passing yards, 294 rushing yards, 34 total TDs, three INTs) has been sensational all season. He leads an offense that averages 41.3 points per game (fourth most in FBS) and has committed just eight turnovers.

K-State (nine turnovers) has been just as good at protecting the football. In fact, the Wildcats (+14) are tied for the second-best turnover margin in the nation, while TCU is tied for eighth (+10).

Kansas State’s main problem? Its otherwise explosive offense goes dormant at times. We saw it in the second half against TCU. We saw it the previous week in a 10-9 win at Iowa State. And we saw it in a 17-10 Week 3 home loss to Tulane.

On the other hand, Duggan and the Horned Frogs were held in check just once — 17 points at Texas — and still won the game. Otherwise, TCU has scored at least 29 in each contest (including 38 or more nine times).

We expect that offense to be the difference Saturday afternoon, just as it was in the first meeting. That said, because these teams are evenly matched in many ways — and because TCU has been involved in multiple close games during its undefeated run — we’re taking the point spread out of the equation.

Just as we recommended playing USC on the moneyline against Utah, we’ll pay a little extra juice and do the same with TCU at BetMGM.

Kansas State vs. TCU odds (via BetMGM)

  1. Point spread: Kansas State (+2) @ TCU (-2)

  2. Moneyline: Kansas State (+105) @ TCU (-125)

  3. Total: 61.5 points

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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