WACO, Texas (AP) — There have been times in Sonny Dykes' coaching career when he was up all night at the start of each new week, trying to think of ways to motivate his team and keep players focused on the present.
Fourth-ranked, undefeated TCU already has its spot in the Big 12 championship game, and there are two games left in the regular season, the first of those Saturday at in-state rival Baylor. And while there is still more the Horned Frogs (10-0, 7-0 Big 12, No. 4 CFP) can accomplish, their first-year coach has had plenty of restful nights.
“The longer it goes, you get these goals stacked up,” Frogs left tackle Brandon Coleman acknowledged. "But that’s kind of what we emphasize, is keeping our minds locked in on that next game, that next opponent, next practice, so it kind of stays locked into that week”
As Dykes said, "We talk about it all the time. It's served us well, why would we change.”
TCU has to keep winning to make the four-team College Football Playoff. Baylor (6-4, 4-3), coming off a 31-3 home loss to No. 19 Kansas State, must to win its last two games and get a lot of help just to get to back to the league title game.
“I would look at it more as what a great opportunity we have with this particular game. ... Last week was not us. We can be us,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said. “I think that’s an opportunity for us that we have to take advantage of.”
The Bears were Big 12 champs last year, even after an early November loss to TCU in its first game after coach Gary Patterson suddenly departed the team.
“We know that Baylor probably wants to do to us what we did to them last year,” Coleman said.
THAT 2014 LOSS
Baylor and TCU shared the Big 12 title in 2014, the first year of the CFP and when the league didn't have a championship game. The Frogs' only loss that season was 61-58 at Baylor. They were the first two teams left out of the inaugural four-team playoff.
“If you can win, I truly believe the rest of the stuff takes care of itself," Dykes said. “If you lose a game, then all of a sudden now there’s all this conversation about all these different things, and you want to try to avoid that.”
Bears quarterback Blake Shapen has two touchdown passes and five interceptions in his last four games, averaging 177.5 yards passing per game. That stretch came after back-to-back 300-yard games to start October.
“Full confidence in him,” Aranda said this week when asked about the quarterback's status.
TCU's Max Duggan has thrown a Big 12-best 25 TDs with only two interceptions. He missed last year's game against Baylor with a broken bone in his foot, and Chandler Morris had 531 yards of total offense (461 passing, 70 rushing) in his first start.
RUINED PERFECT 10s
The last two Big 12 teams to start a season 10-0 were Kansas State in 2012 and Oklahoma State in 2015. Both lost to Baylor in their 11th game. The 2012 Wildcats, who shared the regular-season title with Oklahoma, lost 52-24 at Baylor. Three years later, Baylor won 45-35 at Oklahoma State.
TCU's Kendre Miller and Baylor true freshman Richard Reese are tied for the Big 12 lead with 13 rushing touchdowns. Miller is second in the league with 114.7 yards rushing per game, and has 11 consecutive games with a rushing TD. Reese is second nationally for freshmen with his TDs and 852 yards rushing, 30 short of breaking Baylor's single-season freshman record.
IN THEIR YOUNGER DAYS
Dykes went to his alma mater as an assistant for coach Mike Leach at Texas Tech in 2000, when Aranda arrived in his early 20s as a graduate assistant.
“Just how he treats people and how his mind works with offense is something I admire and respect,” Aranda said of Dykes, who is nearly seven years older.
Dykes described Aranda then as an introvert who was mature, smart and always wanted to talk football. He was different than a lot of the young coaches on that staff.
“We went out and stayed up late and did stuff we weren’t supposed to do, and Dave didn’t. He was in bed at 9 o’clock every night,” Dykes said. “Now that I’m 53, I’m starting to get close to being as mature as he was at probably 23.”
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