TCU wide receiver Derius Davis (12) runs past the Baylor special teams for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)
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For the first time in 21 years, a new head coach will lead the Horned Frogs out of the tunnel at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday after TCU parted ways with Gary Patterson last Sunday.

Though Jerry Kill was named as TCU’s interim head coach, it was announced that defensive line coach Dan Sharp will lead the Frogs out of the tunnel for the first time in his 30 years with the program.

Read More: Coach Patterson’s choice: Jerry Kill

In his first week at the helm, Kill has a ranked opponent to prepare for, as the Bears enter ranked No. 12 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season. Last week, Baylor beat Texas 31-24 and held running back Bijan Robinson to 43 yards on 17 carries, his lowest total of the season by far. 

The Bears’ defense has been the driving force in them being 7-1 on the season. Head coach Dave Aranda has led a swift improvement from a 2-7 record last season. Before accepting the head coaching job at Baylor in 2020, Aranda won a National Championship in 2019 as the defensive coordinator at LSU. 

Aranda said he has studied Patterson’s patented 4-2-5 defense throughout his career.

“I have a lot of memories of learning ball and learning [his] teaching methods,” Aranda said of Patterson. 

Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, the Frogs are 6-3 against Baylor and defeated the Bears 33-23 in their 2020 matchup. Here’s a look at what to expect from Baylor this Saturday.

The Bears defense allows just 19.4 points per game in 2021, the second-lowest in the Big 12. Despite an ugly record last season, the Bears’ defense was very good against the passing game. That trend has continued into this season, Aranda’s defense allows 209 passing yards per game.

The Bears have been more vulnerable against the running game, though, as they rank sixth in the Big 12 with 130.4 rushing yards allowed per game. 

Senior Jalen Pitre is the focal point of the Baylor defense. A 6-foot, 197-pound hybrid-style safety who spends most of his time in the box or on the edge, Pitre has been all over the field, recording 9.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. 

“There’s a knack for playing the ball here at Baylor – we make a point of coaching it but a lot of it was already there,” Aranda said of his defense. 

Pitre highlights the plethora of experience that Baylor has on its defense. Including Pitre, all five starting defensive backs are seniors and all have started at least 11 games in their college career. Their linebackers are no different. The Bears have the second-best turnover margin in the conference, thanks, in part, to the 13 takeaways the defense has forced this season. 

The Baylor offense has pulled its share of the weight with that margin too, with the least turnovers of any offense in the Big 12. Two of quarterback Gerry Bohanon’s three interceptions this season came last week against Texas, but his touchdown-interception ratio is 4-1, second amongst starting quarterbacks in the Big 12.  

Running back Abram Smith has been a bright spot for the Bears in a conference packed full of talented running backs. He has 930 rushing yards, third in the Big 12, and the second-most touchdowns in the conference with 11. His 7.4 yards per carry is tied for the highest in the conference with TCU running back Kendre Miller. 

Anything can happen in a rivalry game, but the Baylor Bears look to continue their climb in the playoff rankings. The Frogs are going to have to force Bohanon and the Bears’ offense to turn the ball over to keep their defense on the field. Like most weeks, Baylor will try to dictate the game with its defense, especially since it is still unclear who is going to start at quarterback for TCU. 

The Frogs clash with the Bears in Fort Worth this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on FOX.

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