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5 TCU players to watch against Iowa State, including former Lewis Central star Max Duggan
QB is darkhorse Heisman contender despite not winning starting job in fall camp
AMES — The streak is officially over.
Iowa State — thanks to another close and deflating 14-10 home loss last Saturday to Texas Tech — will not extend its string of five consecutive winning seasons to six.
The Cyclones (4-7, 1-7) are simply spoilers now in advance of Saturday’s 2 p.m. regular-season finale at No. 4 TCU. ISU opened as an 11-point underdog per Las Vegas oddsmakers and the Cyclones were disfavored by 10.5 points as of late Monday morning.
So expect another reasonably tight game pitting ISU’s Big 12-best defense against the Horned Frogs’ conference-leading scoring offense. College Football Playoff implications abound, of course, as TCU (11-0, 8-0) teeters on the outer edge of the four-team field.
“I think it’s a great challenge and I really look forward to things like that,” ISU safety Beau Freyler said.
With that in mind, here are five Horned Frogs to watch as the Cyclones make their upset bid this weekend.
QB Max Duggan
It’s been a crazy senior season for the 6-2, 210-pound Council Bluffs native who’s started nine or more games in each of his four seasons. Duggan lost his starting job in fall camp, but an injury to first-time TCU starter Chandler Morris in the season opener opened the door for Duggan again — and he promptly closed and locked it behind him.
Duggan is a darkhorse Heisman Trophy contender for good reason. He’s thrown 26 touchdown passes this season while being intercepted just three times. Duggan’s also rushed for five touchdowns this season and is among the nation’s most prolific dual-threat quarterbacks. He’s scored 91 total touchdowns in his career (67 passing, 24 rushing), but is 0-3 all-time against the Cyclones.
RB Kendre Miller
The Big 12’s third-leading rusher left last week’s 29-28 win over Baylor after suffering an injury in the second half. So Miller is questionable for Saturday, but if he is able to play, his power and speed will be on full display. The 6-0, 220-pound junior has rushed for 14 touchdowns and averages 6.5 yards per carry, and he’s battled through injury more than once this season.
If Miller’s unable to play — or is extremely limited — look for Emari Demercado to shoulder much of the ground-game work load, along with Duggan. The 5-11, 210-pound senior has scored six total touchdowns this season (five rushing, one receiving).
LB Dee Winters
Winters led TCU in tackles last season with 74 and has elevated his ability to be a backfield disruptor his senior season.
The 6-1, 231-pounder from Brenham, Texas. ranks fifth in the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 10.5 — double his total from last season. Winters also ranks third in the league in sacks (6.5) and the Cyclones’ offensive line has allowed the second-most quarterback takedowns in the conference this season (26). He’s notched as many as two sacks in a game twice this season in wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but has gone without a sack in four of his past five games.
WR Quentin Johnston
The 6-4 junior leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (49), receiving yards (764) and touchdown catches (five), but he, like Miller, was knocked out of last week’s win over Baylor.
If Johnston’s unable to play against ISU, expect Taye Barber to be targeted more — and he’s already been productive, totaling 567 yards receiving on 31 catches (an 18.3 per-catch average). Barber’s one of five TCU receivers to haul in at least one reception of 50 or greater yards this season.
Returner/receiver Derius Davis
Davis is one of four FBS players nationally to return two punts for touchdowns this season and ranks fourth nationally in yards per punt return at 13.9. The 5-10, 175-pound senior is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball — and is tied for the team lead in touchdown catches with five.