Friday, October 23, 2009
DE - Jerry Hughes, Sr. TCU
Everyone knows all about him after last year, and everyone does everything possible to block the All-America pass rusher, and nothing is working. Hughes has gotten stronger and even quicker since last year, and even though he's occupying more blocks than last season, he's still producing at a high level week after week.
PR - Jeremy Kerley, Jr. TCU
Others are averaging more per return, but Kerley has been more of a hammer-dropper. His punt return for a score against Colorado State was one of the most brilliant plays of the first half of the season, and he all but ended the SMU game with a return for a score. He has to be avoided at all costs.
Collegefootballnews.com says TCU 21-17, while ESPN Dallas says TCU 27-24. But of course, we want to know what you, the Spitblood readers, think. Act as if you're Joseph Smith, wandering out into a hilly, wooded area when an angel appears and presents you with a pair of golden plates, telling you the outcome of tomorrow's game. Now since you aren't going to show any of us these (non-existent) plates, you are free to make up whatever you want and tell us that is what the plates said. Frogs win 56-0? Yup, the plates said so. You're allowed to sleep with other women??? Sorry, SB wives/girlfriends, the plates said so.
We all knew this weekend was going to be big – but Gameday big? Back before the season started, my esteemed associate lyle lanley was scouting out the season, looking for the biggest potential matchups each week and this is one that definitely stood out but what were the odds, really? True, ESPN occasionally sends the gameday crew to a game that they won’t be able to broadcast; in fact, it happened just a few weeks ago with Florida and LSU. I’m sure they looked at the schedule this weekend and initially circled Alabama/Tennessee, but the Kiffin makeover hasn’t gone as smoothly as hoped, so I’m glad they turned their eyes westward for a true marquee matchup. However, Provo, UT for a Mountain West Conference game? Bring their circus to maybe the most conservative area of the United States? Dropping Herbstreit into an environment where he can only look and not touch? It’s still pretty mind boggling, but hey, I’m not complaining.
Anyway, as a fan of either school this game should have you pretty unsettled as far as your team’s chances. TCU has been a fantastic home team, but hasn’t by any means overwhelmed opponents on the road. BYU shocked the college football world by opening season with their win over OU, but then were flat out embarrassed at home by a TERRIBLE Florida State team. This despite being nearly invincible at Lavell Edwards Stadium in recent years. TCU has a top ranked defense, but hasn’t played any truly menacing offensive teams. BYU has a top ranked offense, but QB Max Hall threw 10 interceptions in his first 4 games, which was the only stretch where the Cougars played anyone worth noting. TCU has a very sound running attack, but BYU boasts a top ranked run defense. BYUs pass happy offense likes to go deep which requires time for Max Hall to hit an open receiver while TCU is a national leader in sacks per game and defensive pressure has always been the name of the game. TCU, while not a huge passing threat, has multiple receivers who can catch the ball and create space while BYUs secondary has been less than impressive. If you could pick one college football game this year that was more evenly matched on opposite sides of the ball, I’d enjoy your thoughts. This is a perfect game of yin and yang where both teams have conflicting strengths. 32-7 is but a mere memory.
Offense – Obviously you would think that BYU would clearly lead the head to head matchups offensively, especially in the passing game, and while that is mostly true, the two teams really aren’t as far apart as you might think. As it stands, the Frogs are currently 5 points behind BYU in scoring offense, but both teams are in the top 20 nationally at 6 and 19. BYU is 7th in the country in total offense with 470 yards per game, while TCU is 22nd with 431. Overall the two teams aren’t terribly far apart, but where things start to deviate is when you look specifically at the run game and the pass game. TCU is 11th in total rushing yards per game with 225, while BYU 44th with 163. The passing game goes the other way, with BYU sitting at 13th nationally with 312 and TCU coming it at a measly 77th with 213 – almost a 100 yard per game differential. The positive way to look at this is that we’re, at least yardage wise, a very balanced offense and if BYU chooses to take away one aspect – and they likely will go after the ground game – we should be able to make up for it in the other. The other good news is that we know BYUs ground game isn’t as much of a threat as the pass, so if we can shut down their receivers, they shouldn’t score that many points. The bad news, though? It’s obviously not going to be that easy. Max Hall, despite his poor start, isn’t going to throw 2 interceptions and get sacked 7 times like last year. As a team, BYU isn’t going to commit 4 turnovers. Despite his injuries this year, I also doubt we hold Harvey Unga, and the BYU rushing attack as a whole, to 23 yards on 28 carries.
On the flipside, the big development in last year’s game for the Frogfense was obviously the debut of the Wildfrog – a trend that has been all but nonexistent this year, mostly thanks to a more accurate Andy Dalton and a 3 headed running attack. Some folks may want to see the OCs get a little more creative with Kerley and/or Antoine Hicks, but I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What I’m getting at here is, the things that led to last year’s romp probably aren’t going to factor in this year, and that’s mostly due to exactly that – the results from last year.
The biggest worry for me this year is how slow we have started on offense. We may be averaging 33 points a contest, but we only put up 3.5 in the first quarter. Fortunately our defense has been able to keep us in games until the offense gets rolling, but we also haven’t faced a team like BYU who can put points on the board in a hurry and if we start slow and they counter us with a few quick scores and get the crowd 110% behind them, recovery is going to be tough. The key here is to going to be to play to our strengths, mainly mixing up the play calls. Thus far we have, for the most part, been able to keep defenses on their heels with the run game and open up short underneath passes to enable some long drives and common sense suggests that’s exactly what we’ll do tomorrow night. The problem, though, is that BYU ranks second in the conference in rush defense and in the top 35 nationally with a little over 100 yards a game. The team that we’ve played that they most closely resemble is Clemson who gives up about 125 yards per game on the ground. In that game we rushed for only 162 yards, which is considerably below our average, but fortunately we had a QB named Andy Dalton who played out of his mind and won the game with 2 passing TDs. The good news here? BYUs secondary is inexperienced and does not do well against the pass, giving up an average of almost 240 yards per game. If history can repeat itself and Dalton can put points on the board through the air, we should be alright.
BYU comes into the game with a more questions than usual on offense, notably a flu bug that has sidelined a few players, as well as an injury to top receiver McKay Jacobson that could see him sidelined. Receiver O’neill Chambers is also questionable, but likely to play. If these guys sit, that would be a huge boost for our side and seriously hamper the Cougars chances. Unfortunately, BYU still has all-star tight end Dennis Pitta who easily leads all pass catchers with 471 yards and 5 TDs. He is Max Hall’s favorite target and typically a matchup nightmare for defenses as linebackers simply can’t cover him. We will likely have to drop a linebacker in coverage on the guy on most plays, which hurts because it takes away from an effective pass rush. Harvey Unga has also had an effective year, rushing for 575 yards and 9 TDs. A huge boost for the BYU offense comes in the form of another running back, though, but not in the way you’d think. Manese Tonga has been sidelined a few weeks with an injury, but looks to return this weekend and has been the Cougars top blocking back – a task that will be easier said than done against one Jerry Hughes, Jr. It does limit your options offensively when you have to keep a back at home in pass protection – and hopefully Pitta as well – but as I said, I just don’t see us shutting down Max Hall as we did last year. Speaking of Hall, he currently has a 70% completion percentage and has thrown for over 2000 yards and 16 TDs. The 10 INTs do stick out, but it should be noted he hasn’t thrown one in the past two games.
Without getting anymore into it though, it’s obvious that BYU is the superior offensive team, and as Frogs fans we should get used to that. Andy Dalton and the running backs are fantastic football players, but we’re going to win games with our defense and that’s how it always has been and always will be under Patterson. The BYU offense remembers what it felt like to get absolutely embarrassed in that seven point showing last year, and they won’t want it to happen again.
Edge – BYU.
Defense – Now here comes the fun part of the analysis. TCU currently ranks 10th in scoring defense, 3rd in total defense, 6th in pass defense and 7th in rush defense. Yes, you read that right – our pass defense has actually outshined our run defense this year, at least by statistical comparisons. However, we know better and understand that our run numbers are skewed by that Air Force game and that our run defense is always going to be the bread and butter. A big reason the pass D ranks so high is obviously Jerry Hughes and his constant backfield disruption, but he’s by no means alone as Wayne Daniels, Kelly Griffin, Daryl Washington, Tank Carder and the rest of the defense have been getting in on the fun as well, putting up 21 sacks on the season combined. Obviously Hughes has been the hands down leader this year, but it’s becoming apparent that you can’t simply double up on him everytime because there are other guys in the front seven who will take advantage. This disruption is where we will win or lose this game because if Max Hall has no time to throw and they have to resort to handoffs, they don’t have a chance of running the ball down our throats.
Last year this game was Jerry Hughes’ welcome party; now defenses know better. As I said, the return of Tonga is going to allow the Cougars to chip Hughes on passing downs – which are most of them in their offense – and if they choose to keep Pitta in as a blocker, there’s a chance Zilla could be triple teamed on some plays. Now, Pitta is way too much of an offensive weapon on this team for BYU to realistically keep him in that often, but if Jerry looks like he’s on the way to another career day against their team, they will have to at least consider it. Just like they have most of the year, the other three guys on the line are going to have to make the big plays to keep the BYU offense from picking us apart.
Having a very good secondary helps us a lot in this regard. Rafael Priest and, when playing, Nick Sanders have been phenomenal this year and there’s no reason to think that will change. They’ve stayed in front of their men and make big plays when they’ve needed to. The safety position, while a big question mark entering the year, has been mostly solidified as TeJay Johnson has been having another fine year with Alex Ibolye and a healthy Colin Jones filling in nicely for the departed Coleman/Hodge duo. Much like our running attack though, our defense hasn’t faced a passing threat anywhere near what BYU offers, unless you count SMU, which you really shouldn’t. Last year we were able to hold them to 274 yards passing, which was well below their average, but was mostly a result of our defense making Max Hall play scared, which as I’ve said a million times now, I don’t think he does this year. I don’t see Sanders and Priest getting beat, but if they are able to split our safeties, there could be trouble. It’s going to be entirely up to the defensive front to turn BYU into a running team and play right into our hands.
Defensively, BYU is pretty middle of the pack, giving up 22.7 points and 340 yards per game. Like I said, they can stop the run, but they’ve had some issues in the secondary and this is where teams have exploited them. Interestingly enough, Florida State actually crushed them on the ground, rolling up 313 yards, 512 total, and we have a better ground game than they do by far so, hey, anything is possible, but I’m not betting on it. We can’t downplay what they did against OU though, which was hold a team that currently averages 31 points and 432 yards per game to 13 and 265. All the detractors will scream, “BUT BRADFORD DIDN’T PLAY!” to which I will reply, “He did for a half and he didn’t do jack shit.” Regardless, the bottom line here is, BYU is going to give up some points more often than not, but they’ve always been able to score more than their opponent, so it doesn’t matter. That’s not to say they’re as one sided as a Houston or a Texas Tech, but it’s obvious that’s the name of the game – if it weren’t, they wouldn’t have produced QBs like Steve Young and Jim McMahon. Fortunately, their passing game is about to meet a, to this point, immovable object, and I think you have to give us the advantage. When our defense's back has been to the wall, they haven’t let us down, and I don’t expect them to now.
Edge – Frogs
Special Teams – Ah, how it must feel to be Jeremy Kerley. A 17.1 punt return average with 2 for TDs to go with a 27.3 yard kick return average. Perhaps our offensive numbers are down because he puts us in such good position most games? You might suggest BYU simply not kick to the guy. Sure, fair enough, but you can only kick so many punts out of bounds and on kickoffs, Greg McCoy averages an even better 33 yards per return. As a team, BYU doesn’t come close, averaging 8.6 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kick. Winner.
Ross Evans, after regaining some confidence in the Air Force game, is back to his inconsistent ways as he missed another PAT last week against Colorado State. BYU kicker Mitch Payne hasn’t been much more impressive, going 4/5 on field goals – Evans is 6/7 – and has missed an extra point while Evans has missed 2 and had one blocked. Payne, though, has had quite a few more opporunties on said PATs and made the most of them, so he gets the edge.
Kickoffs clearly go to BYU, who have a 65 yard average included 6 TBs, but have had 2 go out of bounds. Kicking in the mountain air helps, but still, how am I going to argue. The Frogs average 62 yards with 1 TB and 2 OBs
Punting, as we’re well aware, hasn’t been a strong point for TCU this year as Anson Kelton only has a 35 yard average with 8 inside the 2. BYUs punter, though, hasn’t been much better, averaging 40 yards a punt with only 4 being downed inside the 20. It could be his coverage, I don’t know, but on the surface I’m going Kelton.
No matter the debate, as long as Kerley is back there, BYU could outpunt and outkick us to death and I’d still have to lean Frog.
Edge – Frogs.
Overall – All the pundits look at this game and more or less give it to BYU because it seems to be the exact opposite of last year – TCU has the hype and swagger while BYU has been kicked to the curb a bit after that impressive opening game against the Sooners. Yes, surrendering 54 points to a bad Florida State team doesn’t exactly help street cred, but we all have our faults. In these situations, it sometimes helps to look at comparable matchups to see how the teams match up against one another, and in our case the only comparison is CSU. BYU beat them 42-13 compared to our 44-6. The Cougars did a slightly better job stopping the run than we did – 66 vs 70 yards – but were blasted for 372 yards and 2 TDs through the air. Yikes! That’s what makes the Florida State loss so curious – FSU is one of the better passing teams in the entire country, and one of the worst rushing, yet the Seminoles killed them on the ground while forgoing the pass game. Perhaps BYU was due a return to earth after opening weekend, but I really hope it speaks to a defensive gameplan that tends to load up against one aspect while forsaking the other. Will the Cougars, knowing our tendency to run, load up in the box and allow Andy Dalton to fling the ball around with ease? Maybe, I don’t know. What I do know though is that this BYU defense has had a tough time putting together a complete game, and given we are one of the better, more balanced offenses they will face all year, that doesn’t bode well. Like it was last year for us, this is the game BYU has been gunning towards, while we are the team that hopefully won’t get too caught up in our “quest.” Hearing all the talk about Utah this year is troubling simply because it sounds like a lot of members of the team just assume we’re going to fly into that game undefeated and win the conference championship. However, I don’t think GP would ever let us overlook a team after the SMU game of 2005. It’s going to be a fight, but I think he’ll have our guys ready and we escape with a win.
The pick – TCU 28, BYU 24.
As mentioned, shortnkerleys, WWHD, bucknasty and myself will be in attendance, live and in person and will hopefully bring much honor to our TCU family. Not sure what our gameday signs will be, but just know that once they are up, you will see them. I've been checking BYU message boards a bit this week and it appears that an ample amount of Utes are going to make the trip south for gameday, not because they want to hype their own team, but only because they want to outshine BYU at their own event. I admire and respect their hate, and I'll be glad to join them as brothers in arms. Say a prayer for us, because this Christian/Mormon duel could make conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians look like a topless pillowfight. Go Frogs!
Good little back and forth on EDSBS today
"Holly: Fair enough. Oh, shit, an actual game: TCU at BYU. This might be TCU’s only test this year.
Orson: TCU blackjacked BYU last time they met. I mean, not even close position by position. If you’ll remember, Max Hall wandered around from snap to snap looking for someone to give the ball to, and had no one. TCU beat the daylights out of them. It’s essentially the same two teams facing off here.
Holly: And BYU’s a week off being given a real fight by…San Diego State.
Orson: TCU, because they are filthier (in the good way) at every position than BYU.Holly: Also, because their mascot spits BLOOD FROM ITS EYES and don’t you ever forget it."
Orson and Holly's Dialectical Picks: Week 8 - EDSBS
TCU men's basketball coach has team cramming for season Star-Telegram
BYU's Hall and TCU's Dalton are unknowns who win AP
TCU's terrific trio fuel Frogs' bid to bust up BCS Deseret News
ESPN deserves credit for visit Deseret News
'Gameday' putting spotlight on Provo Deseret News
More raw emotion from Bronco would help Y Salt Lake Tribune
Payback on his mind Salt Lake Tribune
TCU offers unique type of game-changing combination Provo Daily Herald
Game of the week: TCU heads to BYU with BCS birth on the line Sports Illustrated
The Wilbon Index: top college teams Washington Post
TCU vs. BYU, Bama vs. Tennessee and more picks ESPN