Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fiesta Bowl Preview: Receivers.

Expect this scene to be repeated a few times this bowl season.

Due to a significant lack of interesting things to do at work today, you get a double dose of previews! /recession’d. Following the quarterback theme from earlier, we’ll now take a look at the basis of a QB’s success, the receivers. Now, given Boise’s advantage in the QB department, you can pretty much draw the conclusion that the Broncos are going to win this battle as well, right? WRONG! well, perhaps right, but it’s worth a look anyway, especially now that Boise could be without one of their biggest playmaking receivers. For brevity, I’m only taking into account receivers with 10+ receptions.


Titus Young-JR, 5-11, 170. 2nd Team All-WAC.

71 receptions, 969 yards, 13.6 YPR, 10 TDs

Austin Pettis* - JR, 6-3, 201. 1st Team All-WAC.

62 receptions, 850 yards, 13.7 YPR, 14 TDs

Kyle Efaw-SO, 6-4, 229.

27 receptions, 369 yards, 13.7 YRP, 1 TD

Tyler Shoemaker - SO, 6-1, 207.

21 receptions, 345 yards, 16.4 YRP, 2 TDs

Kirby Moore - FR, 6-2, 196.

17 receptions, 214 yards, 12.6 YRP, 2 TDs


Jeremy Kerley- JR, 5-10, 192.

38 receptions, 467 yards, 12.3 YPR, 2 TDs

Jimmy Young - JR, 6-1, 204.

29 receptions, 449 yards, 15.5 YPR, 3 TDs

Antoine Hicks - SO, 6-2, 200.

19 receptions, 443 yards, 22.8 YPR, 6 TDs

Bart Johnson - JR, 6-0, 195.

30 receptions, 398 yards, 13.3 YPR, 2 TDs

Ryan Christian - SR, 5-11, 188.

19 receptions, 244 yards, 12.8 YPR, 3 TDs

Curtis Clay - JR, 6-1, 185.

16 receptions, 202 yards, 12.6 YPR, 2 TDs

Alright, so on the surface, Boise has more prolific receivers at the top two positions, which is mostly due to the offensive system. If you’ll notice though, these guys catch twice as many passes as our guys, and see the ball in the end zone a lot more, but pick up nearly the same amount of yards when they do touch the ball, and less in some cases. That’s not to say these guys haven’t gone deep – three Boise receivers have TD catches over 50 yards vs our one – but it’s not like they’re blasting down the field play after play and getting behind defenders for easy scores.

You’ll notice I put an asterisk by Austin Pettis’ name, and this is because they have no idea if he will play in the game. Before he went down with a broken ankle in the third to last game of the season, it’s pretty obvious that he was the man for this offense. 14 TDs on 62 receptions is great no matter how you try and spin it. However, even if he does play, how effective will he be coming off such a major injury? Will he or won’t he is arguably going to be the biggest determining factor in this game, although losing a starting tackle isn’t going to make matters any simpler. With Pettis, this Boise passing attack is much more damaging than anything we’ve seen this year. Without him it’s Titus Young and Kip Dynamite (Kirby Moore – Nap’s younger brother). Their third leading receiver, Kyle Efaw, is a tight end and, based on how more recognized tight ends such as Dennis Pitta fared against us this year, I wouldn’t expect a huge night out of him as long as Tank has something to say about it. Now, to be fair, in his two games without Pettis, Moore didn’t exactly fall into a rut, tossing 6 TDs and 0 INTs with over 500 yards of passing. To also be fair, those two games came against Nevada and New Mexico State who feature two of the worst defenses in the world. It’s going to be interesting to see how Pettis’ injury situation shapes up over the next two weeks because that will go a long way in determining this game.

For the Frogs, we all know exactly what we have. Jeremy Kerley is as explosive a playmaker as there is and is a threat to take the ball to the house just about every time he touches it. Jimmy Young, while having a down year in comparison to the last one, has a sneaky way of finding the seams in the middle of the field and picking up big gains. Antoine Hicks, while he only has 19 catches this year, has turned six of them into TDs and we all know that he’s the best receiver we have. When your best receiver is listed as a third starter, that’s going to create a LOT of favorable matchups. Even when he’s been covered by great backs, he’s found ways to slip past defenders and I have no doubt he can outrun just about any corner in college football.

Continuing, Bart Johnson is as sure handed as they come and Ryan Christian, despite the haircut, showed some serious moves in the latter half of the season, none better than his sideline catch against Utah that went for six. None of their numbers will dazzle you, but Dalton hit eight or nine different receivers in many games this year which didn’t allow defenses to key in on one single guy to shut him down. I don’t think anyone is going to complain about Dalton lacking a true “go to” receiver when you look at the overall offensive numbers.

One of the biggest differences between our two passing games is that Boise frequently involves a running back or a tight end – something that the Frogs almost completely shied away from this season. Boise starting RB Jeremy Avery and TE Kyle Efaw combined for 59 catches this season; Evan Frosch, Joseph Turner, Ed Wesley, Tanner Brock and Matthew Tucker, by comparison, combined for 21. You can look at this one of two ways. First, Boise’s passing game is going to be more difficult to defend because you have to defend the TE, RB and WRs on any given play whereas TCU is going to look out wide more often than not on passing downs. The other way is that TCU isn’t throwing to TEs and RBs because they’re running the ball down your throat to the tune of 256 yards per game. So what would you rather have?

As I mentioned earlier, the main determining factor is Boise’s gameplan, as well as that of deciding this matchup, is going to be the availability of Austin Pettis. Last year, Pettis had four receptions for 64 yards against our defense and overall, Boise had 222 yards, although most of those contributors are now gone. With Pettis, you can’t really make the comparison between us – we don’t have two guys who come close to combining for 133 receptions and 24 TDs and, with the healthy group of running backs we have for the next several years, we may never see anything like that. Could Antoine Hicks put up 75+ receptions and 10+ TDs if made the focal point of our offense? Honestly, I think the guy could win the Heisman if we let him. But, like I said, that’s neither here nor there given our offense, and I wouldn’t expect any big changes for such a big game.

Honestly though, without Pettis, I really would put our passing game up against the Broncos. The most recent bit of information I’ve read is that Pettis is going to be a game time decision but that he really wants to play – natch. However, a broken ankle occurring less than two months before this game really casts some doubts in my mind. I’m no doctor, and I’ve never had a broken ankle, but that just doesn’t sound like something you can recover from 100% in less than two months, even as a high caliber athlete. In that case, the biggest thing we will have to worry about is shutting down Titus Young and I have faith that the front seven isn’t going to let anything develop from the backfield or tight end positions. Besides, after giving Boise the QB edge earlier, do you guys really think I’m going to surrender two picks in the same day? You should know me better than that. This one’s for you, Buff.

Edge – Frogs*

*-assuming Pettis does not play. If he does, I’ll have to do some soul searching.

Fran passed over for UNLV job

Well, well, well. It looks like the guy who thought he was too good for TCU (who is ranked #3 in the AP Poll and about to play in the Fiesta Bowl) and Alabama (who is ranked #1 and about to play in the BCS Championship Game) has been given the ol' "thanks for coming in, we'll be in touch" from one of the bottom-tier programs of the Mountain West. UNLV instead chose to hire Bobby Hauck, who arrives in Sin City via the University of Montana, whom he just took to the Division I-AA Championship Game:

Sources: Hauck to replace Sanford at UNLV

I'm sure with the collective experience and connections of our entire Spitblood readership, we can come up with the perfect career advice for Mr. Franchione, right?

Fiesta Bowl Preview: Quarterbacks

Boise State Quarterbacks Coach Rico Dynamite.

Slogging through another one of these underreported and under-investigated previews, today we’ll take a look at the position by which both teams will be judged heading into this game: Quarterback. Now, Boise QB Kellen Moore may be classified as a mouth breathing tard face by many of his detractors, and you might be right, but the hidden truth is I kind of like the kid. Sure, he does bear a striking resemblance to Napolean Dynamite – also from Idaho – which makes me want to trot out all sorts of comparisons to Uncle Rico’s football career - something that can you for sure expect come post-Fiesta Bowl- but I’m not going to attack him just for the sake of it. At least not before touching down in Phoenix, that is. He is what he is though – a perfect prototype for Chris Peterson’s offense who is extremely accurate and doesn’t run his mouth like some of his teammates. This also probably explains why he hasn’t had his face rearranged by a feathery running back from the west coast, and that can only mean good things for the Boise program. He obviously doesn’t play for one of the power conferences, and I’m as quick as any to knock the WAC and what it does/doesn’t stand for, but if the Heisman hadn’t devolved into the “best player on the #1 team in the country” award, there’s no way this kid isn’t a finalist this year. Oh shit, sorry for that guys… I mean, HATE HATE HATE!!

All of that being said about Moore, there’s no denying my unabashed man-love for Andy Dalton. For those of you who regularly read our site, you’ll probably have caught on that one four lights my football pants on fire like no one has since Matt Jones at Arkansas in my pre-Frog days. What was once merely a way for me to be hard-headed against those who doubted him has now become the norm for most Frog fans. I say most because there are still some of those out there who don’t like the kid which baffles me to no end. In all fairness, I can say I slightly identify with you because it’s the same way I feel about Tony Romo or JJ Barea – they’ve both been undeniably terrible in the past and in no way deserve the success they have and it absolutely drives a knife into my soul whenever they are successful, although I will say I’m coming around on the midget. Still though, that's by no means an accurate comparison simply because, would anyone have ever considered Dalton to be "terrible?"

Which brings me back to the original point - how can you not like Andy Dalton!??! Perhaps it’s because we share a name or perhaps it’s because he’s carrying the torch for a dying breed – Gingers – and I have a soft, liberal heart somewhere below the surface. Honestly though? It’s just because he’s damned good at football. . The fact that our offense is increasingly run oriented, yet AD is going to become to greatest QB in TCU history should be proof enough, but look at the numbers. 2007 - 10TDs, 11 INTs; 2008 – 11TDs, 5INTs; 2009 – 22TDs, 5 INTs. Has anyone on our team improved the way he has throughout his career? He’s also improved these numbers despite dropping his pass attempts by 92 in two seasons. Also, how many times it the QB of a top 5 football team not a complete dickhead? I don’t personally know him, but from all accounts he’s a pretty solid guy. He also doesn’t bang his male roommate – a situation that can’t be overlooked when you’re evaluating QBs from the state of Texas. I’m fine with him not being in the Heisman talk this season – he simply didn’t have the numbers – but having been overlooked for the Davey O’Brien award which is named after an athlete from his school as well as awarded in his own city which has developed a T shirt fan base like no other is unacceptable. It should make Frog fans sick and, for that matter, should make football fans in general sick who have any ounce of knowledge about the game. Still, if flying under the radar gets us these kinds of results, then, unlike Michael Irvin, I’ll take the championships everytime.

Alright though – you probably are far more interested in how these two guys match up head to head as opposed to my borderline dangerous praise of them. Let’s stack them up side by side.

Kellen Moore – SO, 6-0, 187. 1st Team All-WAC.

254/392, 3325 yards, 64.8 completion %, 8.48 Yards per attempt, 39 TDs, 3 INTs, 5 sacks.

Andy Dalton – JR, 6-3, 215.

174/279, 2484 yards, 62.4% completion %, 8.9 Yard per attempt, 22 TDs, 5 INTs, 10 sacks.

Alright, so doing this arbitrarily by the numbers, which I must do because that’s the way I’ve done the rest of these and plan on doing them all, Moore is leaps and bounds a more prolific passer than Dalton. However, it’s not that easy, mostly because of one factor – Moore has thrown 113 more passes than Andy. The offenses are simply impossible to compare because of the way the passing game is treated – for them it’s the norm; for us it’s a way to bust open the occasional big play once the defenses minds are numbed from being gashed by the run and also to pick up quick, short gains. Moore also had an extra home game to build on his totals – against a TERRIBLE New Mexico State team where he added nearly 300 yards and a TD – which can’t be discounted.

Dalton threw a TD once in every 7.91 passes attempted while Moore came in slightly higher at once every 6.51. Since you can’t throw half a pass, you can safely round both numbers up and say that Moore only beats Dalton by one completion per TD. That’s a number I wouldn’t have thought would be so close considering how many TDs we scored in short yardage situations on the goal line and really sticks out to me. The fact is, while Moore may put up bigger numbers and throw fewer interceptions – he has Dalton greatly there in the numbers per attempt department – Dalton really isn’t that far behind.

Also consider that Dalton, despite his whiteness, is probably the most underrated mobile QB in the country. Would anyone outside of our fanbase think that the second leading rusher by attempts on our team would be… Andy Dalton with 107? Or that he’s fourth on the team with 522 yards rushing? By comparison, Kellen Moore has 23 carries on the season for -4 yards. Now, I’m not using this as some kind of end all comparison that Dalton is better because he can do two different things from the position; I just want to demonstrate how different the two are and how it’s hard to make a collective judgment on who is better.

Unfortunately though, making said collective decision is the burden I’ve chosen to bear so here it goes. Despite the competitive advantage he has faced in playing against WAC defenses – and, just to be even handed, I’m not suggesting bottom dwelling MWC defenses are any better, just that as a whole, TCU played better defenses – Moore has put up some serious, serious numbers, including three games with 5 TD passes. The overall numbers are really a lot closer than you think, with TCU having the 4th ranked total yardage offense in the country vs Boise at 8, but Boise took the edge with the 3rd ranked scoring offense versus our 5th. The passing game, though, is where I have to end my judgment, and Boise beats us coming in at 32nd to our 78th. It hurts me to do it, and there are certain factors – such as Moore losing his blind side tackle to injury as well as his second favorite receiver, Austin Pettis – that lead me to believe that Dalton has a good chance of outshining his counterpart come gameday, but for the time being based on the numbers, I’ll be charitable. Enjoy it while you can, Broncos.

Edge – Blouses.

Kerley love from ESPN Dallas

Check out ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett's article on Kerley's momentum changing ability.

Run, pass, catch...Kerley does it all

The article also features this Fiesta Bowl Preview from Ivan Maisel and and Pat Forde

This is pretty weird

Someone, I guess a TCU fan (?), spent what was probably a considerable amount of time on this.

BYU, Utah bowling tonight & tomorrow

One of the major problems with the Mountain West's bowl lineup is that most of the games are played before Christmas. The upside to that is that you've got something to watch on TV instead of those creepy clay-mation Rudolph and Abominable Snowman specials they've been running since before you were born. With Wyoming's double-OT victory over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl this past weekend, the conference is 1-0 this bowl season with a chance to push that to 3-0 in the next two days.
First up is #14 BYU playing in their fifth-consecutive Las Vegas Bowl (they're 2-2 in those games so far) tonight on ESPN against #18 Oregon State, who you might remember came within four points of winning the Pac 10 and going to the Rose Bowl. And since the Frogs are rumored to be kicking off the 2010 season against OSU, this will be your last chance to see the Rodgers brothers and the rest of the Beavers until then.

Then tomorrow night, also on ESPN, will be #23 Utah taking on California (oh I see, Poinsettia Bowl, now you get a Pac 10 team). The Utes have won an incredible nine straight bowl games, which means one of two things: they are either A) completely unstoppable in bowl games, or B) due for a loss.

Morning Dump

Hughes adds two more to long list of awards Star-Telegram

Hughes and LT on CFN all-decade teams

Ruzgas named Mountain West Conference player of the week GoFrogs.com

Cedar Hill DB Elisha Olabode orally commits to TCU
Dallas Morning News

What the 'experts' are saying
Idaho Press-Tribune

Broncos Coach peeks at game film of Fiesta Bowl opponent TCU
Idaho Press

Pendergast out with broken ankle; updates on Pettis, Shoemaker
Idaho Statesman

Franchione among two finalist for UNLV job

Top recruiting isn't a prerequisite for a BCS berth Wall Street Journal

Ten elite NCAA football schools to donate profits from Ebay auctions
of Exclusive Nike Gear Through CAFAmerica 'Donor Advised Fund' for Charities CAFA America Press Release