Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fiesta Bowl Round-Up and Prediction.

Spit, Frogs. Spit.

So this is it – the last piece I will write before the New Year and the last piece I will write about the upcoming game. All things considered, at least judging from the amount of postings and the site meter, it looks like folks sure haven’t sold themselves on the game yet. If there’s one thing we try and teach here it’s opponent hate, and I would hate to think that we haven’t done a good job of that. Sure, you should have enough self motivation to trigger your hate left over from last year, and if that didn’t work you only need remember that the only reason we aren’t playing Pasadena next week is because Colt McCoy was lucky enough to not get snake bitten by his own lack of knowledge of the rules. Still though, we have the biggest game of the Patterson era coming up on Monday evening and we all need to be ready.

I have several reasons for doing these previews. Mostly, I like to educate myself about the opposing team – if anyone else learns something from me, that’s just a bonus because I genuinely do not care. I also like to see if what we’ve done all year will continue to work against said team and also find out a few tidbits of information about players and coaching staff that we can use against them and their fans. Unfortunately for this second part, there wasn’t much – Kellen Moore is a mouth breather, Byron Hout got KTFO, and they hurt their best playmaker by unnecessarily going for two early in a game. That’s really about it. Still though, I think got enough information about the Broncos to put together a decent little round of previews, and now I want to bring it all back together.

Last night I had someone ask me how I felt about the game as he thought that we should win by about two touchdowns. Honestly, I couldn’t argue with him – I’m a confident guy about our team and have more or less talked myself into Boise’s injury situation. Our defense is good enough on its own to stop Boise; now with the help we’ve been given, I don’t see how they get anywhere near their season average. Potentially not having Austin Pettis is a HUGE loss for that offense, but even if he does play, you’re still only getting about 75% of his A game, which should more than compensate for our presumed lack of Rafael Priest covering him on the outside. Still, the loss of their starting right tackle – if you did your reading, pupils, you’ll know that he’s their version of most team’s left tackle- could be monumental. Don’t think that Jerry Hughes isn’t licking his chops just thinking about teeing off on Moore all night. They did a fine job bottling him up last year but unfortunately, despite his numbers, Hughes is even more of an animal now, and he hasn’t feasted in over a month. Boise may have the highest scoring offense in the country, but only two teams this season have gone over 17 points on us and, although this will easily be the best offense we’ve faced this season, without them being able to fire on all cylinders, I see them having more than a few problems picking up 6 on each drive.

Obviously the major difference between this year and the last is that we now officially have an offense to complement our defense. As I said, Boise has an absolutely nasty defensive secondary, so don’t expect for Dalton to come out and look like Drew Brees circa two months ago, but, as you all should know, that’s not the name of our game anyway, and the run game is where we will win or lose. Against the Miami, Ohios and UC Davises of the world, Boise’s run defense looked pretty solid; against the big boys? Not so much. In six of their thirteen games, the Broncos gave up at least 100 yards rushing; in 3 of those games, they gave up at least 200, including a 342 yard explosion to Fresno State. By contrast, Wyoming and their dismal run D gave up less than 200 to the same Bulldogs. Let’s just say the Boise front seven hasn’t exactly stepped it up in big games. Oh yeah, and TCU has rushed for over 100 yards in every single game this year, including 200 five times and 300 four times. Unless the Broncos can stop that bleeding, this could get ugly in a hurry.

To give you a better picture, let’s take a look at the overall unit matchups.

When Boise passes the ball… 269 yards per game for (32) vs. 152.8 yards per game allowed (5).

When TCU passes the ball… 218 yards per game for (78) vs. 178.2 yards per game allowed (14).

When Boise runs the ball… 194.5 yards per game for (20) vs. 80.5 yards per game allowed (3).

When TCU runs the ball… 256.5 yards per game for (5) vs. 126.8 yards per game allowed (40).

If you didn’t catch my drift earlier about our run game being the difference maker, that right there should demonstrate pretty clear what I was going for.

What I think will happen: Obviously Boise will come out early and try and establish the passing game, while TCU will do just the same with our run game. As you can see, TCU ranks pretty favorably in every category except passing offense, while Boise ranks highly everywhere except run defense. Still, the only matchup they win head to head is their passing defense is better than our passing offense. That’s it. We understand that our passing isn’t intended to blow teams apart, although with Antoine Hicks on board, it has been known to do that from time to time this year.

No, I expect us to play power, SEC style football here – translation: run the ball down their throats when we have it, and knock the piss out of them when they do. I’d be surprised if Dalton hits his season average in passing attempts to be honest, which is 23.5, and not a high ranking number. You do have to worry about Kellen Moore and his 10 games with at least 200 yards passing this year, but the fact that our defense has only allowed a 200 yard passer three times season makes me worry a bit less. Assuming we can keep their passing game quiet, which honestly won’t be as easy as saying “32 vs. 5” I see this one being a little easier for us than the Poinsettia Bowl.

Last year, we dominated the stat line, winning time of possession, total yards, first downs, third downs, rushing yards, and only were beaten by 25 yards in the passing game. Still, two interceptions ultimately kept it close and we were very fortunate to have a phenomenal defense keep us in it long enough to pull out the win. This year though? How can you not love the Frogs? Our performance in big games should be enough to swing the votes our way because we’ve proven when the stakes are the highest, we play our best. The only times we were truly challenged were games when the weather was a major factor, but seeing as how we’ll be playing indoors on arguably the most well maintained field in football – if you didn’t know, the field is retractable – that obviously will not be an issue. Plus, the team obviously thrived in the Utah game with the huge atmosphere, not to mention the pro combat unis which will be donned for this game. Considering this game is on the biggest stage most of these guys will ever play on, I expect us to show up fully focused and ready to whip some Donkey ass.

The Pick – TCU 35, Boise State 21.

Arriving in Scottsdale on Sunday afternoon – can’t wait to see everyone there. GO FROGS!