The real live, actual preview of the Death Match will be up and running tomorrow - complete with out of context statistics and everything –but before we get into that, I thought it may be a joy to take a look at some of the tangibly intangible tangibles for the game and offer up some thoughts on why they’re in our favor. Let’s have a looksee.
The “BlackOut” Curse. Ok, so I realize Utah beat us two years ago while pulling the same blackout stunt, but hear me out. Other than that game, when has that shit EVER worked other than when the Frogs pull it out? The most recent notable example is Alabama/Georgia a few years ago when the Tide berch slapped the Dawgs. And while the idea of the blackout is mostly to provide intimidation and fan unity, it’s also kind of Boise-ish in the way that it make the football very difficult to see when floating against that backdrop… at night. This game is in the day time though, so that affect will be negated somewhat. And while the Utes may get a bit of a karma boost by parlaying their blackout into a camo/Wounded Warrior Project situation, I don’t think lightning strikes twice in Salt Lake. And really, to go against my beliefs and be a wet blanket fan for a bit, we never should have lost that game, no? Kudos to Utah for holding us to drives that resulted in missed field goals… but had we made those, TCU would’ve been the ones curb stomping Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Not trying to say that TCU should’ve won, just that if the bad mojo created by the blackout for the opposing team was as strong as suggested, then Utah should’ve won going away considering the opportunities we gave them.
Gameday Ups the Pressure for the Favorite. Another one that mostly holds true – see South Carolina/Alabama, Mizzou/OU, Ohio State/Wisconsin - but, as the Frogs proved last year, they’re more than capable of winning when the pressure is turned up the highest. I remember traveling to Provo last year for the first Gameday experience of 2009 and actually being a little bit terrified. Not just because we were traveling into a mysterious land where they kill non-Mormons for sport and the white women won't even look at you, but because I thought with TCU riding the highest expectations in several years and being favored in the game, BYU had a very legitimate shot at riding the national spotlight to a hard fought victory. Well, we know how that turned out. A young Frogs offense embraced the experience and absolutely DESTROYED a team that was expected to win the MWC last year. And Jerry Hughes may have played a small role.
And then when Gameday returned for the Utah game, TCU, while certainly favored, definitely could’ve let the exposure and hype get to them… except they blew the doors off of Amon G and the game was never a contest. Needless to say, I don’t think the presence of Corso, Herbstreit and Company is going to have much, if any, effect on this game, and certainly not a negative one. It will be interesting to see how the Frogs react when/if Corso picks against them with the headgear, but based on how GP exploits bulletin board material, I think that can only help us. Corso is 0/1 against us this year. I don't expect the percentage to change.
The No Respect Factor. Clearly whenever TCU or Utah go up against a major conference school, the energy is ramped up to 11 simply based on the “Really? These guys are in a BCS Conference?” factor and we typically kick the crap out of them. But what happens when BOTH schools are respected, yet disrespected at the same time? Does this factor cancel out? In this case, I suppose it’d work in Utah’s favor as they’ve been held down all year as a result of Boise and TCU leading things off to start the year. On the other hand, despite TCU being favored, I’ve seen VERY few outlets picking the Frogs to win this one. It’s fair enough – on a neutral field I think we’re clearly better, but playing in front of a rowdy crowd in SLC makes this one a pick em to me. And while Utah has had some impressive victories this year, at least where margin of victory is concerned, the fact remains they still have one of the weakest schedules in the country, even compared to TCU, and their struggles with Air Force last weekend should make this an instance where the Frogs are clearly the better team. Both teams will play the no respect card before, during, and after this one, but I think that it may actually favor TCU.
Streak Buster. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Utah has a 21 game home win streak on the line this weekend. That’s a pretty intimidating stat and it’s very apparent that the Utes take a lot of pride in protecting their house. When you consider that TCU has never won a game in Salt Lake – 0-3 all time – that streak looks even more daunting. However, if you’ll recall, the last time Utah matched up against the Frogs with a big time win streak intact, the game ended with said streak…outtact. And that last time a team had a pretty nice little thing going with a home win streak, after they played the Frogs, OU had to start a new one. By the way, OU hasn’t lost a home game since that day. Just goes to show that all streaks have an eventual breaking point. So, while the Utes home field advantage is going to get all the hype, be aware that TCU has a couple of streaks of their own to protect – 22 game regular season win streak, for one- and that no home field is truly impregnable… even Harvey Unga’s girlfriends. Zing!
Revenge. I think this is probably the biggest intangible that you’re going to hear about all week. REVENGE! /ominous organ sound. And, obviously last year the revenge factor played itself out very well. But, doesn’t anyone remember the 2006 and 2007 seasons where the Utes beat us both times? And those losses, while not all as soul crushing as 2008, were certainly gut punches each time, especially the Thursday nighter in Fort Worth. I’m just saying, we have some catching up to do if we’re going to right the revenge ship. Utah is obviously still anguished over last year’s result, as they should be because we made the Utes look like the lady in the video above, except for a full 60 minutes. But, overall the Utes are 5-2 in the series, and they have a golden parachute into the Pac 12 after this season is over. The Frogs do not. And we still have 25 players from the 2008 team who will be suited up Saturday. Patterson, especially, can remind you how everyone felt about that one after it was over. Don’t you think that kind of BCS road block, football in groin loss sticks with a team more than a pounding that may have knocked you out of the conference title race, but you still finished with 3 losses anyway? If anything, WE should be the angrier team this year. It’s our last shot at a team that got the break we so covet and who has an extra BCS game to boot. Utah may be able to live off the fumes of last year’s defeat for a while, but we have has been fermenting for years. It’s getting let out Saturday.
We Own Saturdays and Day Games. Seriously, look it up. Over the past six seasons, TCU is 29-1 in day games and 55-4 when playing on Saturdays. OU accounts for one of those losses, another is the SMU debacle and the other two are from the 2007 season that shall not be named. In other words, unless we’re up against a truly superior team - or a truly terrible one -we’re not losing on a Saturday, period. I’m not trying to say that Utah isn’t a better team because at the end of the day they might be, and they're certainly not a terrible one; I’m just suggesting that, if trends hold true, we should be able to head home from Salt Lake with a win.
TCU Has Been Far More Impressive this Season. This is the one that I want to end it on because it really gives me the most hope. Yes, I do realize that comparing apples to apples doesn’t always give you a good indication of where a team is; apples to oranges makes things even more dicey. But, since the Utah game has been the only thing I could really think about this season after we beat Baylor, naturally I’ve looked at the schedules. Clearly TCU’s best wins on the year are Oregon State and Baylor. I’m not even sure who else you could include in that discussion. Baylor currently sits atop the Big 12 South, is in the top 25 and is actually going to a real life bowl game. Optimism is riding high and RG3 still thinks the game was a fluke. In case you forgot, we beat them by 35 points without even trying. Oregon State currently sits in the “others receving votes” category in all polls, but they did pistol whip Cal this past weekend, played Boise State tough and are a 2 OT loss to Washington away from being undefeated in the Pac 10. Despite this, they control their own destiny in Utah’s future conference and are the only thing standing between Oregon and the BCS title game. Not a bad little resume. TCU played one of its sloppiest games of the season against Oregon State, yet the game never really looked out of hand, did it? Perhaps it was Cowboy-rita infused optimism.
Utah, on the other hand, has one “signature win” on the year against Pitt in their opener, a game which the Utes won in overtime. Pitt, in case you need reminding, was CRUSHED at home by a Miami team that is going to fire their coach at the end of the year and lost another one to Notre Dame. NOTRE DAME. The Irish are currently on a two game skid after running up against juggernauts Navy and Tulsa. Navy just lost to Duke at home. Tulsa lost to SMU. And Utah needed OT at home to beat these guys? Hmmm. Oh, they’re the Big East leader at present… but what does that even mean? In other news PLEASE LET US IN BIG EAST! I’LL BUY LIFETIME ORANGE BOWL TICKETS AND EVERYTHING!
As for comparing apples to apples, we have UNLV, Colorado State, Wyoming and Air Force to judge. Clearly Colorado State wasn’t our best effort, so Utah’s 59-6 blasting shouldn’t leave any unanswered questions. The Wyoming game swings in our favor as our 45-0 blanking is superior to their 30-6, and the UNLV games are very comparable, even when you consider we sleep walked through the second half. However, the one where you can draw a pretty clear comparison is against Air Force. I’m intimately familiar because the Utes 28-23 squeaker blew one of my countless blown parlays last weekend. And sure, you have to take into account that playing in Colorado Springs is never an easy win – we know. Oh we know – but still, did anyone actually watch the game?? Utah gave up over 400 yards of offense, including 201 PASSING! PASSING!!! The Falcons easily outgained them on the offensive side of the ball and Air Force even got a little frisky and turned it over FIVE times. FIVE!!! And you STILL only win by 5 points, aided by a couple of four and outs by Air Force? Hmmm. I think the only stats we need to remember from our game are the final score and Ed Wesley out rushing Air Force by himself. Like I said, it’s dangerous to make these direct comparisons, but Air Force is the only truly decent team Utah has played all year… and they nearly squandered their perfect season a week before they had to. That has to make you feel alive.
As I said, these are all completely bullshit reasons why TCU should feel good going into Saturdays’ contest and you certainly can’t take any of them to the bank. But seeing as how this is this year’s biggest game in TCU history, the more optimism we can drum up, the better I say. I’ll be back tomorrow with a seemingly more in depth look at the game.