Don't know about you guys, but I miss our old duds.
To close out our Rose Bowl previews - well, there will be a special teams preview, but that's only out of necessity and who cares? - we'll finish up with the only #1 ranked individual unit on either team, the TCU Horned Frogs secondary. It's feels a bit funny to type that about a Patterson coached defense, but the secondary has overshadowed the front seven all year and deserves all the hype coming its way. How Jason Teague wasn't an All-American is beyond me, but hey, motivation.
Jay Valai - Sr. 5'9", 205 lbs.
Devin Smith - Jr. 5'11", 185 lbs.
Niles Brinkley - Sr. 5'10", 190 lbs.
Shelton Johnson - 6"0, 180 lbs.
Dezmen Southward - Fr. 6'2:, 205 lbs.
Aaron Henry - Jr. 6'0", 204 lbs.
Antonio Fenelus - Jr. 5'9", 190 lbs.
Colin Jones - Sr. 6'0", 208 lbs.
Tejay Johnson - Sr. 6'1", 212 lbs.
Tekerrein Cuba - Jr. 6'4", 210
Alex Ibiloye - Sr. 6'0", 195 lbs.
Jason Teague - Sr. 6'2", 197 lbs.
Greg McCoy - Jr. 5'10", 181 lbs.
Travaras Battle - Fr. 6'0", 180 lbs.
Malcolm Williams - Sr., 5"11, 200 lbs.
Jurrell Thompson - So. 5'11", 216 lbs.
Sorry for the overload there, but both teams feature a pretty solid rotation of secondary players, and that goes the extra mile for TCU as we feature five of them on any given play. First, the enemy.
The two studs of the Badger defensive backfield would be Fenelus and Henry, who both had 53 tackles on the year and combined for 6 INTs. Fenelus, especially, has a nose for the ball as he accounted for 4 of those and recovered two fumbles. For his part, Henry recovered 3. The Wisconsin offense is going to get tons of credit - and it should - but the defense isn't too shabby either and would be what the ESPN's call "opportunistic." They finished the year with 14 interceptions, although the linebackers and defensive linemen account for an inordinate amount of those with six of the 14. When you have that kind of production out of players you typically don't associate with picking off passes then, yep, I suppose opportunistic would be the appropriate word. Bravo, Rod Gilmore!
Safety Jay Valai finished third in the group in tackles, parking - see what I did there - himself into 39 ball carriers and picking off a pass. As a whole, the unit gave up 19 TDs through the air, which is pretty middle of the pack, but those 14 picks rank in the upper echelon of all D-1 teams. They also only gave up 105 first downs through the air all year. Teams only attempted 28 passes per contest against the Badgers, and completed 16, around 57%.
One thing that really stuck out to me, although it won't have any direct bearing on the game, is the amount of Wisconsin D backs from the Metroplex. Jay Valai is from Colleyville Heritage, Devin Smith is from Coppell and Shelton Johnson is from Carrollton. You always hate for local players to end up out of state, and when you have to face off against them it hurts even more, but hopefully this will add a bit of an edge to a game that mainly features a bunch of faceless opponents. Resident HS football expert lyle lanley would have to help me out on the potential rematches we might face here, but with all the players we have from the area, you have to imagine some of the guys know one another. But still, familiarity with your opponent can only get you so far, and while it certainly can't be viewed as a bad thing, I definitely don't expect it to turn the tide one way or another.
Wisconsin is going to blitz us hard from the edges first, but when Dalton has time to throw, it's not going to be like watching Antoine Hicks against New Mexico and I wouldn't expect Dalton to have a Baylor-esque day either. The Badger backs may not be the biggest, but if Dalton hangs a few floaters as he has a tendency to do in these games, it could be a repeat of the Fiesta Bowl.
All of that being said, then you have the Frogs and, ladies and germs, this is maybe the most lopsided of all the comparisons, although that's not saying much because everything else was so close. Without even getting into individual numbers - although Colin Jones' 70 tackles are shocking - TCU is heads above any other team in the NCAA when it comes to passing defense. A brief rundown:
Completions per game - 12.1. Rank: 1st.
Completion % - 48.0. Rank: 1st.
Total Passing Yards - 1505. Rank: 1st.
Yards Per Game - 126.3. Rank: 1st.
TD's Allowed - 10. Rank: 4th.
First Downs Allowed - 58. Rank: 1st.
Attempts Per Game - 25.2. Rank: 7th.
Picks - 12. Rank: 12th.
I'd do the comparisons with Wisconsin, but they aren't close. In fact, in some cases, it's not even worth mentioning the second place overall team, such as is yards per game where we lead the next best team by 20, or first downs allowed where it's closer to 20. I'm not sure what got into these guys this year - although a recent run on highly ranked DB recruits, plus 5 seniors certainly helped - but my goodness they were terrifying. I'm not sure how many times Jason Teague ended up being thrown to overall to end the regular season, but we all should remember how that number was 1 until midway through the year. Did you hear about how Jordan Wynn isn't playing in the bowl game? I hear it's because, after our game, he decided to quit football. So far that rumor is unconfirmed, though.
Really, this should be the area where we feel the most confident heading into this game. TCU clearly isn't going to go up and get many picks, but that isn't our style. The size of our DB's allows then to play physical with receivers, who are typically bigger than the average DB, and they have enough speed to keep up and break up passes, assuming the receiver even gets a good look. Scott Tolzien may have won the Unitas Award as the top senior QB in football - over Andy Dalton, you'll recall - but I don't think you'll see him put that arm to much use on New Years Day. Of course, Wisconsin has proved that they can win games, and win them handily, by being a one dimensional run team, but I'd venture to say the odds are always going to be better when you shut down one aspect like we should.
The Badgers passing defense may be a lot better than you'd imagine, but no one touches the Frogs in this one.
Edge - Frogs.