JJ Watt vs. Marcus Cannon
Hopefully more entertaining than a Manny Pacquiao fight.
After our less than informative trip through the offenses for TCU and Wisconsin, now it's time to turn our attention to the other side of the ball, IE just the way Patterson wants it. We'll start with the big boys up front on the defensive line.
Patrick Burtrym (6'4", 284)
J.J. Watt (6'6", 292)
Louis Nzgewu (6'4", 250)
Jordan Kohout (6'3", 290)
Wayne Daniels (6'2", 250)
Kelly Griffin (6'1", 310)*
Cory Grant (6'2", 305)
Stanlsy Maponga (6'2", 260)
*-my thinking, it's wishful.
Again, I repeat - who was it that called TCU's defensive line tiny by comparison to Wisconsin's O line? Because having over 600 pounds right in the middle of the thing is what I call the opposite of being small. Of course, like I noted above, Kelly Griffin's ankle is giving me the male equivalent of menstrual cramps right now - and Patterson's cautiously optimistic comments about the situation aren't helping either - but if he does NOT play, you have to feel pretty decent about the DJ Yendrey/Braylon Broughton pu pu platter that we've rolled out in his absence. However, Cory Grant's lane clogging ability is going to be a major factor in how we do shutting down the Wisconsin ground game. When you have over 600 pound of man hugging one another right in the vicinity of where you're supposed to run, I don't care if you're Barry Sanders, you're going to have a tougher time finding holes than the media wants you to believe. TCU is only allowing 3.1 yards per carry this year, and a 3rd ranked 89 yards overall. Going up against Wisconsin's 12th ranked ground attack, something is going to have to give. The pundits are going to suggest that we haven't really played a talented running team all year... I guess Air Force and their second ranked 318 rushing yards per game aren't good enough for some people. We held them to 184, to jog your memory. But, I understand their point - most teams in the MWC run a west coast, pass happy failfense and use the ground game as a second option. But ask MWC leading runner Ronnie Hillman what it's like getting raped all over the field all night to the tune of 54 yards and no TDs. I think his analysis might be a little bit different.
If you want numbers, Wayne is obviously the line leader with 33 tackles, including 12 for a loss and 6.5 sacks. These probably aren't as high as we expected from him this year, but there definitely aren't people complaining about his production. Despite missing a game, Maponga is right behind him with 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Given we, like a lot of defenses, rely heavily on run stopping tackles by linebackers and safeties, it's not surprising that Cory Grant and Kelly Griffin's tackle numbers don't reach 20, but their hole filling - HARF HARF! - has been as much of a factor in our dominant run defense as anything.
By this point, Patterson's reputation as a defensive genius, notably against the run, should get him a little more respect. However, as we've seen in the past, the man does extremely well when presented with opinions that run contrary to how he views himself. Should be fun to watch him unleash the hounds for all of America to see.
However, with all due respect to Wayne Daniels, Wisconsin very well may have the best defensive lineman on the field, if not the entire country with J.J. Watt. He didn't win the award - that would be Clemson manimal DaQuan Bowers - but his stats are absofreakinglutely outrageous. He's second on the team with 59 tackles, 40 of which are solo and - get this - TWENTY ONE for losses. Believe it or not, that leads both teams. By a mile. For a defensive end to be making that many tackles, he has to be extremely athletic, and this dude is seriously all over the field, as he has 7 sacks, 10 hurries - a stat that is extremely subjective so I'm going to go ahead and say that number is a BIT low - a pick, multiple pass break ups and, just for the Xmas season, a partridge and a pear tree. Watt would probably be a first round draft pick next year... except he's only a junior! Have fun with that next year, Legends. Watt will be the key difference between the Frogs winning and losing this game. Marcus Cannon is as good of a left tackle as there is out there and will be playing for big money next year, but the football gods definitely saved his biggest test for last.
But, Wisconsin has other players on the defensive line too, starting with Louis Nzegwu. It's hard for anyone to stand out given Watt's dominance this year, but Nzgewu is also very good, finishing his year with 45 tackles, including 7 for a loss, and 3 sacks. It does drop off a little after that - Patrick Burtrym only had 27 tackles, Jordan Kohout 22, but a lot of that can be attributed to the line rotations stretching their numbers thin, much like TCU. Also ranking high on the line in tackles were Ethan Hemer, Pat Muldoon - which is just a pretty great midwestern defensive lineman name - and Beau Allen, so watch for those guys to have an impact.
It's hard to compare two defenses based on numbers alone, because very few folks run TCU's 4-2-5 soul crushing attack. So it's kind of misleading to give Wisconsin the edge based on a high volume of tackles from their front four, or to give TCU the edge based on better overall run stopping numbers. So I'm kind of at an impasse here. If Wisconsin's offensive line does what everyone expects them to do and completely overwhelms us while J.J. Watt continues his ridiculous season, then you have to give Wisconsin the edge. If the opposite happens, clearly it goes the other way. Kelly Griffin's health is a major, major obstacle to overcome and having him and his size that's normally reserved for barnyard animals might be enough to swing this in our favor. Call it a cop out, but until we know Griffin's status, this one feels like a big, fat incomplete.
Edge - Incomplete.