Friday, November 5, 2010

Game 10 Preview: Utah Utes.

Me: 24 Hours.

I had been meaning to get this preview started days ago so that I would be able to post it early this morning and let it have a full Friday’s worth of fermenting on this here blog, but I’ve had my hind parts clutched so tightly together all week just thinking about tomorrow, I was pretty terrified of what would happen when I unclenched long enough to dig into the matchups. Rest assured, I brought an extra change of underoos to work today for when the inevitable bottom drops out. While yesterday focused on the unquantifiable reasons why TCU will win the biggest game of the 2010s to this point, now we actually have to take a somewhat unbiased look at the two teams and see who has a tangible edge. It’s worth noting that, while I don’t agree with their final assumption, Utah fan siteBlockU put together a very solid, line by line breakdown of the game which compiles the stats in a very neat package.

Before I begin though, my initial thought without doing any research is that TCU wins by at least 10 points. I know the spread is only 4.5 and I know the teams are likely more reasonably matched than any of us want to give credit towards. I also know that Utah is and has always been TCU’s foil. Patterson may put the BYU helmet on hitting dummies in years past, but he was ultimately focusing on the wrong Mormon approved program in state of Utah. However, I also know that GP and the team know that this is it; if we lose to Utah this year, we’ll likely never get another shot at them. On the other hand, while Utah would certainly love to get revenge for last year’s beatdown, win the conference in their last year and hold bragging rights over TCU, they also take comfort in the knowledge that no matter if they end the year in the New Mexico Bowl – not happening, just saying – they’re still playing in their dream conference starting next year. Besides, they’ll still hold the overall record 5-4. GP sure as hell wasn’t going to lose the last one against BYU, I don’t think he lets this one get past him either.

Offense. This is definitely not an easy matchup to pick between simply because both schools run the same spread system, except each executes a different aspect better – Utah with the pass and TCU with the run. But for all the love Jordan Wynn gets as a passer, he and Dalton have fairly similar numbers. Sure, Wynn’s numbers are better, but here’s the comparison

PASSING

GP

Effic

Cmp-Att-Int

Pct

Yards

TD

Long

Avg/G

Wynn, Jordan

6

162.4

112-162-6

69.1

1431

13

71

238.5

PASSING

GP

Effic

Cmp-Att-Int

Pct

Yards

TD

Long

Avg/G

Dalton, Andy

9

158.7

143-217-5

65.9

1887

16

54

209.

Of course, Wynn did miss three games with an injury, but if you look at the averages, they’re pretty close. Still, Utah averages about 40 more yards per game through the air over TCU, so they get the nod there. But while some may complain about Dalton’s poor decision making, Wynn has thrown one more INTs than the Rooster, despite having 55 fewer attempts.

Where Andy clearly has an edge on Wynn is with his legs, and it’s not even worth comparing because Wynn doesn’t run the ball unless forced, and when that happens he does not do it with ease. It cannot be overstated enough how valuable Dalton’s maneuravbility is to this offense because when the pocket collapses or we clear out the middle of the field, he’s automatic for 5-10 yards every single time, if not more. He doesn’t look it, and I think it always shocks defenders when they see it for the first time, but he strides like a receiver and is down the field before they even know what the hell just happened. He’s not a speedster, but he runs a lot better than a 6-2, red headed white QB should.

Running the ball, I think you know who wins this one. Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata – holy crap how long has he played for Utah? – are very, very nice backs. We know this, we’ve seen them ply their trade. And they split carries extremely evenly – Wide has 98 attempts, Asiata 104. Each averages 61 yards per game. Each also gains five yards per carry on the ground, which should tell you that when the Utes absolutely need short yards, they’re bound to have two reasonably fresh backs ready to go for an automatic first. They’ve also combined for 15 TDs on the year. Overall Utah has the 27th best rushing attack in the NCAA at 190 yards per contest which is admirable… but they’re not keeping Ed Wesley up at night.

Of course you know by now, Ed Wesley is pretty good. Despite missing half a game while being concussed, Wesley has run the ball 138 times at an average pace of 104 yards per game and 10 TDs. His 6.8 yards per carry average is just jaw dropping, especially when you look at his size. And to think, there were rumblings of him being the odd man out in the rotation this year and making a move to slot receiver might best serve the team. That’s probably why I get paid over $2 million less for my thought processes than does GP. And Matthew Tucker, despite rumors to the contrary, has actually had a pretty nice year, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, 53 yards per game and tallying 6 TDs. And then of course there’s Waymon James who, despite rumblings last year of commitment issues – the blogosphere, god bless it! – is quickly climbing the ranks as 1B to Wesley’s 1A. He only has 42 carries, but he makes the most of those, scoring 3 TDs and matching Wesley at over 6 yards per carry. Utah should expect a heavy dose of those two for most of the evening.

But let’s say both of these two defenses shut down the opposing run games and it comes down to who can move the ball through the air. On the surface, you have to like Wynn over Dalton simply because, unless Andy is locked in, he can be erratic and his being able to use to run game to open up the pass is a huge part of his game. To be fair, it likely favors the Utes, due to their prolific receiving combo of Jerome Brooks and Devonte Christopher. Christopher especially has a way of stretching the field, averaging over 70 yards per game and 20 yards per catch. Teague, take note, although I'd bet he lines up to McCoy's side more often than not. The two have combined for 9 TDs and over 1000 yards on the year, despite playing 3 games with a backup QB, albeit a very capable one. You’ve also probably heard of Shaky Smithson who, while most notably the best return man we’ve faced all year, also catches a few passes, averaging 18 yards per carry. From the few games I’ve watched of Utah, Smithson is susceptible to getting the fumbles, but as our corners are more lockdown, break up pass types, I don’t expect this to come into play very often because I don't think he's catching many balls. The Utes also get Wide and Asiata involved early and often in the passing game and they are the 3rd and 4th leading receivers on the team.

The TCU passing game is a bit harder to gauge simply because we’re so good at running the ball we don’t always have to go all out, but clearly we have weapons and we like to use them. We don’t have a true deep threat like Christopher – although Josh Boyce is QUICKLY filling that hole – but that’s not our style either. And when you have guys like Kerley and Boyce that can catch a short pass, make a move, and turn it into 20 yard gains, why take the risk? Our guys have their clearly defined roles and execute them very well – Kerley and Boyce are speed guys, Bart and JY are possession, and Antoine Hicks and Skye Dawson, on the rare occasion that they’re thrown too, are middle school recess, “go long so I can impress that 8th grade girl over there” type guys. Clearly we’re going to always go with the ground game first and foremost to see where that gets us, but if need be, you have to feel good about our receivers getting us some tough yardage.

So at this point, this one is unreal too hard to call. Wynn is the better passer by default because that’s his game and he puts up more yards, but Dalton is arguably more dangerous because of his legs. We have better running backs, but not by a huge margin, and they have two transcendent guys catching the ball, but we aren’t so bad ourselves. Looking at the overall numbers clouds the comparison even more because while Utah has a better scoring offense – 45 points to 40 for TCU, good for third in the country vs. our nine – we grind out more yards overall, 485 to 450. In a normal circumstance I’d consider it a cop out to call it even, but in this case who would argue with me? This game will be won by the defenses.

Edge – Hard Push.

Defense. Ah, NOW things are going to start looking a little brighter for the Frogs…. Right? RIGHT? Well, not exactly. TCU definitely features a better passing defense and overall defense because, let’s face it, who in the country can really compare? I think that has to be the most pleasant surprise for our defense this year because the boys up front get all the credit in most years. At 119 yards per game, we currently feature the top ranked pass D in the country and when you consider that we rank middle of the pack in interceptions, it’s clear that Jason Teague, TeJay Johnson, Colin Jones, the Cuba/Ibiloye duo and, as of late, Greg McCoy are as lock down as they come. We’ve sung Teague’s praises over and over and over again here, but let’s do it some more! Kid is UNREAL good. Can you imagine if he had stuck with LSU and they had him and Patrick Peterson in the defensive backfield this year? Even Les Miles couldn’t much that deal up. I tried to look for the stat and couldn’t find it, but I swear he’s only had like 2 passes completed to his side all year. That’s good stuff. For their part, Utah is quite intolerant to being passed on at 10th in the country and 165 yards per game… but they let Air Force throw for 200, so I’m questioning their overall sturdiness.

So while the passing defense has overshadowed the run for the Frogs this year, we still rank 9th in the country and hold teams under 100 yards per game on average; unfortunately, the Utes are only 5 spots and 4 yards behind us. It’s at this point that I’m forced to bring up the main asterisk in this comparison and that’s the absence of Kelly Griffin going forward. Even after last week watching DJ Yendrey and Braylon Broughton fill in admirably, that’s a HUGE loss. But… how huge is it? Allow me to be a devil’s advocate against Griffin here… or not AGAINST Griffin persay, more pro Yendrey and Broughton. Griffin is what he is – a huge body to fill the middle and collapse the pocket. He’s not going to make a ton of tackles or register many sacks, but that’s a testament to the respect offenses have for him as they’re not crazy enough to try and run through him. But, with Yendrey and Broughton, we offer a different look and perhaps more versatility. Neither guy is huge in the same way Griffin and Grant are, that’s obvious by looking at them. But what they lack in roundness, they make up for in speed and quickness and cause a completely different set of headaches for opposing interior linemen. Broughton, for one, has the speed and agility to get into the backfield and chase down a QB as well as anyone on our team not named Wayne Daniels. And while Yendrey may be young, he already has 3 sacks on the year. Utah is clearly going to be the best offensive line we’ve faced all year - they've only allowed 3 sacks even with an immobile QB - so this is certainly a trial by fire kind of thing. Utah DOES love to cram the ball up the middle, so not having Griffin does hurt, but perhaps having two guys fully capable of getting in the backfield and making Wynn skittish will also keep the running backs on edge? Stay tuned.

The player to watch out for, as commenter Brandon has reminded us, is CLEARLY reserve safety and noted assmouth Greg Bird, he of the 14 tackles on the year. So, if he’s on his game, we’re surely fucked. But, assuming we’re able to shut down his royal awesomeness, there are a few more guys to watch out for, notably linebackers Chaz Walker, Matt Martinez and Chad Manis. Walker, especially, has made his impact known this year with 61 tackles, 6 of those going for a loss. Martinez and Manis also have over 40 a piece. However, the real terror might be sack machine Lamar Chapman out of the defensive backfield. Check these numbers – 42 tackles, 9.5 for loss and 5.5 sacks! As a DB! That’s Hodgesque right there. He also breaks up passes and forces fumbles – 3,2 – and could be the difference between TCU winning and losing this game. Well, that’s perhaps a tad dramatic, but he’s clearly going to have an impact on the game and our backs and tight ends better be ready to chip him from the outside or it’s going to be a long day for one Andrew Dalton. The receivers better be ready for some blocking duty as well.

But, TCU isn’t exactly lacking in the linebacker department as Tanner and Tank have 110 tackles between them with 4 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Tank also has one of the more acrobatic INTs you’ll ever see. Speaking of TDs, TCU has 7 on the year. Utah? Also 7. Turnovers forced? 13 each. Sacks? 23 for Utah, 20 for TCU. Red zone defense? 12th for Utah, 17th for TCU. See what I was talking about with that evenly matched stuff? Both teams are incredibly stout on third down while on defense– 1st for TCU, 5th for Utah – and while Utah has the edge in 4thdown defense, TCU has the overall edge, allowing only 8 points and 217 yards per contest. For full disclosure, that’s tops in the country, while Utah sitting closely behind at 5th.

So, much like the offensive battle, this one is EXTREMTELY hard to call. But, the overall numbers don’t lie and TCU has a better defense in my eyes. When you consider what we did to Oregon State, Baylor and Air Force, is there really any doubt? Pittsburg they are not.

Edge – Frogs, but CLOSE.

Special Teams. Heading into every game for the past two years, TCU could rest assured that, even if the defensive and offensive matchups were close, we were all but guaranteed to be better on special teams. But not this week. Shaky Smithson is the real damned deal and EASILY leads the Utes in all around yardage at 126 a game. His kick return yardage is very nice – 24.1 yards per, but take a minute to gather yourself before reading his punt return yardage. Ready? /deep breath - 23.3 yards per with 2 TDs. TWENTY THREE YARDS. Cri. Mi. Nal. By comparison, Mr. Kerlz averages 13.5. That’s nice… but man, 23.3 is just a LOT of yards. I mean, I’m not even going to argue.

Kicking, Evans is dead even with Utah Kicker Joe Phillips, and may actually be better. Evans is 6/6 on the year vs. Phillips at 9/10. But Phillips has been tested at longer yards, going 2-3 from over 40 while Evans only has one attempt at the range, although he made it. Still, obviously Evans, despite what he’s done this year and his reconciliation with longtime nemesis Texas Hammer, has a HUGE, BLOATED, PUSS FILLED asterisk next to his name when kicking in Utah. This one is even, but Utah probably has the edge based on that alone because this one could VERY easily come down to kicks. Don’t bring me down, Bruce/Ross.

Normally I wouldn’t touch too hard on punting, but with the talent on these two defenses, it’s almost certain some early drives are going to stall and the punter is going to have to set up some field position. Shockingly enough, this one is ALSO even. Like, so even that it’s not even worth reprinting the actual numbers. Just trust me. At least we have the weight advantage.

Edge – Utah.

Overall. Man, that 10 point advantage is looking WAY overblown right now and in fact, if I were inclined I’d strongly consider taking the Utes to cover. This game is evenly matched in almost every single way. Just when I’d think we clearly had an advantage, the facts would disprove everything I had built up in my mind. This was a pretty disheartening exercise and it’s looking a LOT like 2008. And, if you ask both coaches, both of these teams are actually more talented than those, so it could be even more of a death match. But, I think we combine for more than 23 points, and especially more than 20 before the final minute.

However, just to check myself, I took a peek back at my clearly overly confident judgment of the Fiesta Bowl to see where I stumbled in making the pick. For one, I clearly underestimated the Boise defense as I suggested we’d win 35-21. For another, I didn’t consult Captain Hindsight an factor in 3 Andy Dalton backbreaking picks. But, this game is different for a couple of reasons. One, this Utah team is not as good as that Boise team. That’s not to take anything away because this Utah team is very good, but the Broncos were VERY good, had been tested a bit, played together as well as any team I’ve ever watched and Chris Petersen may be the most tactically sound coach in the country. It may be biased since they beat us, but that’s how I feel. Second, that was one of the few times Patterson admitted he didn’t have the team ready to play and that they werent’ ready for the magnitude of the occasion. Besides, we’d reached a BCS game and beaten our opponent the year before, so why couldn’t it happen again? You don’t have to worry about this for this game. There’s NO CHANCE GP doesn’t have our guys ready to play and if they lose it will be because Utah is better, not because they weren’t up for it. I think this will be a slow starter and that we’ll have to smoke about a pack of cigs to calm our nerves before it starts to take shape. I don’t think Dalton will have a big game through the air, but I do think he keeps the Utes off balance with his legs. Ed Wesley will do the rest. As for our defense, we’re going to give up more than one TD. This much I know. But, I think Jordan Wynn is going to have more than a few flashbacks to last year and he’s going to quickly realize that while Air Force has a good defense, he’s never seen anything like this. I think Greg McCoy, nursing a minor injury, will get picked on and beaten at least once. However, TeJay will provide a safety net in the passing game and Colin Jones will provide one up front and we crush some promising drives all afternoon. It won’t be a runaway Frogs victory, and it won’t be pretty, but at the end of the day we pull it out. Get your brown drink, Parliaments, weed, valium and summa dat blue meth ready, because your brain is going to need some foreign substances to process this one.

The Pick – Frogs 24, Utes 21.

Ross Evans in Red Dead Redemption opens up the scoring for TCU and it ends up being the difference. We don’t give him the opportunity to get late game jitters this go around. Frogs win, everyone collapses in a sweaty, bourbon fueled heap, and we tick off the days until the BCS committee announces their decisions. Go Effing Frogs.

What we're up against:



Godspeed to all of you making the trek out to Salt Lake. Hope you don't run into any ruffians like these guys...

Spitblood predictions: The Utah Game


(Keep watching for the completely-normal song at the 4:40 mark)

I've got an out of town meeting this afternoon, so I wanted to make sure I got this posted before I have to leave. I've been watching so-called "experts" making their predictions on this game all week, but I want to know what the readers of Spit Blood think. Let me know your predicted final score, who you think Lee Corso will pick on Game Day, players of the game for offense, defense and special teams, and what the end result of the developing Cam Newton story at Auburn will be.

Gameday Weather

Fortunately the giant weather dong will miss SLC this weekend.
For those of you who are so obsessed with every detail of this game from our hotel accomodations, to making sure we pack the proper cleats, to acceptable pre-game meals (I hear Jimmy Young is prone to Randy Moss blowups when it comes to food), you'll be glad to know that the weather for Salt Lake City at the time of kickoff seems to be ideal, according to weather.com. High of 71, low of 48 (which wont matter during the game), winds of 5-10 mph.

Seeing as how we've had our struggles offensively in the past in freezing cold games, it's good to know that the weather in Salt Lake will be warmer than it is in Fort Worth. Now if only we were capable of overcoming that damned undefeatable altitude problem we have...

History Lesson: Deseret

For those of you that actually pay attention to the Morning Dump, you've probably noticed quite a few articles over the years from a publication called Deseret News during weeks in which the Frogs are taking on either Utah or BYU. Like many of you, for a long time I assumed this was an unintentional mispelling of "desert" on the part of Spit Purple. Then I actually looked into it, and found that Deseret was actually the original name of the state that the Mormon settlers wanted to establish with the United States, and that it's proposed boundaries extended into the present-day boundaries of every MWC state, except for Texas. Anyway, I figure I'm not the only complete dork who might be interested in this little bit of history, so here, read about it yourself.
Saturday's ballgame:

Patterson says TCU's success has it's price Star-Telegram

Utah's Wynn grew up from last season's debacle against TCU Star-Telegram

TCU-Utah preview Star-Telegram

End of MWC rivalry for TCU and Utah Star-Telegram

National attention focuses on Utah ahead of TCU game KSL-TV, Salt Lake City

Utes must rob TCU QB of his confidence Salt Lake Tribune

Utah crowd plays into win streak Salt Lake Tribune

Special teams could be special Saturday Salt Lake Tribune

TCU's Dalton has all the goods Deseret News

For a change, conference game really is what matters Deseret News

Returners Smithson, Kerley among best in business Deseret News

Utes QB coach Brian Johnson knows about Frogs Deseret News

Utah preparing for ESPN Game Day hoopla Deseret News

TCU sets sights on national championship Daily Utah Chronicle

TCU and Utah get a taste of the big time Boston Globe

Unbeatens TCU, Utah finally reach showdown Rivals.com


BCS:

Throw out the scores? The BCS does Star-Telegram

TCU can only control itself as race for BCS continues Dallas Morning News

Bowl projections NBC Sports

Utah Attorney General meets with Justice Department about BCS Deseret News

TCU, Utah or Boise State could take Pac 10's spot in Rose Bowl Seattle Times

TCU a step closer to BCS Title Game St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Big East:

A lot to work out in a potentially bloated Big East ESPN

Speciall all-expansion mailbag ESPN

Big East expansion makes it look small Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Who should the Big East add? Rivals.com

TCU, the Big East, the MWC, CUSA and the WAC: Connecting the dots San Jose Mercury-News


Current/Former Player news:

Bart Johnson receives academic honor gofrogs.com

Jerry Hughes makes presence felt Indianapolis Star