If scientists could create a drug that would temporarily disable these parts,
Tomorrow's game would be AWESOME.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I hate playing SMU. I actually think I hate the thought of playing SMU more than I actually hate them. It's a strange phenomenon because, truthfully, I've never actually had a legitimate reason to be wary of playing them before now. We've always clearly had the better team, even in 2005. It's just... their confidence... and arrogance... makes me want to put a letter opener into an electrical socket. And I hate it because this year the Ponies really do have a shot at winning assuming they jump out to an early lead. I've already resigned myself to this one being a dog fight. But then I see that we're a 12 point favorite... and that Cole Beasley isn't playing... and that Zach Line has a separated shoulder... and I just. can't. take it! Why do the sports gods keep teasing me like this? Why can't there just be an answer? WHY CAN'T WE HAVE A DEFENSE THAT DOESN'T GIVE UP UNDERNEATH PASSES AND A CROWD THAT DELIVERS A DECISIVE HOME FIELD ADVANTANGE??? AND WHY CAN'T I THIS CAPS LOCK key unstuck? Whew. There.
But really, what should we expect Saturday? Which TCU defense is going to show up? The mejia will have you believe that TCU has gotten better week by week defensively and if you look at the numbers it's true. However, it WOULD be true considering the quality of opponent has decreased substantially on a week to week basis, wouldn't it? Doesn't exactly help me sleep at night.
Enough grumbling though, on to the AWARD WINNING preview!
When them Frogs has that ball: I suppose I should start with the good stuff. Despite slow starts the past two weeks, the Frogs offense has been pretty damned great once they hit their rhythm. They've eclipsed 400 yards of total offense in all four games and have scored 35 points or more per game for the first time since 2005, which is pretty shocking when you consider how good Dalton's offenses were his last 2 seasons. TCU's offense is currently ranked 12th in the nation in points scored at 44, which is only half a point off last year's record pace. Not bad for a squad with 4 new offensive line starters, a new QB and without their leading rusher from the previous year. It's strange to think of TCU as an offensive minded team, but that's just what has happened under Fuenderson. The defense on the other hand... well, we'll get to that later.
First off, the big news of the week is the return of Ed Wesley. You'd be forgiven for letting this breeze past you based on the performance of Waymon James these past two weeks, but just imagine what he'll be like with a little extra rest while Wesley and Tucker take some snaps? And Wesley's return is pretty well timed as SMU is easily the best defensive front we've faced this year and, if trends hold, will face ALL year. At present they are only giving up 69 yards per game on the ground, including holding UTEP to 30 and Memphis to -14. Those are some Pattersonesque numbers right there. Of course we ARE talking about Memphis, UTEP and Northwestern State and when they played aggy they gave up 212 - 50 yards ABOVE aggys average - and 4 TDs. I'm not sure how our offense stacks up to that of the ags, but I'd say we're closer to them than we are to those other three. LBs Taylor Reed and the guy SnK referenced - I am not going to try and spell his name from memory - lead the way for the Pony front, racking up sacks and TFLs like their last names were Brock and Carder. They should present a pretty solid test for our boys up front, but if there's any team on SMUs schedule built to exploit run D deficiencies, I'll give us the nod.
If there is a weakness for SMU it's their relative inability to defend against the pass - we know something about that - giving up 188 yards per game. As an offense we are averaging 230.3 yards passing - a number that sounds lower than I imagined - and have 10 TDs. Clearly we seem to prefer "big" plays through the air for scores which, outside of the aggy game, is something the Ponies do not give up. However, they haven't been able to take advantage of too many errantthrows, only picking one on the year, and given Pachall will be one of the best QBs they face, here's to hoping that trend won't change this week. You'll hear a lot about Chris Banjo, but fellow DBs Ryan Smith and Kenneth Acker have actually been more productive. Still, aggy torched them through the air, UTEP did an admirable job and Memphis was at least proven to possess a real live actual QB with working arm. I'll give a little bit of credence to the UTEP win after watching a bit of their game against Houston last night, although it goes both ways. On the one hand, SMU held UTEP to 306 total yards; they had 533 last night. But on the other, SMU only put up 360 yards, a number that Houston doubled. It won't be a Baylor level aerial show for Pachall, but I think he'll be able to competently move the ball once our run game is done gashing the Ponies up front.
It won't be a points explosion for TCU, but assuming we can move the ball on the ground as we always have, there should be just enough openings in the secondary to zing a few deep balls.
Edge - Frogs.
When them Ponies has that ball: Aw geez, do we REALLY have to talk about it? As mentioned above, the good news is that leading WR Cole Beasley is, if not completely sidelined, at least hampered by an injury he suffered last week against Memphis. June Jones hasn't commented on the situation yet, so I wouldn't expect that to be known until gametime. Regardless, assuming he sits, the SMU and QB JJ McDermott are SEVERELY going to miss his catching ability as he leads the team in receptions with 31. He'd lead the team in yardage, too, if it weren't for his likely replacement, Darius Johnson and his 27 catches for 398 yards and 2 scores. You'll recall Darius Johnson as the young man who kept the Ponies in the game far longer than expected last year by leading the team with 72 yards, while Beasley had little impact. Fortunately Aldrick Robinson is no longer around, or we'd be looking at a very similar situation to last year, and that's not good for business.
The Ponies rank 15th in the country in passing yardage with 333 per game, and if that doesn't put the fear of God in you, I'm not sure what will. Ever since benching Yao, the SMU offense has kicked it up a notch and is more potent through the air now than they were all of last year with Mr. Write Check. So while you can't compare apples to oranges with different QB's, I'd say we have a lot more to watch out for this year than last. SMU averages 7.8 yards per pass and 13.5 yards per completion; the Frogs give up 7.8 yards per pass and 11.9 yards per completion. So... ferk.
And then of course there's Fatback Zach Line, who is second in the NCAA in rushing TDs with 11. I remember last year falling into the "fat white running back" trap and writing him off before he went and rushed for 139 yards against a defense FAR more talented than what we have this year. SMU only ranks 88th in overall rushing this year, and Line reportedly has a separated shoulder, although Felix Jones also had one this week and had the best game of his career. So... crap.
If there is one thing to latch onto its that SMU LOVES giving the ball away, having already tossed 6 picks - 3 for McDermott - and lost 6 fumbles. That's some symmetry I can get behind. At the same time though, our defense hasn't exactly been opportunistic, only picking two passes and forcing 6 fumbles. Look, I could go through our defensive statistics to fill some space here, but there's not really any reason to because you know them. We've improved, yes, but SMU is statistically MUCH closer to Baylor than they are to Air Force, ULM or PSU. The loss of Beasley hurts, and I think we will control Line better than we did last year, but I can't tell you we have an advantage here without being struck my lightning.
Edge - SMU.
Special Teams: TCU has two kick off returnmen with TDs, two shifty punt returners with big play abilities, a kicker who MAY have discovered the secret to success - hint: 7 hours of sleep and no sugar after 9- a punter who, despite one fail punt last week has put together a nice year and some of the better coverage teams in the country. The only battle SMU wins is of the "Margus Hunt has long arms" variety, so expect at least one blocked PAT. I'll be fair and point out that, as SMU hasn't let anyone score TOO much, they haven't had many return opportunities to show their business, but I feel confident in giving this one to the good guys.
Edge - Frogs.
What I Think Will Happen: Now, the hard part - how will this game play out? The SMU game is always a very difficult one to dictate beforehand because emotion plays such a large role. 2005 was won on emotion, and emotion kept the Ponies in the game a lot longer than we wanted last year. Fortunately, though, the Frogs seem to feed pretty well off the emotion of the home crowd, not having dropped a game in this series in FW since 1993 when the SWC was still in existence. Unfortunately, our home crowd has 99 problems and attendance IS one, although I have a pretty good feeling it will be filled up tomorrow. Personally, I think SMU is going to come out firing. Without Beasley, they're going to let Zach Line bang around and soften up our front and then dink and dunk our LBs and secondary to the point that GP may develop a heart defect on the sideline simply from watching. It's worked pretty well for everyone else we've played so I don't see why that would change. But, HSO? I don't think we give up a HUGE pass play. And let me qualify huge - I don't think we give up a pass play over 30 yards. There will be some 15-20 yarders, and perhaps even a 29.99 yarder or five, but nothing more. They're going to score points on us, and they're going to take an early lead, but those points won't be the back breaking kind. I think this is the week our secondary finally realizes they play for the 20th ranked team in the country and that losing to SMU AND Faylor in the same year is just not an option.
On offense, I see La Manga - La Mambo Manga? La Manga es Mambo? too far? - putting up a nice day with 200 yards and 2 TDs. But, same as it ever was, our run game is the engine that drives the train and, despite SMUs dominance on that side of the ball so far this year, I'm not sure they can stop a rotation of 4 competent backs, although I don't see Ed having major impact in his first week back. I've called for Aundre Dean to have a breakout the past couple of weeks - something I am NOT declaring this week - but I don't think any particular player is going to outshine the others. This is going to be a complete team effort from our backfield... and the home streak will continue.
The Pick - TCU - 34, SMU 27.