He's just too good.
If I could only do a one word preview for the game this weekend, it wouldn't even be a word, it'd be a sound, and that sound would be, "UGH!!!!" Never in my life have I looked less forward to a TCU game than I do this one. Not because we're going to lose; if your happiness this Saturday derives solely from TCU winning, then I have a Xanax guy to put you in touch with. I also don't even care that, with a loss, Boise's National title hopes are still technically alive. In fact, that's kind of a silver lining as watching Boise go undefeated yet miss out on BCS NC gold for a third year is almost as fun as a TCU victory sending them tumbling from the Fiesta Bowl to Shreveport. Ok, the second option is admittedly a LOT more fun, but let's keep things in perspective. TCU is going to have a very, very difficult time being the team to end Boise's gaudy home win streak. That much is guaranteed. Boise is older, deeper and has the kind of team built to rip us to shreds.
But you know what? Screw it. What kind of fan would I really be if I didn't at least recognize the potential for hope in a hopeless situation? Homer goggles can be pretty incredible. So since we all pretty much "get" Boise, in lieu of an actual preview, here are reasons to have hope if you're a Frogs fan.
- Kellen Moore doesn't run. It's true, he doesn't. In three games against TCU, Napolean Dynamite has rushed three times for -11 yards. Of course, you have to assume those three rushes were scrambles when he was flushed from the pocket, although I don't have the energy to dig too far into it. According to the stats, Moore has ZERO rushing attempts this season and has only been sacked 4 times. You get the idea - Kellen Moore doesn't leave the confines of the pocket and make a break for it unless he has to, which is apparently rare. As a TCU fan, this should be at least marginally reassuring considering what running quarterbacks have done to us this year. BYU's Riley Nelson had 84 yards, bettering his season average, and Wyoming's Brett Smith had 64 yards on FOUR!! runs before leaving the game with an injury. Truth be told, all things being equal with the turnovers, if Tank Carder doesn't commit Hensonicide - that's what I'm rolling with for a TCU LB injurying a WYO QB - we're heading to Boise with a 6-3 record and a 1 game losing streak. But, the things Kellen Moore does with his arm pretty much negate any perceived advantage we might gain by flushing him from the pocket, right Lee Corso? NOT SO FAST...
- Kellen Moore has never thrown a pass against TCU. I'll be honest, this one jumped out at me as I more or less forgot how they came about their points in the BowlsFiesta and Poinsettia. Turns out their 3 TDs were the result of 2 runs and 1 PAINFULLY memorable pick seis. So, technically, Andy Dalton has thrown more TD's to Boise players in our games than Moore has. I'm not sure how that's supposed to make me feel. But it's true - we are the one team Moore has not dominated in his career. Uncle Rico has thrown as many TDs over them mountains as his protege has over TCU's defense. However, if Vegas had a prop on K Moore TD's tossed Saturday and set it at 2.5 - or perhaps even 3.5 - casino sportsbooks would lose so much money on folks taking the over that Vegas might cease to exist. A terrifying proposition, indeed. Big Gay Kellen has been averaging 278.63 yards per game this year at an eye popping 11.63 yards per reception and 67% completion rate. TCU has been giving up 225 yards at a decent 57% completion rate. To be frank, Moore is going to beat our average. He just is. The defense has improved significantly as the weeks have gone on, but other than Baylor we haven't faced an offense that has this many weapons. Unfortunately, Boise has a defense to match, so a shootout of that caliber is unlikely. So let's just get that out of the way. However, there is a way to slow down Boise, and that's to shut down Doug Martin and the Broncos backs. Fortunately fate threw a bone just last week...
- Doug Martin is hobbled, as are backups Jay Ajayi and Malcolm Johnson. Before we begin, can we just stare in awe at what the F Jay Ajayi's parents were thinking? That's just a phenomenal lack of creativity on their parts. I'm trying to think of which player on TCU would have the best iteration of this name and the best I could come up with is Olabode Iolabodey, although Fabuluje Ifabulujey holds a special place as well. Come ON, parents! Anyway, not to draw attention away from the topic at hand, the always underrated Doug Martin came up lame last week at UNLV and sat out most of the game although Chris Petersen said he could have played in a pinch. Martin is the team leader with 756 yards and 9 TD's, well in front of second place DJ Harper, who has 365 and 6. Martin is expected to play, and Harper is a senior, so this paragraph may self destruct come Saturday afternoon. Still, this has to give TCU fans a reason for hope, especially when you take into account the above mentioned absences of Ajayi and Malcolm Johnson. It's not entirely likely that Boise will need a huge day from their ground game to win the scoreboard, but if Martin isn't at full strength and TCU does the unthinkable and shuts down Moore to force some runs, they're pretty thin in the offensive backfield.
- Boise has a few glaring absences from last time we played. I believe I read a stat somewhere yesterday that said from the Boise State Fiesta Bowl roster there are 30 players suiting up again Saturday. That's a lot. But still, there are a few absences that could work in our favor. Some are expected - Austin Pettis, Titus Young, LOLBrotzman. But some aren't, such as the potential loss of Doug Martin and DE Billy Wynn. Defense back Jamar Taylor could be absent as well. They've filled the receiving void nicely with Tyler Shoemaker, Matt Miller and Mitch Burroughs, but without Pettis and Young, Moore is behind the career best pace he set for himself last year. However, the losses of Wynn and Taylor could be big. As mentioned, Boise's run defense isn't the stoutest, so losing depth along the line can't help matters. And Taylor's absence could give Pachall a bit of a leg up in the passing department. In case you missed it, LaGarrette Blount got a teency bit punchy once again this past weekend for Tampa Bay. Perhaps we can bring him back for a pre game repeat of his bitch slap on Boise's second leading tackler Byron Hout from a few years back? We need all the edges we can get.
- The Frogs defense has come together. This one is pretty obvs, but it bears mentioning again. The defense has seemingly gained confidence week by week and, although you'll never confuse them with those of the past three seasons, should be as well prepared for this game as they possibly can be. Jason Verrett has been an unsung hero since week 1, the Tank Carder/Kenny Cain tandem seems to be finding their footing, and Tekkerin Cuba should return after sitting out last week with an injury. If he doesn't, though, Jonathan Anderson proved we are in pretty capable hands, although he naturally came back down to earth last week after his breakout performance against BYU. However, Cuba is certainly preferable as he's been our most consistent safety and safety play has been our achilles... not heel... achilles, like, liver or something cause it's way more serious than that. Those guys DID come through pretty big against San Diego State though so let's hope they've got another big one in them. I don't know that it will be enough, but stranger things have happened. I mean, Kellen Moore DID find a girl to marry him, after all.
- Boise doesn't play the run well. It's true. As dominant as Boise's defense is rumored to be - and, yes, the rumors are true, they are good - they DO give up ground yards to the tune of 140 per game. It's no coincidence that Air Force's 26 points were the most scored on this defense all year. The Broncos simply do not have talent up front to match the rest of the team. I have a pretty narrow window of logic when it comes to offensive strategy, so excuse me if I sound like a broken record, but seriously, running the ball is going to be the #2 key to this game right behind not letting Kellen Moore go all tora! tora! tora! on our secondary. If Pachall can keep Boise somewhat honest, EdTuckWay should be able to find a few holes to run through, although that comes with a major caveat: Boise has the fifth best passing defense in the nation. So... crud. The Broncos are currently only giving up 165 yards per game through the air while we only average a measly 224. However, I kind of feel like this low ranking is misleading when you consider that Pachall is on pace to break quite a few of TCU's single season passing records; perhaps that speaks more to the offenses we've used over the years than Pachall himself? Need another reason to drink heavily Saturday? Dalton had perhaps the worst game of his career against Boise - 3 picks, 1 TD, 272 yards. That's not a coincidence. The Broncos haven't had to play too many big games over the years, but other than Kickpocalypse 2010, they always seem to play their best when the games matter the most. The backs and O line are going to have to come up BIG if we want any chance of pulling the upset. With Jeff Olson potentially not at 100% strength, the battle becomes even more difficult.
Less Legit Reasons.
- TCU has no pressure. Think about it - when was the last time TCU played a game where a win by less than 3 TDs wasn't almost as bad as a loss? Andy Dalton's first year in 2007 springs to mind, although I suppose the 2008 season ender versus Air Force, which immediately followed the Utah debacle, would qualify as well. The point here being it's been a while, and it's been even longer since TCU was such a pronounced underdog. Yes, the Conference title is on the line and the proposition of Craig Thompson presenting the trophy to GP following the UNLV game next month resulting in GP grabbing the trophy, dropping his pants, pooping in the trophy cup and then Qadaffi'ing Thompson on stage with a microphone is a juicy one, the end result will still be the same as if we lose: The Las Vegas Bowl against a crappy Pac 12 team. I'm not trying to downplay winning the Conference, but speaking as one of the spoiled trust fund youth borne during the golden era of TCU Football, finally getting a head to head shot at Boise just doesn't feel the same without a BCS berth being on the line for both teams. I have to believe I'm not entirely alone in feeling this sentiment. But you know what? I'm completely fine with this. Lyle - sorry, I'm dragging you in so we can fight this battle together - were talking the other day about how losing to SMU and Baylor REALLY sucks, but the fact that it takes the heat off of this game isn't all bad. I think this will actually help the team, too. A loose, carefree team can often be far more dangerous than a team with everything on the line. Just ask undefeated WVU about 4-7 Pitt from a few years back. Or freaking Boise from last year against Nevada. There are still plenty of players from the 2009 team that want revenge, but I think knowing that losing isn't the end of the world will be an added bonus. Ok, so it's a crappy silver lining, but it's what we have.
- They have to lose sometime, right? I mean... right? They just HAVE to... Don't they? DON'T THEY!?!? The Frogs have a bit of a history of ending streaks. They've won when they perhaps had no business winning (OU), they've announced their presence in a new Conference over a team at its pinnacle (Utah 2005) and they've ushered a team out the Conference door on their home field (Utah again). So it's not unprecedented. And Boise's home win streak is perhaps a TEENCY bit skewed due to the whole WAC thing. Better teams than us have entered that track and left with an L, but perhaps karma owes us a favor considering how we got screwed out of a home game? Speaking of...
- Reverse Karma. I mean... right???? Come on, MWC!!! Yes, we left your ship for brighter waters, but we're a good part of the reason why you have flipping ship in the first place! Boise has done NOTHING for you! NOTHING! You gave them EVERYTHING and they left you at the altar. I understand wanting that one last BCS pay day before you become CUSA, jr, but seriously. Remember your roots. Remember all the money and notoriety we've brought you. If David Stern can influence the outcome of an entire Finals Series because he hated Mark Cuban, surely you've got ONE game in you, Craig!! Make the call; I'll get the Buffalo Wild Wings ref and water maintenance man on the phone.
- Frogs are seemingly better on the road. I think we all know this one, although I doubt any one can accurately explain it. Guess it has something to do with the distractions being cut out, or maybe the boys take more pride in silencing an away crowd than firing up a home crowd. Truth be told, the number don't reflect it, but other than TERRIBLE New Mexico, our most complete games were arguably against Air Force and San Diego State.
... ummm... I mean, we SHOULD'VE scored a lot more points at Wyoming? Ok, I'm done.
Ok, I've sugar coated this one as much as I possibly can without outright mocking myself. I'm going to shoot straight on this one - for perhaps the first time as a spitblood contributor, I do not see us winning this game. OU in 2008 is the only other game that springs to mind since SB was in existence, but a cursory glance through the back catalog suggests I was not yet an overbearing previewer then. So, this makes it officially the first time I am going to pick against the Frogs. I don't consider this a slight - far from it. This TCU team has exceeded the expectations we set for them after week 1; if anyone told you that after that embarrassment this team would be 7-2 and ranked in the Top 25 heading to Idaho, you'd have taken the mess out of that. But Boise is just better. They're more experienced, they have the type of offense that can do bad things to our defense and they simply do not lose at home. Like I said above, there's a first time for everything, but I don't see it happening. Boise wins the battle, but TCU wins the war... cause we're goin' to the Big 12, suckas!! Enjoy CUSA+.
The Pick: TCU 24, Boise 35.
The movement watch is being retired for the week because if I'm picking us to lose, can't really pick us to move up in the standings, can I?