Everyone wearing this shirt should be on the Frogs tomorrow.
I'll apologize up front for this, the last regular season preview of the year. Due to work constraints that had me deep in the piney woods of East Texas, with a side trip to Jimmy Young country sandwiched in between, I pretty much ran out of time to put together a proper preview for this, the defacto MWC Championship game. Say what you will about the Boise/TCU game, but considering that a win this week will result in a trophy changing hands, this one technically qualifies a little more. But, I owe to you, the readers, to at least give it a shot, so without further ado, here are the keys to a TCU victory this weekend and a third straight MWC Championship.
- Don't scoreboard watch. This seems kind of silly considering GP gets his players focused about as well as any team in the country, but it's definitely something to consider with everything on the line this weekend. As exhaustively outlined in the BCS preview, a Houston loss this weekend opens up the possibility of TCU heading to New Orleans for New Years. Seeing as how our game begins right as the Cougs should be starting the fourth quarter, the players could hardly be blamed for letting their minds wander to the jumbotron for updates, presuming its still close at that point. This really can't happen. UNLV isn't a great football team, but as SMU proved, if this team starts getting ahead of themselves and takes their eye off the prize, they're capable of being upset on any given week. The 14 point Houston advantage in the spread suggests there shouldn't be a whole lot to watch out for by the time 1:30 rolls around, but it wouldn't exactly be a massive upset if USM pulled it out. If it manages to happen, Texas and Baylor kick off at 2:30, and you can guarantee our guys will be keeping an eye on that. Perhaps GP will opt to defend the south end zone to start things off so our offense will be playing away from the jumbotron in the second half?
- Don't start slow. Ok, so UNLV and their 110th ranked scoring offense probably don't have the firepower to put enough points on the board to win even if the Frogs are slow out of the gate, but hear me out. UNLV has actually played pretty decent first half football this year, , leading SDSU 14-7, CSU 17-13, only trailing Wyoming by 6 and keeping their game with Boise to a manageable 21-14 deficit. The facticians among you will point out that most of those games were second half blowouts, losing to all but CSU, but I'm just trying to demonstrate that this one might be closer than expected heading into the locker room. Even though they've mostly erased the memories of those slow first halves to start the season, the Frogs are still susceptible to lumbering out of the gate and expecting the defense to clamp down long enough for the offense to get rolling. UNLV isn't dangerous on paper, but if they can keep it close and the Frogs get caught scoreboard watching or get overconfident, this one could be disastrous.
- Sell out on the run. It can often be faulty logic for a team to focus on shutting down one aspect of a team's game, but in UNLVs case we should make an exception. At present, the Rebels have the 118th ranked passing unit in the country at 131 yards per game. This is not very good. Compounding this is the fact that starting QB Caleb Herring is likely out with a shoulder injury. If we're connecting the dots here, if Caleb Herring is the second worst QB in all of NCAA Football, Sean Reilly, his older backup, must be about as bottom of the barrel as they come. For the year, Reilly has completed 19 passes for 186 yards and a score, which is about 2/3 of the production Casey Pachall will give TCU in any given game. That's not very impressive. The Rebels have given up 36 - repeat: THIRTY SIX - sacks on the year. Look for Bumpas and GP to send Jonathan Anderson and his pals on blitzes often to rattle whoever lines up under center for the Rebels and render the passing game moot. More impressive though - LOOSELY used- is the Rebels ground game, which eats up 168 yards a week led by backs Tim Cornett and Dionza Bradford. Each man has tallied just over 600 yards and they've combined for 10 TDs. Look for a heavy dose of both tomorrow afternoon, as well as a heavy dose of our front seven devouring them.
- Free Casey. Typically you'd imagine a team that has an offense as terrible as UNLV's would at least make up for it some on defense, right? Wrong. OH so wrong. UNLV lost to New Mexico. NEW MEXICO!!!!! They let the Lobos rack up 415 yards; they only average just over 300 on a regular basis. So, I think it's safe to presume our top notch O should have their way Saturday afternoon. The Rebels give up a lot of yards per game -448, nearly dead last in all of CFB - but they happen to give up about 50 more yard through the air per week than on the ground. Fuenderson, can we please free Casey? Pachall was mostly reined in last time out against Colorado State following his destruction of the Boise State secondary. Admittedly, this game SHOULD be put away early and it's not like our staff to go all bombs away on an overmatched defense when the game is out of reach, but I think that could change barring the outcome of the Houston game. Even if Houston is the lose, TCU still has to make up 2 spots in the rankings for a BCS invite and if there's one thing voters like it's sparkly, shiny things like points. Lots and lots of glorious points. If that happens, it should be interesting to see how the coaching staff plays it.
- Enjoy it for the Seniors. Not a very brilliant piece of advice or anything, but it's Senior Day and the team should just go out and enjoy what will for many be the last downs of competitive football they ever play. These Seniors are, once again, the winningest in school history. Sure, they HEAVILY benefited from riding the Dalton train over their careers, but their names will be in the record books going forward. They just need to go out there, keep everything perspective, and win a game they have no business losing. This year, more than any other, it seems like our guys play a lot better when they have nothing to lose. True, an outright Conference title is on the line, but they should be able to go out there and keep things loose and walk away with a W.
Going back through the past season-enders, TCU has never really been in jeopardy of losing, outscoring opponents 161-37 the past three years, an average score of 54-12. There's really no reason why this one should be any different.
The Pick: TCU 48, UNLV 10.
1:30 PM games suck. They suck really bad. But, that shouldn't an excuse to not come out tomorrow and support this record setting group of seniors. With the Poinsettia Bowl looking more and more likely, this is going to be the last chance for most of us to see TCU in the flesh this season. I urge everyone to attend. Besides that, there's rain in the forecast, and anyone who was there will tell you the Stanford Hurricane game was among the most fun they've ever attended. Don't miss out. Go Frogs. I love you.