Friday, November 4, 2011

Spit Blood Predictions: TCU-Yaoming

If you guys (and gals) wanted a fancy picture of Nostradamus or Johnny Carson or the fortune teller from Pee Wee's Big Adventure to accompany this post, I'm sorry. My computer is all sorts of Z'd up right now and the business center computer at this godforsaken Hyatt Place I'm staying in for work has google images blocked for some reason.

Even sans photo, though, the show must go on and the Spit Blood community must register their official predictions for the Frogs' wintery showdown with Doo Doo Brown tomorrow. Here's what we're asking for this week:

-Final score
-MVPs on offense, defense and special teams
-How many snaps does Matt Brown play, and how many TDs does he score?
-With the grody weather and all, how many TOTAL passes are thrown by both teams?
-What day will the 2011-2012 NBA season finally tip off, if ever?

Weekend Preview: Gigantic Edition.

Take it away, Kim. Also take it away, Black Francis' pitstains.

You see what happens, guys? You see what happens when work creeps up takes you on a week-long road trip? You get three regularly sized posts crammed into one crap-o-la conglomerate. However, even though work has thrown a wrench into my Spitblood duties this week, I still wanted to be able to provide you with just a samplin' of the self indulgent postings you've come to expect from me each week. So I've prepared a 3-course meal, each consisting of three options for your perusal. Note, while you're reading this on Friday morning, be aware that it's actually being conceived on Tuesday evening. I can't be held responsible for any possible inconsistencies that creep up in the interim.

Appy: Three NCAA Games to keep an eye on for the sake of our ranking in the Coaches' Poll.

Option 1: #25 Texas vs. LOLTetch. 11:00AM. FX. After bathing in Tech's tears and reveling in their ineptitude for the better part of Saturday evening, it feels kind of strange to be hitching my horse to their cart as a possible upset pick. But while Robert Griffin thinks Tech's toppling of OU was a fluke, this is still a pretty good football team and I'd venture that the Iowa State loss was the real fluke. I mean, it's not like a team has ever beaten OU in Norman and then laid a complete egg against an inferior team the very next week, right? RIGHT??? They may have 3 losses on the season, but two of those were close ones against Kansas State and aggy. Besides, all three of their losses were at home, so perhaps they just hate Lubbock as much as the rest of us? Wow, did I really just defend Tetch for an entire paragraph? I better get the hell out of this right now. The fact that this game makes the list is a testament to how much I'm not buying Texas moreso than any positive vibes I have regarding Tetch.

Option 2: #21 West Virginia vs. Louisville. 11:00AM. West Virginia must be an INCREDIBLY frustrating team to be a fan of. On the one hand, they're 6-2, ranked, have an explosive offense and their Head Coach's idea of social responsibility is getting kicked out of local casinos while hammered. I view this as a positive based on the locale. But my GOD they start slow. Like, trailing to Norfolk State at halftime slow. But then a funny thing happens - they absolutely CRUSH teams after halftime. The Cardinals ARE on a bit of a roll, having taken out Rutgers and Syracuse - who drilled WVU - in consecutive weeks and sit tied for second place in the Big East with, you guessed it, West Virginia. They've done it with their defense, only giving up 16.3 points per game, good for 11th in the country, but it's safe to say they haven't faced a beast like Dana Holgorsen's air raid attack. Unfortunately, the trick to beating a Holgorsen coached team is to outscore them, something the Cardinals and their 113th ranked offense are just not equipped to do. No matter how you slice it, this doesn't bode well for a Louisville.

However, we're forgetting one big factor in this game, a factor that can swing even the most overwhelming of odds in a team's favor: Hate. You'll recall how Louisville attempted to block WVU's move to the Big 12 in Congress so they could take their spot. How'd that work out, Cards? But who will hate who more? WVU for the dog and pony show put on by Louisville? Or Louisville for WVU bailing on them? Louisville put Syracuse in their place last week and faces Pitt next week, so this is the middle part of the Traitor Triumvirate portion of their schedule. I have a feeling this one will be more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Option 3: #19 Kansas State @ #3 Boone. 7:00PM. ABC. Wow, sorry Kansas State. After scratching and clawing their way to 7-0 and a high ranking, the Wildcats got some serious comeuppance last week against a clearly pissed off Oklahoma team. Oklahoma toyed with them in the first half much like a cat teases a mouse before devouring it whole by letting the Wildcats enter the locker room with only a 23-17 deficit and a semblance of hope. At that point you'd expect Bill Snyder to give a speech to his guys, tell them how no one believes in them but each other and tell them to come out with a fire in their belly and anger in their hearts. Turns out Bill Snyder took a 20 minute old man pee break during halftime, because the Cats were outscored 35-0 the rest of the way en route to a 58-17 final tally. Their consolation prize? A follow-up trip to Stillwater to take on a violently talented OSU team that's so close to a national title bid they can taste it. Yes, they'll totally fall short because it's what they do, but not until OU comes to town in early December. K State's negative drive to the Alamo Bowl continues Saturday. The loss is double the fun for Frogs fans because not only will K State potentially drop out of the rankings while we creep in, but their GP raiding fail karma continues to bite them in the ass. Unfortunately this game runs counter to Alabouisamastock so you will not watch one second of it.

Main Course: Three things to consider when TCU takes on Wyoming.

Option 1: The Laramie factor. Weather is always the second thing mentioned when referencing a TCU road game at Wyoming, coming immediately after elevation. Did you know that War Memorial Stadium sits at the highest altitude in all of college sports?? If you haven't, are you sure you aren't dead or deaf? Because it's all the experts ever talk about. And did you also know that it sometimes SNOWS and gets COLD in the Rockies during the Fall months? WHO KNEW?!? Truth being told, these two factors are COMPLETELY overrated and I'd doubt either has contributed to Wyoming upending a team favored by 3 TDs very often. I do think it has kept some games closer than they should have ever been early - see Texas in 2009 or Nebraska this year as proof - but those games ceased becoming competitive shortly after halftime as talent trumped all, as it does.

TCU has played the Cowboys three times Laramie since joining the MWC and only once was the game even close. That would be in 2007 during Andy Dalton's first year when the Frogs would finish 7-5 with one of the five being a 24-21 squeaker won by the Pokes as a Chris Mandredini FG missed with time expiring. The other two were a 28-14 Frogs win in the almost magical season of 2005 - it was 28-7 at halftime - and, of course, the 45-10 detonation of 2009. If I'm being completely straightforward, I do not recall the weather in any of those games, although I do recall seeing LOTS of long sleeves two years ago; Considering the game was played on Nov. 21, any meteorologist would suggest this is an accurate recall. The other two games were played in early October which could chill things down a bit, but unless there's a weather aberration like Air Force in 2009, I'm assuming snow was nowhere in the forecast.

Looks like that will all change Saturday. Based on today's most recent forecast for Laramie on Saturday - High 32, Low 21, 70% chance of daytime precipitation and 16 MPH winds - we might get our first look at the dreaded true Wyoming road game experience. That 32 degree figure is 16 degrees LOWER than the normal average. In other words, the Wyoming fan who only wears a barrel might be rethinking his weekend wardrobe.

Should we be worried? I genuinely do not believe so. For one, no team is "built" for snow. Well, I guess Big Ten teams would technically qualify because they are plodding and slow, but they're also "built to not win National Championships," so I'm not sure their methods are sound. I'm sure our players, most of whom have lived in warm climates their entire lives, won't LOVE the conditions, but if we lose this game and blame it on the brrrrr cold, then we have SERIOUS testicular problems that will need fixin after Boise dispatches us by a cool 40. Besides, the theory holds that, when the conditions get rough, the team that utilizes the run more effectively typically carries the advantage. TCU rushes for 207.3 yards per game; Wyoming rushes for 187.9. On the flipside, TCU's defense gives up 125.6 yards on the ground per game: Wyoming gives up 209 or, in laymans terms, a whole helluva lot more. Bottom line, if you're giving the home team the advantage in this game, find a reason other than the snow.

Option 2: The San Diego State comparison. As was mentioned in an earlier post, with the lesbionic named Austyn Carta-Samuels departing for the more gay-centric waters of... Vanderbilt? this one was long expected a walk for the Frogs. However, after being destroyed by Utah State and Nebraska in back to back weeks, the Cowboys have gone on a run of their own, whipping up on Conference dead-weight UNLV before stunning presumed MWC third place runner up SDSU on the road.

In situations such as these we like to try and compare apples to oranges and look at how two teams fared against a common opponent. Seeing as how we won't be able to gauge how we stack up against the mighty Rebels until December, San Diego State is what we have. TCU took out the Aztecs in game 6, 27-14 while the Cowboys took them down last weekend 30-27, after blowing a 30-13 halftime lead. By comparison, the Frogs were up 17-0 on the Aztecs at halftime and outscored 14-10 the rest of the way. However, the way both teams won differed significantly. While the Frogs used a balanced attack passing the ball early, running it late, and turning it over all the time, Wyoming employed the Rex Grossman, "Screw it, I'm going deep," mentality to the tune of 341 pass yards. Defensively, TCU took advantage of turnovers and kept the Aztecs in check while WYO managed to be outgained 539-500 and tried their damnedest to give the game away after halftime. It took a shutout fourth quarter to get it in the win column. They were basically every Oklahoma State game ever except with only half the offense.

So what should we take away from this contest? For one, Freshman Wyoming QB Brett Smith isn't half bad. As fate would have it, his best performance of the season was in the game we are comparing as he threw for 341 yards and 2 scores while rushing for 2 more. Assuming you can do the math you'll realize he had a hand in every Cowboys TD on the night, So, you can safely say keeping an eye on young Mr. Smith should be a high priority for our defense. But we'll get to him later.

Wyoming does a fair job running the ball, although they didn't hit their average against SDSU while TCU surpassed theirs. However, our passing numbers against theirs pretty much make all of that even out. Backs Alvester Alexander and Ghaali Muhammad ground out 110 yards between them, and have been doing much of the same all season, combining with Smith to have the nation's 32nd ranked unit. By contrast, TCU backs had 234 yards rushing, led by Ed Wesley's 146. You aren't going to confuse them with what TCU does, but they take advantage of the space they're given.

On defense, what was the main difference between TCU giving up 14 and Wyoming giving up 27 to SDSU? The answer is pretty simple - it's the difference between letting Ronnie Hillman make you his bitch vs. the inverse. Simply put, UW did it 224 yards, 2 TDs - and TCU did not - 55 yards, 0 scores. Both teams did a superb job corralling the apparently overrated Ryan Lindley, each allowing around 200 yards and 2 TDs, but with TCU picking him 3 times and Wyoming once. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that there is only a 7 yards per game difference between TCU and Wyoming in passing defense.

Both teams got the W, but, despite the Cowboys' big halftime lead, I'd have to suggest that TCU gave a more impressive effort.

Option 3: Can TCU stop QB Brett Smith? For the season, Smith has 11 passing TDs vs 5 INTs and has rushed for 6 scores as well. Of Wyoming's 26 TDs this season, he has had a direct hand in 17. In fact, he only trails leading rusher Muhammad by about 140 yards for the season and has more TDs than all of his backs, individually. I'm really beginning to think losing Samuels was addition by subtraction. The Frogs have struggled with multi-tasking QBs this year, as best evidenced by golden boy Riley Smith just this past week. Like the SDSU game listed above, the Frogs held the advantage in that one mostly due to their ability to capitalize on the mistakes of the opposing team. Wyoming does a nice job protecting the ball, having only lost 3 fumbles and 6 INTs all year, 5 of those being attributed to Smith. However, Riley Smith didn't throw picks before last weekend either, and we see how that worked out. Basically, the Frogs D is going to have to rattle Smith just enough to force him into a few freshman mistakes. A nice, heavy dose of Maponga and Devin Johnson coming off the right edge of his O line for most of the afternoon should do the trick.

So can TCU win? Loosely taking all of that into account, here's what it boils down to: Wyoming's offense begins and ends with the arm and legs of Brett Smith, and their defense gets a kick out of having the ball run down their throats. Having just faced Riley Nelson, TCU should be well prepared for Smith, a QB who emulates Nelson but is not nearly as talented. When we have the ball, Ed Wesley should be licking his lips; Even taking the weather out of the equation I'd expect a HEAVY dose of EdTuckWay. If it is indeed snowing, this is going to be some old school football as you'd have to think field goals longer than 30 yards will be off the table. It's going to be cold and the hits are going to hurt a lot more, but I see no reason why the Frogs can't walk out of Laramie with another notch on their bedposts.

The Pick: TCU 28, Wyoming 14.

Dessert: Three former Horned Frogs who could have a major impact on Sunday.

Option 1: David Hawthorne. Seattle @ Dallas. Noon. Fox. I'll be honest - I don't think Seattle will win Sunday, but I hope so badly that D Hawth puts Tony Romo on season ending IR I have to list it. My relationship with the Dallas Cowboys has soured so severely that I find myself openly rooting against them and taking sick delight every time another starter goes down with an injury. It has soured to the point that I've trained my mind to believe that I've been a life-long Bengals fan all along and my memories of growing up a Boys fan is just a figment of my imagination. It has soured to the point that, seriously, rooting for a Romo interception followed by a season ending injury is the only thing that keeps me watching. Help me, David Hawthorne, you're my only hope.

Coincidentally, the one time Andy Dalton ran the ball last week, Hawthorne was the one who made the tackle. And that was his friend! Seriously, Hawth, just pretend Brian Johnson is under center or something. You're second on the team with 46 tackles, one behind Longhorn trash Earl Thomas; make your 47th one to remember.

Option 2: Jeremy Kerley. NYJ @ Buffalo. Noon. CBS. Kerley hasn't blown up in his rookie season the same way AJ Green has as a rookie receiver in Cincinnati. Clearly this can be attributed to playing behind Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and even LT out of the backfield. Having Derrick Mason on the team until a couple of weeks ago didn't help matters either. Combine that with the fact that Mark Sanchez is the New Mexico of young, rumoredly talented NFL QBs and you've got a recipe for not getting many opportunities. Perhaps Buffalo's 24th overall ranked passing D is the cure for what ails him?

To date in the season Kerley has been targeted 14 times and caught nine of those for 82 yards and a score. This is a VERY big game for the Jets. They sit 4-3 and 1-1 in the division, good for third place, with a rematch against the Patriots coming up next weekend. If the Jets lose here and follow it up with a loss against NE, they can pretty much start regrouping for next year. Win this week and lose the next? At least you're still in the conversation. Coming off the bye, perhaps Rex and his crew have devised a few more creative ways to get the ball in the hands of their dynamic playmaker? Their season could depend on it.

Option 3: Andy Dalton. Cincy @ Tennessee. 3:05PM. CBS. As a life long Cincinnati Bengals fan, I feel like I have a unique perspective on how the rest of their season will play out, starting Sunday in Nashville. Take, for instance, this kid Andy Dalton. This guy can PLAY. He's not going to wow you with his numbers, but he's yet to play his team out of a game and has been improving weekly. If it weren't for Cam Newton putting up empty stats in losses, AJ Green and Dalton would be at or near the top of the list of Rookie of the Year candidates. Any preseason "Suck for Luck" talk is officially dead in southern Ohio. Tennessee is a hard team to read. They beat Baltimore in week 2 very soundly, but were trounced in consecutive weeks by the Steelers and Texans. That Texans loss is especially telling as it was at home and for control the AFC South which seemed theirs for the taking with Houston's injuries. Compounded by the fact that Chris Johnson has had about as much impact as the NFL version of Maurice Clarett makes you think the writing is on the wall for a losing season.

Andy and the Bengals dont' HAVE to win this game, but it'd sure be a nice confidence booster. Look at the schedule coming up - Pitt, @ Baltimore, vs Cleveland, @ Pitt, vs Houston. Other than the Browns and MAYBE pick one of the others, none of those games are anywhere close to being in their favor. If they emerge from that stretch 2-3, an overall record of 8-5 is a lot more positive than 7-6 if they want any shot at making the playoffs. Dalton and AJ Green will get most of the credit for the Bengals success, as they should, but the real secret has been Mike Zimmer's highly potent defense. Against one of the worst offenses in the league, even on the road the Bengals should win this one handily. This is officially Dalton's team now; we're going to find out how much he can lead them Sunday.

For the 3 of you who slogged through the entirety of that beast, thanks and enjoy your weekend.