Friday, September 21, 2012

Virginia Preview.

Before we begin, a few notes about Saturday's game.

  • GET HAPPY, REASON ONE:  The last time TCU played an ACC team was in 2009 when the Frogs faced Clemson as well as these Cavaliers.  The Frogs won both games and would finish the season undefeated, making their first BCS bowl.
  • GET HAPPY, REASON TWO:  The last time TCU played a home game before the clock struck noon was in 2000 against Northwestern.  The Frogs would win that game 41-14.
  • GET HAPPY, REASON THREE:  The last time TCU played a home game on ESPN was in 2005 against Utah.  The Frogs would would that game 23-20 in OT and go on to claim the MWC crown in their first year.  
  • GET HAPPY, REASON FOUR:  TCU still holds the longest win streak in the country at 10 games.  Baylor is second at eight-ish and plays Louisiana-Monroe on the road Friday evening.  I like our odds better than I like theirs.
  • GET HAPPY, REASON FIVE:  Saturday marks TCU's 10th consecutive home sellout, which has to be a record.  The only game so far this year that is not sold out is Iowa State, the next one up.  If that one sells out, the streak will automatically hit 14.  So, we should probably go on and win Saturday.
  • GET HAPPY, REASON SIX:  UVA played Georgia Tech last weekend and lost by a 5 touchdowns.  They allowed 461 yards rushing in the loss.  Even taking into account it was the triple option and bound to rack up yardage, this has to be viewed as some sort of a relief for a TCU team that's thin in the backfield due to recent events.
  • GET HAPPY, REASON SEVEN:  UVA has lost 17 of their last 20 road games against Top 25 competition.  "Well," you might say, "they DID win their last one, a game against Florida State last season."  To that I'd say, "Yes, but they haven't won CONSECUTIVE road games against Top 25 competition since 1998."  
  • GET HAPPY, REASON EIGHT:  UVA comes into the game with the 109th ranked rushing offense in the country.  After TCU shut them down last week, Kansas is still good enough for 55th.  By that logic UVA should gain 30 yards of offense on the ground.  In fact, UVA's entire offense is pretty terrible, only averaging 26.7 points a week.  TCU has given up 6 points all season.  This should make you happy.
  • GET HAPPY, REASON NINE:  UVA should've lost to Penn State had the Lions kicker not transferred and his replacement missed multiple field goals.  Penn State DID lose to Ohio.  This doesn't seem to require more elaboration.  
  • GET HAPPY, REASON TEN:  Casey Pachall is still the QB at TCU.  Casey Pachall throws for 300 yards with frequency.  Virginia gives up 200 yards a game through the air, has allowed 5 TDs and has no picks.  Expect things to happen there.
So does that help, are you fired up?  Could you run through a brick wall you're so excited about Saturday's game?  Good, because now we must needs speak of Waymon James' kneecap.  

Waymon is done.  Gone.  Kaputt.  Capeche?  No amount of worrying on one of the message boards is going to change that fact.  From here on out, we're hitching our future to a proven commodity in Matthew Tucker, an unknown but potentially boffo commodity in BJ Catalon and, well, it's best not to get your hopes up on the last one quite yet, unless those hopes are directly tied to how active on twitter and not on the field you like your running backs to be.  I'm not going to downplay it - losing Waymon is bad.  Like, real bad.  Even had Ed Wesley remained - and how sadface is he right now? - Waymon was our best back for the 2012 season, and losing him certainly shifts the pressure a little more to the passing game.  But, does his loss DIRECTLY change the outcome of any of our games going forward?  Of that, I'm not so sure.  Let's have a looksee.  

Last year TCU played in 5 games that were decided by 10 points or fewer -Baylor, SMU, BYU, Boise and Louisiana Tech - and went 3-2.  In those five games, Waymon was almost a non-factor, never rushing for more than 64 yards and averaging 5.4 yards per carry, a number that is skewed due to his 6 rushes for 64 yards against Baylor which is over 10 per carry; Remove that from the equation and the number drops to 3.43.  Disregarding the Baylor game, Waymon had 33 carries for 133 yards and 1 TD.  If you add that game back in, Waymon had 39 carries for 197 yards and 1 TD.  

So if you remove him from any of those games, does the outcome change?  Well, you have one less TD against BYU, but in a vacuum you still win that game by 3.  Without Waymon's ground threat against Baylor while Wesley sat out, Pachall likely still makes a comeback effort, but its possible you never re-take the lead without his churning out a first down each time he touched the ball.  That one is lost regardless, though.  There were so many issues going wrong during the SMU game that you could've brought back LT and struggled to win, and Boise was won because Casey Pachall, that's why.  The only game I'll say could've changed was the Poinsettia Bowl, as points came at a premium and even though he only had 51 yards, that was over 1/4 of TCU's ground output, but you could sway me either way.  Just some food for thought.

Before you all start accusing me of being an idiot and Waymon hater, I COMPLETELY understand the myriad fallacies in the paragraph above:  You can't take stats that arbitrarily and apply them in a vacuum, you can't discount Waymon's keeping Ed Wesley's legs fresh, nor can you discount Wesley's presence on that team and his lack here  I also didn't look at his receptions, or take into account how much he could potentially change a game, etc.  Despite that sample of games, Waymon WAS last year's leading rusher, putting up 875 yards and 6 scores and based on his output so far this year, he was going to be even better.  

But, like many of you, I'm SO sick of our "sky is falling" fans making it seem like Waymon was the entirety of the TCU team and everyone else are scrubs not worthy of wearing the uniform.  Yes, he's a major loss, but GP said time and again that Matthew Tucker - the same Matthew Tucker that scored 12 times last season and, at 6'1, 230, is a BIG boy - was the best back during the off-season.  Then there's BJ Catalon who, while not Waymon, is practically a Waymon clone, and has given us no reason to distrust him this season.  And Aundre Dean... ok, so I'm not going to get my hopes up, but I'll admit I'm at least cautiously optimistic he'll take advantage of this opportunity and somewhat live up to the hype he generated as the Texas 5A player of the year as a senior.  I understand the conflagration of dismissals from the team - around 10 potential starters at last count - has everyone at their wits end, but we've all held it together at this point.  Why should Waymon be the piece that COMPLETELY brings the jenga puzzle that is TCU fan expectations to a crumble?  If you've been paying attention you should be FAR more worried about our line play.  Let that keep you up at night.

So I've now typed a bunch of words and have hardly touched on the game Saturday.  You see what you fearmongers have done???  The best thing TCU has going for them against UVA is the steadfastedness/dumbassery of UVA Head Coach Mike London for sticking with QB Michael Rocco despite Alabama transfer Phillip Sims outperforming him and being UVAs QB of the future.  For the year, Rocco is completing 64% of his passes for 712 yards, 4 scores and 3 picks.  I'd say that Rocco has a distinct chance to improve those numbers, but they aren't much better than last year when he completed 60% of his passes and finished the year with 13 TDs vs 12 picks.  He was also sacked 14 times and through three games this year that number is already at 3.  As for Sims, the body of work is small, but in limited action he has gone 13/17 for 111 yards and 2 TDs against no picks.  Here is where I'd interject that I understand not yanking a QB who is 2-1 as a starter this early in the season, but for a team that scores under 4 TDs a game and has no discernible run threat, might be time to consider shaking things up, no?

On defense, it was touched on above, but UVA has been middle to lower pack, allowing 30 points per game.  Again, that is skewed due to the Georgia Tech debacle, but Penn State and Richmond haven't showed much since those games, so perhaps the GT performance, while an outlier, is at least closer to the norm.  An accurate QB like Casey Pachall should pick these guys apart, so long as he holds onto the ball.  Also, with the backfield issues, look for Trevone Boykin to see some action in red zone run packages, being used in the same way Matt Brown was last year.  He may not match GT QB Tevin Washington's 3 ground scores from last week, but I'd expect at least one.

Truthfully, though, this game is going to come down to how TCU handles another bout of adversity.  They didn't handle success very well this past weekend against Kansas, but we already went over how the opposite SHOULD give the Frogs a boost heading into this game.  Virginia isn't a gimme; if we let them hang around like we did Kansas this past weekend, chances are they make things more interesting than Weis did.  HOWEVA, despite Patterson making a big show of saying he was discouraged by the practices this week, I think its some gamesmanship.  I think GP was so angry at the sloppy performance from last weekend that nothing short of perfection was going to keep him happy.  He also had to be a bit perturbed that the Waymon story leaked, despite him saying earlier in the week that he wasn't going ot let UVA know either way.  It's a young team - TCU has now played more freshman than scholarship seniors this year.  Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it - and he still doesn't know exactly who he can trust.  For better or for worse, he'll find out a lot more Saturday.  I think the Frogs run out to a couple of early scores and, while giving them some hope, never let UVA in proper range.

The Pick:  TCU 31, UVA 13.

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