Friday, September 21, 2012

Prediction Post

Let's hear your prediction for score, offensive MVP, and defensive MVP.  I've got TCU 38 UVa 13.  Josh Boyce goes off, Maponga 3 sacks.   Generic I know, but it's time for our leaders to step up and show that a few injuries is not going to slow us down.  Fort Worth bound.

Blog Exchange: Edition: They Ask, We Answer

Part II: They Ask, We Answer:

Kris Wright (KW), Editor of Asks:  The ante has been upped for both teams since their last meeting in 2009.  In TCU's case, that's because of the move to the Big Ea ... um, Big (sorta) 12. Are fans happy about the move? Do you think it will hurt the football program's winning percentage?

SnK (SnK), Lord Of Hate, SpitbloodTCU:  Of course the fans are happy about the move to the Big (10) 12.  This gives us the opportunity to do something we've been waiting for since the Southwest Conference disbanded- compete at the highest level with teams that our program has been playing for decades.  As much as DeLoss Dodds and UT didn't want to let us in at first, even they realized it makes the most sense and we were the best possible fit for the conference.  We've got the Aggies to thank as well since they got tired of being UT and OU's whipping boy/little brother nobody listened to.  Without them jumping ship and heading to the SEC to be New Mississippi State we wouldn't have had this opportunity, so thanks Aggy, and keep blowing those 2nd half leads.  

I do think this will hurt the football team's winning percentage, but it's hard to maintain a .787 winning percentage anywhere (which is what TCU has under Gary Patterson).  However, an 11-1 or 10-2 season in the MWC meant the Poinsettia Bowl.  11-1 or 10-2 in the Big 12 will have you in a BCS game, if not the national championship game.  It's also very refreshing to know that Boise State and BYU play tonight and I don't have to give a shit about the outcome.  

KW:  Your neighbors in Austin are in the headlines a lot. Any frustrations from TCU's standpoint about the lack of love from a football standpoint?

SnK:  They can have all the headlines they want, but the product they've put on the field the past couple of years has been laughable.  It's arguably the most high profile university in the country, so they'll always grab the top recruits and be at the forefront of the media.  Also, having the Longhorn Network as ESPN's baby doesn't hurt either.  I think this is how Coach Patterson would like it though- we can keep being an afterthought with Texas at the center of attention and fly under the radar and put a better product out on the field.  I'm glad to see that people outside of Texas think that they are grabbing all the headlines.  That means everyone must have forgotten about our football team's offseason dru...nevermind.  
Also, aren't the 2 most recent University of Texas related headlines Vince Young's inability to manage $26 million and bomb threats that shut down their entire campus?  Yeah, I think we are okay without the headlines.  

KW:  Who are 3 TCU players UVA fans should get familiar with prior to Saturday?  

SnK:  Josh Boyce is a star at WR, coming up just shy of 1000 yards last year (998) and has been the center of attention for opposing defenses so far this year and will continue to be, but his counterpart, Sophomore Brandon Carter, has emerged as quite a playmaker.  He went off last game against Kansas with 8 catches for 141 yards and 2 TD's while the majority of the attention was being paid to Boyce, so don't sleep on Carter.  True Freshman RB B.J. Catalon moves up to #2 on the depth chart with the loss of starter Waymon James, and everyone is anxious to see what he can do with a heavier work load.  He enrolled early so he's familiar with the offense, and we all hope he can be the lightning to Matthew Tucker's thunder.  Defensively, watch for DE Stansly Maponga to be a playmaker.  He's definitely the best player on our defense but was held in check last week against Kansas due to a ton of double teams.  Even if he's not making plays, the double teams and extra attention he receives should provide more opportunities for the rest of the D-Line to make plays. Well

KW:  We'd ask you how to game plan for Virginia's offense, but the offensive line has struggled so much so far that seems pretty pointless. What does TCU do well on defense that keeps the program at the top of the defensive rankings every year? Is your quarterback as accurate as he seems in the stats?

SnK:  Last year we didn't do much of anything well which is why we took a step back defensively, but this year we seem to be back on the right track (knock on wood).  For quite a few years in a row now we've had an elite pass rusher and put at least 1 LB in the NFL for about 5 years straight, so it all starts in up front.  With all of that being said, I think the majority of the credit has to go to Coach Patterson and his 4-2-5 scheme which he's perfected over the years in Fort Worth.  I'm no defensive guru, but I can tell you that we've always thrived off of speed on defense, not so much size but we are by no means undersized.  It will be interesting to see how that philosophy holds up with the grind of a Big 12 schedule.

Casey Pachall is incredibly accurate and has been since he took over for Andy Dalton last year.  I wouldn't put too much stock into his flawless passing performance against Grambling though, since that was probably about like playing against our scout team.  His numbers against Kansas are more reasonable and even those were pretty gaudy with just 6 incompletions.  He has an NFL caliber arm for sure, and he can and will fit some throws into really tight windows.  If only we could get him to stop trying to keep it on the zone read...

KW:  We told you what a Hoo is, so why in the world did TCU pick a Horned Frog as a mascot?

SnK:  Apparently it won a student vote in 1897 when the campus was still in Waco (gross).  It beat the Cactus.  The Horned Frog is the state reptile of Texas as well.  I'm learning all of this on the Internet as I type this, by the way.  Maybe I should have paid more attention during Orientation instead of eyeballing all of the beautiful tail that I'd be spending the next few years of my life drunkenly chasing around local bars.  I miss college.  Anyways, did you know a Horned Frog is actually a lizard?  Okay, enough with the fun Horned Frog facts, but you have to admit that it's pretty bad ass that they spit blood out of their eyes to deter predators, hence the name

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.

Blog Exchange: Edition: We Ask, They Answer

The guys at TheSabre have graciously agreed to a friendly blog exchange leading up to Saturday's (early) kickoff.  We sent questions to TheSabre, they answered, they sent questions, we answered.  It's no Google+ Hangout, but it will do for this two bit blahg run by punks.  Hopefully this installment becomes more regular, like my morning dumps after a well rounded dinner with no alcohol the night before and a sip of red bull zero.

Part I:  We Ask, They Answer

Sir Wesley Willis (SWW), Lord of Diction, SpitbloodTCU Asks:  The ante has been upped for both teams since their last meeting in 2009.  Since then, TCU has played in 2 BCS games and joined the Big 12, while UVa dropped Al Groh for the up and coming Mike London and was in a division race with Virginia Tech until the final weekend last year. The Georgia Tech game this past weekend was a setback, but what would you say are the realistic expectation for this Virginia team?  Reverse question:  Was this just a way for me to slip 'TCU' '2 BCS games' and 'Big 12' into the question as a humblebrag? YES.

Kris Wright (KW), Editor of Answers:  When Mike London first took over at Virginia, 2012 was pegged as a year that likely would still be showing the ill effects of poor recruiting and roster management by the previous regime. Why? Too many inexperienced players would be asked to carry a heavy load in some spots this season. There was a lot of that evident in the GT debacle. So, realistic expectations for this season? Somewhere between 5-7 and 7-5 unless some youngsters grow up more quickly than expected.

SWW:  Who are 3 UVa players TCU fans should get familiar with prior to Saturday?  Anyone worthy of a voodoo doll in order to improve our chances?

KW:  I'll say Perry Jones, Darius Jennings, and Ausar Walcott. Jones is the Cavaliers' starting running back and a versatile threat on offense where he'll be used as a runner, receiver, and blocker depending on the play call. Jennings is a sophomore receiver that is starting to make big plays regularly. Considering that the preseason No. 1 receiver Tim Smith missed last week with an injury, Jennings is the top wideout to watch. Defensively, Walcott is a defensive end that is very quick around the edge. He caused some troubles for Penn State a couple of weeks ago on a lot of the passing downs.

SWWThru two games, TCU's offense appears to be a pretty well-oiled machine - quite literally if you take our fumbles into account. How do you think UVa will game plan to keep points off the board?  And, on the flipside, how does UVa plan to become the first team this season to put the ball in the end zone against TCU? Hint: It probably involves throwing at the left side of the field.

KW:  Virginia's defense features quite a few inexperienced players so it waffles between good and bad from play to play. If the Hoos can get pressure to the pocket without blitzing, it would help a lot of other areas. With that said, I expect a 'bend but don't break' approach this week against TCU. That means good tackling technique - which vanished in Atlanta - will need to be in the packed bags for Fort Worth.

As for putting the ball in the end zone, I'm betting either Darius Jennings on a breakout screen or tight end Jake McGee on a jump ball will get the team in the end zone. I just don't think the Hoos will be there more than once.

SWWI've seen UVa referred to as "Hoo U."  What in the meaning there? Don't be embarrassed - I prefer to believe our hand sign doesn't exist as a thing fans do.

KW:  I'm a Virginia graduate and have been covering the team in some capacity since around 1997. This is the first time I've heard that phrase. Nice scout work there guys! Seriously, though, "Hoos" or "Wahoos" serve as the unofficial nicknames for the school's teams. Lots of legends and tales out there about that one, but the more popular answer you'll get is that a Wahoo is a fish that can drink twice its weight in water.

SWWBeing in the deep south, the hierarchy of sports at TCU is football first, baseball a somewhat distant second, and from there I'm not sure we even play any other sports competitively at the NCAA level. UVa is technically a southern University, but being in the ACC, puts a pretty strong emphasis on lacrosse and basketball.  So where does football rank in the hierarchy of popularity on the UVa campus?

KW:  I'm sure quite a few Virginians got a chuckle out of Texas being in the "deep south" but I digress. Football is king everywhere pretty much and UVa is no exception. The difference is that UVa fans support and enjoy other sports a lot too. There's a long list of successful ones at Virginia. And unlike the rivals in the other part of the state, our National Championship case isn't empty.

SWWLooking forward, what is your reaction to the ACC adding Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame? As a general statement, do ACC fans hate the Big East as much as John Swofford seems to?  Does Swofford keep ex-Big East Commish John Marianatto's balls visible in a jar on his desk? Or does he keep them hidden in a drawer, pulling them out when he needs a self esteem boost?  In any case, we appreciate the ACC's continuing efforts to keep SMU irrelevant.

KW:  My personal reaction is that it's good for basketball, but I'm a basketball junkie so I would think that. As for football, somebody in the ACC is going to have to win in the postseason consistently for the conference to win some popularity points back. I don't see Cuse or Pitt filling that role and who knows about Notre Dame. However, I think a lot of fans are getting tired of this musical chairs nonsense. Realign and get it over with already.

Morning Dump: 09/21

Virginia @ TCU Saturday at 11:00 CDT on real ESPN & ESPN3

Football Weekend:
TCU v. Virginia, what you need to know:
Turnovers a concern for TCU as schedule gets tougher - AP Story in the Washington Post
Cavaliers talk about facing TCU -
Paschal HS Charging $10 for parking on gameday -
This UVA alum turned Cowboy won't say his school will beat TCU - Big Mac Blog
Vegas has TCU in top 15 schools likely to win BCS Championship - College Confidential Blog

TCU's Jim Schlossnagle will coach Team USA in 2013 -