BYU Wins Holy War

BYU Wins Holy War
George, like Collie and Harline before him, is now still open!

Monday, November 3, 2008

TCU @ Utah Game Biggest in Mountain West History

Thursday's game will feature the highest ranked match-up ever in the Mountain West Conference...

To call the game this Thursday between TCU and Utah big would be an understatement, this game is the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history. The game will match #8(BCS ranking) Utah and #12 TCU. Everything that both teams have been working towards is on the line in this game. TCU has made a remarkable turn around after being embarrassed by Oklahoma on the road. The Horned Frog defense has returned to dominating games giving up a combined 21 points to BYU/UNLV combined. Since the return of starting quarterback Andy Dalton TCU's offense has been unstoppable, accruing over 400 yards of offense a game and averaging 43 points a game. Utah is in the midst of a perfect season. The Utes might not have been winning their games in a convincing fashion, but they are winning nonetheless. Utah has enough talent on their roster to not give a 100% effort and still win the games.

The winner of Thursday's game will determine who will control their own destiny to win the conference championship. A win by TCU will all but guarantee them another conference championship. Even if the Horned Frogs dropped one of their remaining two games they would have the tie-breaker over either BYU or Utah. A win by the Utes would make the Holy War determine the outcome of the conference championship. A win over BYU in the final week of the season would give the Utes their second outright championship, but even a loss to BYU would still give Utah a share of the conference title.

More important than the conference championship, the winner of the game will be in the driver seat of non-BCS teams to break into the BCS. The winner would not only get a size able bounce in the human polling, but the computer polling would improve for the winner due to the improvement in the strength of schedule numbers. A size able win by Utah would even enter them into the talk of breaking into the national championship game. Right now Utah is sitting at #8 in the BCS game, and have many one loss teams sitting in front of them in the human polling. A win by the Utes would propel the Utes into the category of elite undefeated programs that are waiting for their shot at footballs top prize. Plus, Utah would also have another chance at beating a top ranked team, if BYU can continue to win until the Holy War, and that would give the Utes another bounce. If TCU beats Utah, they have the resume to justify a leap frogging of Boise State in the human polling. Plus the computers ding the Broncos due to their weak WAC schedule, and the computers should keep the Horned Frogs the top ranked non-BCS team if they continue to win.

Adding to the drama of the game Thursday, is the two opponents that Utah and TCU just beat. Both teams New Mexico and UNLV are poor man versions of TCU and Utah.

New Mexico runs a very similar defensive scheme to TCU. They like to take away the running game, put pressure on the quarterback, and rely that the quarterback will be disrupted by the pressure and throw bad throws that their secondary can intercept. Utah struggled against this defensive scheme. The Utes were slow adjusting to the looks that TCU presented to them. The Utes couldn't establish a run game that had been the backbone of their offensive scheme. Brian Johnson again appeared to be frustrated with the constant pressure, and had trouble hitting open receivers down field. The problem for Utah is that TCU has far superior athletes than New Mexico, and they will be able to apply more pressure on Brian Johnson due to their 4-2-5 scheme. Also Utah's offensive line has struggled to protect Johnson all season, and should have their hands full trying to slow down the Horned Frog Thursday.

UNLV runs basically the same scheme as Utah, with head coach Mike Sanford bringing the spread scheme with him after learning it at Utah under Urban Meyer. The Rebels struggled to move the ball at all against TCU being out gained 410-176 yards of offense. The Horned Frog defense forced 3 turnovers, and also controlled the possession of the football winning time of possession by 9:20. Yet, these numbers are deceiving. UNLV had the opportunities to make plays against the TCU defense, they just didn't have the composure to take advantages of the holes in the Horned Frogs attack. Also, Las Vegas isn't an intense venue to play a football game. Rice-Eccles this Thurday is going to be rocking with a black out, and the Utes have much better athletes on the offensive side of the ball. If the Horned Frogs give the same look to the Utes, Utah will really exploit the Horned Frogs on the road.

TCU and Utah aren't the only people that will have a large vested interest in Thursday's nights game. BYU will be watching this score very closely. The only real chance that BYU has to get a piece of the conference title included Utah beating TCU this Thursday. Also the Cougars still do have BCS hopes. They are currently ranked #15 in the BCS ahead of both the top ranked ACC and Big East team, and in position to compete for a BCS spot with a win over a perfect Utah team and a loss from Boise State. If TCU beats Utah there is no way that the Cougars can get another conference championship. Cougar fans will be cheering Utah on this Thursday to help them out down the road.

There are three people that will make a big difference in the outcome of the game Thursday night:

1)Brian Johnson - So far this season Johnson hasn't put up the amazing numbers that he put up his freshman year. The difference though is that the Utes have been winning this season, and Johnson has done enough each game to ensure that Utah wins. TCU is going to take away the running game of the Utes, and they will force Brian Johnson to make the correct reads under pressure and beat them through the air. If Brian Johnson is on the money the Utes will win.

2)Andy Ludwig - For Brian Johnson to be able to be successful Ludwig needs to prepare a game plan that allows him to succeed. Ludwig has struggled to game plan for the big games, and has a tendency to not make needed adjustments quick enough to take advantage of defensive mistakes. Ludwig needs to have a great game plan to allow the Utes to get by a stout TCU defense.

3)Andy Dalton - Since returning from injury Dalton has lead the Horned Frogs offense to a statistical explosion. Yet, he has done so against lack-luster defenses. BYU, Wyoming, and UNLV all have poor defenses; however, Utah's defense has been very impressive this season. Dalton also hasn't played in a hostile road environment since returning from the injury. If Dalton makes mistakes the Ute defense will make the Horned Frogs pay. Dalton will need to be near perfect to ensure a win for TCU.

On paper it looks to be a close game, but whatever the outcome of the game it will be the biggest game ever played by two Mountain West Conference teams.

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