With special comments from Misthaufen B/R Featured Columnist for TCU football...
The winner of this Saturday’s game between the Cougars and the Horned Frogs will have the inside track to win the Mountain West Conference. The winner will also keep their BCS hopes alive.
TCU would get a major boost in the polls with a convincing win over BYU, which they will need in order to leapfrog Boise State. BYU would need a win over TCU in order to get back into the BCS hunt. A win over TCU and a few key losses and BYU has a shot to be the first non-automatic qualifying conference team with one loss playing in a BCS bowl game.
The loser of the game this Saturday is most likely out of the running for both the BCS and the conference crown.
For a game this big I have teamed forces with Misthaufen, Bleacher Report Featured Columnist for TCU football. I will be making the case, in this article, for why BYU will win, and Misthaufen will make the case for TCU victory in his article:"Creature Vs. Creature: TCU Is No Hoax and Will Defeat BYU in Provo."
TCU’s defense has yet to be tested.
The Cougar offense is ranked in the top ten in total offense, 7th, and scoring offense 6th. The best offense TCU has faced this season is SMU; who are currently ranked 71st in total offense.
The rest of the teams TCU faced so far are ranked 81st, 83rd, 95th, and 107th nationally in total offense (not including Texas Southern which isn’t a FBS team).
The Cougar offense on the other hand has been tested by a top defense this season in Oklahoma. The Sooners are currently ranked 8th in total defense, and they have faced three high powered offenses this season in BYU, Tulsa, and Texas. Against Oklahoma, BYU had 357 yards of total offense, with 329 yards coming through the air.
BYU has seen athletes this season equal to those on TCU’s defense, but TCU has not seen any offensive players like they will face this Saturday in Provo. BYU’s offense will prove hard to stop for the Horned Frogs.
There are many parallels between this year’s game, and last year’s game. Last season BYU was the team receiving all of the national attention from the media, and their defense was being praised for shutting down lower level teams.
This season TCU’s defense appears statistically sound, but those numbers are deceiving if one will just look at the opponents which they have faced this season. TCU’s defense is overconfident, and BYU has the weapons to expose their defense.
Misthaufen: TCU led the nation in defense last in year. In spite of numerous players graduating and many being drafted by the NFL, the Frogs may actually be better this year on defense.
BYU’s offensive numbers are inflated by playing some of the worst defense in college football.
Tulane is ranked No. 103, giving up over 412 yards per game.
Florida State is ranked No. 107, giving up over 426 yards per game.
Colorado State is ranked No. 89, giving up over 388 yards per game.
Utah State is ranked No. 110, giving up over 437 yards per game.
UNLV is ranked No. 112, giving up over 454 yards per game.
San Diego State is ranked No. 50, giving up 342 yards per game.
It is no wonder that BYU is No. 6 in total offense, having faced only one top twenty defense, while facing four in the bottom twenty.
One problem in comparing the offenses that TCU has faced is that every single one reflects a game against TCU where the teams were held well-under their season average. By taking the TCU game out of the mix, most of their opponents’ offensive numbers jump way up.
Let’s look at Colorado State. CSU was average a very respectable 376 yards per game prior to playing TCU. Against TCU, the Rams had 182 total yards of offense, with 50 of those yards coming late in the game on one pass against TCU’s third-string defense.
One game against TCU dropped the Rams from No. 60 in total offense to No. 81.
I fully expect BYU to be held to three hundred total yards of offense or less on Saturday.
Statistically both teams have increased their rankings against a host of lower opponents. Yet, BYU still has been tested at least once this season. TCU has not.
BYU is TCU’s defenses first real test of the season. Their overconfidence will be their undoing.
Harvey Unga is being overlooked
It is strange to think the best player on BYU’s roster is being overlooked. Harvey Unga is a beast on the offensive side of the football, and the leading rusher in the Mountain West Conference; however, it seems when people talk about BYU they are preparing for Max Hall and a throwing offense.
TCU is feeling confident that they can stop the run. TCU is ranked 8th in rushing defense. Yet, the only time this season TCU faced a good rushing team, Air Force, TCU gave up 229 yards on the ground. That is over 100 yards more than TCU averages per game.
TCU was able to load up against the run against Air Force, but TCU will not be able to use the same strategy to slow down Unga. If TCU commits to stopping Harvey Unga, Max Hall will go over the top of the Horned Frogs’ defense to a stable of talented pass catchers.
This Saturday Unga will also have another weapon which was lacking last season, Manase Tonga. Last season Unga didn’t have a player who was a strong lead blocker, and also a quality pass catcher out of the backfield. Tonga has proven this season to be invaluable to BYU’s running success, and he looks to be healthy this weekend.
Unga was averaging almost four yards a carry against TCU, which ended the season ranked 1st in rushing defense. The problem for Unga last season was once BYU was behind, BYU abandoned the running game. This season BYU has made a better effort at committing to the run, and that is bad news for TCU.
Misthaufen: Not much of one here, actually. Harvey Unga is a beast and one of the best running backs in college football.
Fortunately for TCU and as noted above, BYU under OC Anae (who coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech) abandons the run as soon as BYU struggles.
BYU will not enter the game with a run-first mentality, so TCU can focus on pressuring Max Hall until he makes all those mistakes he is famous for in big games.
It is sad Unga has been stopped more times by Anae than by opposing defenses.
A wrinkle to look for this Saturday is for Unga to be thrown to more out of the backfield. It is a wrinkle BYU started to implement against San Diego State last week, and it should increase Unga’s effectiveness.
BYU’s Defense is improved from last season.
The two factors which really killed BYU’s chance last season against TCU was there lack of ability to stop the wildcat offense, and their complete inability to play any pass defense.
So far this season BYU has handled the wildcat formation well. They have faced it against UNLV and Sand Diego State, and BYU was able to shut it down. The linebacking core for BYU is more assignment sound this season, and they have support from two good safeties in Scott Johnson and Andrew Rich.
Jeremy Kerley really beat up on the Cougars last year when he was running the wildcat offense. Yet, BYU this season is better able to control the edge of the field, and are making solid open-field tackles. Both factors BYU was awful at last season, and led to their problems with containing the wildcat formation.
Andy Dalton did not have a single passing touchdown last season before playing BYU. Against BYU Dalton was able to pick apart BYU’s secondary. This year BYU’s secondary is much better against the pass; which allows the defense to be more balanced. While the secondary is by no means great, it is a vast improvement from last season.
The Cougar defense has been tested by three top thirty offenses this season, and has proved to be a stout squad. TCU offense will find it difficult to have the same success this season again BYU’s defense.
Misthaufen: BYU’s defense, while nominally improved, is ranked No. 48 in Total Defense and No. 52 in scoring defense.
BYU’s defense forces an little more than four punts per game. In comparison, TCU forces over seven punts per game. Against FSU, BYU could not stop a very athletic team, forcing only one punt late in the game.
The BYU defense has been beset with injuries and will have some key elements return in time to play the Frogs. If the BYU defense that played Oklahoma shows up, TCU will have a little more difficulty moving the ball then the BYU defense that played Florida State.
Even the defense which played against Florida State this season is better than last year’s defense. The defense doesn’t have to win the game on their own, but this year’s defense will provide stops. Those stops will allow the offense to know they don’t have to get into a shootout with their opponent.
The defense is good enough this year to take pressure off the offense, and that will lead to a victory over TCU.
Home field advantage
It seems almost cliché to give an edge to a team based on home field advantage. Whenever a team plays at home they are more prepared and focused, and the home team is able to feed off the crowd. In the case of the game this Saturday the advantage BYU gets by playing at home won’t be the sellout crowd, but the actual field itself.
In BYU’s first home game against Florida State, both team’s defenses were slipping and falling all over the field on every down of play. Why? BYU replaced their field, and the sod which they laid down is in terrible shape.
During breaks in the play an army of BYU grounds crew members will fill mammoth divots made by normal plays of the field. The field at LaVell Edwards Stadium is really ugly!
The field conditions will really slow down faster defenses. It makes it more difficult for players to recover when beaten on defense, and to get off the line on a pass rush.
If TCU’s speed and athleticism is compromised by the field conditions, it is a huge advantage to BYU’s offense. Look for a BYU team to take advantage of their knowledge of the poor turf at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Misthaufen: Having the worst field in college football is not much to be proud of, really. But the Celtics loved having their court as the old Boston Garden with the dead spots, so I freely admit there may be some advantage to BYU.
Even so, the horrible field did not seem to slow down Colorado State or Florida State, both of which had over four hundred yards of offensive against BYU.
Now, BYU has over-watered the field to slow down fast teams before, so questionable field conditions are nothing new at BYU.
But TCU has played in three horrible weather condition games, in monsoons against Clemson and SMU and in a sub-freezing icy game against Air Force.
Having another bad field in Provo in clear weather will almost seem like a relief.
The field will allow BYU’s offense to be more precise. Fast defenses struggle on sloppy fields.
Another advantage which will play a big role in the game is favorable penalty calls against TCU’s secondary. Gary Patterson wisely chose to be physical with BYU’s receivers last season. Patterson decided to knock receivers out of their routes and throw off their timing. He forced the officials to throw flags, and knew they wouldn’t call every penalty. TCU came out way ahead.
Was it dirty? No, it was good coaching by Patterson.
Yet, in Provo those calls will be going the other way, and BYU will be able to run their offense; just another advantage of playing at home.
The games between BYU and TCU have been hotly contested since TCU joined the Mountain West Conference.
The Horned Frogs have decided to make BYU their major rival in conference. Yet, surprisingly their decision to make BYU their chief rival is in line with the rest of the teams in the conference. TCU is definitely taking this budding rivalry with BYU more serious than BYU.
When Bronco Mendenhall was asked if he felt the game between TCU was a rivalry: “I think we acknowledge (the game as a rivalry) because they've clearly made it so. From what I understand having a blocking dummy or something in their locker room with our helmet on it. I don't think that happens unless there is some respect, I guess is what I'll call it.”
Mendenhall then explained the media for every school in the conference asks him about the rivalry between BYU and their schools. BYU beat up on all of the Mountain West teams for too long for other school’s fan bases not to hate the Cougars. BYU has always just considered it a problem which comes with being the national recognized school in the conference.
TCU and BYU have all the makings of a good rivalry. Both schools are religious institutions. The football programs at both schools are highly talented. Every game they play against each other carries importance. There has been controversy in their games since TCU joined the MWC and disputed calls.
BYU fans are still upset over TCU’s overtime victory in 2005; in which Cory Rodgers clearly fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line for the game winning touchdown. BYU recovered the ball, but the officials rewarded the touchdown to TCU. The replay officials at the time couldn’t overrule the call on the field, due to a technicality in the replay rules which since has been changed.
TCU has complained about the age of BYU’s players, blocking techniques claiming BYU does nothing but hold, and claimed BYU overwatered the field in 2007 to slow down the Horned Frogs.
Utah is clearly BYU’s biggest rival. Yet, there are many teams which BYU would currently consider bigger more traditional rivals in front of TCU (Hawaii, Wyoming, even Utah State). If the games between BYU and TCU continue to be intense, then BYU fans might also start considering the Horned Frogs a rival.
This Saturday the Cougars will get their revenge on TCU for last year’s loss. TCU has yet to play a solid well rounded football team, much like BYU before their game with TCU last season. The Horned Frogs have all of the national attention, but BYU will not be overlooking the Horned Frogs this season.
Max Hall will want to make a statement against TCU, and he has all the weapons on offense to have an impressive outing. BYU’s defense will pitch in, slow down TCU’s offense, and provide enough stops to get the win.
BYU 24 TCU 13