In what is arguably the non-BCS game of the year (although BYU-TCU may really merit the title), TCU faces a determined foe that has found ways to defeat the Frogs the last three years.
Looking at Utah
Utah, coming off the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama and losing QB Brian Johnson and a number of key figures on defense, looked to have a rebuilding year this year.
Utah dumped its presumptive starting quarterback just before the season and was left with a freshman and a JUCO battling it out for the position.
Its star running back suffered a severe injury early in the season.
In spite of these problems, Utah has shown that is not rebuilding, merely reloading.
Outside of a 31-24 loss at Oregon, the Utes have found ways to win, even in close games.
One the main reasons for the great success for Utah has been its excellent defense, ranked in the top 20 in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense, and tackles for a loss.
Utah players are fast and strong and comparable with other top programs.
The offense, while averaging just under 30 points per game, is also averaging over 400 yards per game.
Former JUCO Terrance Cain led the offense for most of the season and will likely play some against TCU.
Freshman Jordan Wynn has come on in recent weeks and appears to be a solid foundation for the future of the Ute offense.
Utah is 29-2 since being shut out by UNLV early in the 2007 season, with both losses coming on the road (at BYU in 2007 and at Oregon in 2009).
TCU ready to fight to hell and back
Legendary TCU head coach Dutch Meyer is famous for repeating an old saying, "Fight 'em 'til hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice."
For TCU, hell once was very close.
While TCU had its start in Fort Worth, it moved out of the city due to an area of town known as Hell's Half Acre, a collection of brothels, gambling parlors, and saloons that TCU's early leaders thought would have a bad influence on a Christian school.
Cowtown's colorful history is only a distant memory today, but infamous in its day.
Persuaded to return by the leaders of Fort Worth, TCU sits less than two miles from the former site of Hell's Half Acre, but looks to give the Utes a frightening experience on Saturday.
TCU coach Gary Patterson has admitted that he circled this game with Utah last year—and teams better watch out on games he circles.
In 2005, it was a game with No. 5 Oklahoma, where the Frogs came away with a win in Norman, the last team to do so.
In 2006, it was Texas Tech, as Patterson and the Frogs looked to revenge a massive beatdown. Tech lost 12-3, the first game where the Red Raiders failed to score a touchdown since 2000.
In 2008, it was BYU, coming in with a top 10 ranking and looking to make a run at the BCS title. Instead, BYU was dominated in all aspects of the game, and DE Jerry Hughes made his name with four sacks of BYU QB Max Hall.
TCU comes into this game No. 6 in rushing, No. 8 in total offense, No. 3 in pass efficiency, No. 6 in scoring, No. 12 in sacks allowed, No. 7 in rushing defense, No. 7 in pass efficiency defense, No. 4 in pass defense, No. 12 in sacks, No. 3 in total defense, No. 5 in scoring defense, No. 13 in punt returns, and No. 3 in kick returns.
TCU has reached these heights while playing some of the top offenses and defenses in the country.
TCU holds opponents to just 67 percent of their normal yards per game and 38 percent of their normal points per game, while gaining 130 percent of the yards that their opponents typically allow and 141 percent of the points their opponents allow. (Data from The National Championship Issue )
With an over-capacity crowd, ESPN College GameDay in the house, and revenge on the mind, the Frogs are ready to dominate Utah.
Coach Patterson decided to use the Tom Petty song "I Won't Back Down" as his theme for the season.
Most of his players did not even know who Tom Petty is, nor had they heard the song before.
But they all know a few lines now.
"You can stand me up at gates of hell, but I won't back down."
For the Frogs, this means that they refuse to take second place to anyone and that nobody is going to push them around on offense or defense.
So far, they have lived up to this standard with great measure and look to make the Utes experience "60 minutes of hell" like Nolan Richardson's basketball teams used to dish out.
TCU has lost three in a row to the Utes, but look for that streak to end on Saturday.
Prior to the season, I called this one 42-10. Vegas has the Utes as 19.5 or 20-point dogs. I guess I will just stick with my original prediction.
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