The BYU defense faces a powerful, athletic, fast and balanced offense when they visit TCU this Saturday.
In the past the question mark regarding TCU has been on the offensive side of the ball. Not this year — the Horned Frogs compliment their top-ranked defense with the 8th-ranked offense in the country.
This offense is better than the squad that has put up a combined 70 points on BYU in their last two meetings.
TCU’s balance is particularly impressive, with the Frogs averaging 279 yards per game on the ground and 203 yards through the air.
Once again the trigger man is quarterback Andy Dalton, who is having a terrific senior season thus far and leads all active quarterbacks with 35 career wins.
Dalton, who has had the reputation of being more of a game manager during his career, has developed into a dangerous weapon. He is the third-leading ground gainer on the team averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry and 44 yards per game.
He has also improved his passing game, ranking 23rd in the nation in pass efficiency, and has completed an amazing 82 percent of his passes in the friendly confines of Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Last week in their 45-0 win over Wyoming, Dalton was particularly effective throwing the ball down the field, something he was also able to do in last year’s 38-7 victory in Provo.
Up front the balanced attack is anchored by one of the better and more athletic offensive lines in the country. This is essentially the same unit that has whipped BYU up front the past two years.
Center Jake Kirkpatrick is the leader of this veteran squad. The 6-3, 305 senior was a preseason All-American and is known for his ability to dunk a basketball.
Meanwhile at left tackle is the behemoth Marcus Cannon. The 6-6, 350 senior is listed by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the fifth-best offensive tackle in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. Cannon and Kirkpatrick are good bets to have solid careers playing on Sundays after their eligibility is up in Fort Worth.
Running behind the Horned Frog front are running backs Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and freshman star Wayman James. Wesley is the leading ball carrier this year averaging 102 yards per game and a whopping 7.0 yards per carry
In the passing game TCU is led by Jeremy Kerley with 23 catches and 4 touchdowns to his credit this season. As BYU fans know, Kerley is a dangerous weapon and has been a thorn in the side of the Cougars going back to 2008.
Kerely isn’t the only weapon that the Frogs can roll out at receiver though. Jimmy Young, Skye Dawson and Antoine Hicks are all guys with speed to burn, and all of them average 16.5 yards or better per reception.
Meanwhile senior Bart Johnson and freshman Josh Boyce have been effective cleaning up on the underneath stuff, and are the second and third leading receivers repsectively.
At face value one wouldn’t think that the Cougars would have much of a chance of slowing down this TCU offense, especially the way the Horned Frogs have dominated BYU over the past two games.
However, BYU’s defensive performance last week against San Diego State gives at least a glimmer of hope to the Cougar faithful. BYU will not enter the game with the same defensive philosophy and game plans as they did in 2008 and 2009. They also won’t quit like they did in those two contests.
Expect this “new” Cougar defense to come out and attack TCU, fly to the ball and give Andy Dalton a lot more to think bout than they have in the past.
Last week the Cougars limited an Aztec offense that came into the game on a roll, to just 53 yards rushing and bottled up lighting-fast freshman running back Ronnie Hillman. It was a massive improvement from a defense that was dead last in the NCAA in defense against the run.
BYU needs to step up its performance to an even higher level this week against a more talented and supremely confident opponent. In the SDSU game BYU had success experimenting with bringing safety Andrew Rich down as a linebacker and playing Jray Galea’i at safety.
Bronco Mendenhall also moved freshman Kyle Van Noy around into various linebacker spots in order to create disruption for the Aztec offense. With Rich and Van Noy utilized as they were, the BYU defense became much quicker. Expect these and additional wrinkles this week as Bronco concocts his game plan for TCU.
It is imperative that the BYU defense finds a way to slow down the Horned Frog ground attack and keep TCU from getting out to a big early lead. The BYU offense is going to have its hands full with the Frog defense and the Cougars can’t afford to put Jake Heaps in a position where he has to throw the ball a lot in an effort to keep pace with TCU.
BYU can approach this game as if they have nothing to lose. After all the odds makers have them as 30-point underdogs!
Don’t expect Bronco and this defense to hold anything back on Saturday, rather expect them to throw everything plus the kitchen sink at the Frogs. It may not be good enough to get the win against a team that is a legitimate national title contender, but you can bet the Cougars will leave everything out on the field in Fort Worth this time around.