TCU-BYU: Horned Frogs Look to Avoid an Upset and Overlooking the Cougars
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Looking at statistics and records, there is no way that TCU should even struggle with BYU this Saturday.
After all, TCU is more than a four-touchdown favorite over BYU. TCU has won the last two matchups by a combined score of 70-14, and neither game was as close as the final score.
TCU has the No. 1 defense in the country and the No. 11 offense, while BYU is ranked No. 91 in offense and No. 90 in defense.
Of course, BYU has fallen mightily this season, given that BYU has finished in the top 30 in defense three of the last four years and the top 25 in offense the last four seasons.
Since TCU joined the Mountain West Conference, the winner of the BYU-TCU game has won the conference title in every year except 2008, when TCU lost at eventual Sugar Bowl victor Utah in the final minute of the game after dominating the Utes for the first 59 minutes (and missing two potentially game-winning field goals).
TCU coach Gary Patterson placed a BYU helmet on the TCU tackling dummy prior to the 2008, making a win over the Cougars his team's top goal that season. The helmet stayed for the 2009 season as well in spite of the heartbreaking loss to the Utes in 2008.
While most observers had noted that BYU might be a little down this season, no one (and I knew even the worst Cougar haters out there) expected BYU to hit Fort Worth 2-4.
BYU's Betrayal Adds Fuel to the Fire
BYU's bid for independence came as quite a surprise in Fort Worth and the rest of the college football world. Gary Patterson cautioned the Cougars, noting they should be "careful what they wish for."
TCU has felt a strong sense of betrayal at BYU's departure, and TCU has a lot of history with being betrayed. After all, TCU was ditched with the Southwest Conference rejects by Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor. Then TCU was part of the leftover WAC after BYU and Co. formed the Mountain West Conference.
Finally, TCU was left hanging in Conference USA when Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida moved on to the Big East and automatic qualifier status.
For TCU, BYU's move feels like a stab in the back, something not felt with regards to Utah's move to the Pac-10. No, the BYU-TCU rivalry has been more intense and more hostile, and its end has been felt particularly hard in Fort Worth.
TCU will not play against BYU again for some time and maybe never, not unless the two teams meet in a bowl game. TCU fans have little understanding or respect for the concept that BYU will be earning AQ-level money as an independent and have control of its own product.
Is BYU Still on the Way Down, or Is It on Its Way Back Up Already?
BYU is in the middle of one of its worst seasons since before the LaVell Edwards era and BYU's presence on the national scene. Even in the worst days of the Gary Crowton era, BYU had not lost four games in a row since before Edwards.
BYU started the season off fine with a win over the University of Washington, coached by BYU quarterback legend Steve Sarkisian. This was in spite of a two-quarterback system brought about by indecision by the BYU coaching staff.
But the wheels came off BYU's independent bus very quickly with huge losses at Air Force and Florida State. BYU's run defense was nonexistent (ranked No. 119 out of 120 after three games), and its traditional passing attack was dead in the water.
BYU appeared to regroup somewhat against the powerful ground assault of Nevada's Pistol offense, holding the Wolf Pack to its lowest offensive output of the season (435 yards, 110 yards below its season average). While BYU lost as highly-touted true freshman Jake Heaps started his first game of the season, the loss rested squarely on the disastrous play of the BYU offense, not the defense, which only allowed Nevada 27 points.
But a road trip to traditional BYU punching bag Utah State proved that BYU was far from recovered. Utah State already had a near win at Oklahoma on its résumé, so the Aggies looked like they might put up a fight for the Cougars. Instead, Utah State steamrolled BYU in epic fashion, as BYU could not stop the otherwise offensively inept Aggies.
The loss at Utah State led to the firing of defensive coordinator Jamie Hill and BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall taking back control of the defense.
Bronco is a protege of former New Mexico head coach and current San Diego State defensive coordinator Rocky Long and his unorthodox 3-3-5 system. Bronco had taken a strong role in the defense even as head coach, at least until the last two seasons.
With Bronco back running the defense, BYU regrouped and stomped rising MWC rival San Diego State. The Aztecs had come into Provo ranked No. 7 in total offense and No. 22 in total defense under second-year coach Brady Hoke.
The BYU defense stomped all over the Aztecs, allowing SDSU just 273 total yards. The BYU offense, meanwhile, guided by Bronco's expert knowledge of San Diego's 3-3-5 defense, ran all over the Aztecs with 271 yards rushing and 413 total yards.
Thus, even with its 2-4 record, the BYU coming to Fort Worth is now more like the BYU team that most people expected coming into the season, not the hapless group that Utah State dominated.
Gary Patterson needs to make sure his team realizes this. The BYU team coming to Fort Worth may not be as good as the previous versions from the last five years, but it is good enough to cause headaches for a complacent Frog squad.
So, What Is Going to Happen?
Patterson will use all of his motivational tricks to hype his players to stomp BYU, and it will work.
Patterson has a special animosity for BYU, for all that he is a member of the LDS faith, even if a lapsed one. With the added animosity coming from a seemingly personal betrayal, Patterson will work to ensure BYU gets a send-off it will never forget.
TCU is coming into the game off back-to-back shutouts, but Patterson has repeatedly said he does not care about getting shutouts. TCU has also now regained its position as the No. 1 defense (No. 2 scoring defense), something that Patterson does care about immensely.
TCU has been very good this season in general but has been especially dominating at home. TCU has won by scores of 62-7, 45-10 and 45-0 at home this season. The final scores do not tell the whole story either, as Patterson has tried to reduce the offensive output of his team. He publicly apologized for the final touchdown in the 62-7 win, as he did not plan on having his reserve fullback score a touchdown.
Patterson has been very sensitive to the idea of running up the score in general this season and refused to put on extra touchdowns in every single game this season. TCU could very easily be ranked near or at the top in scoring offense if Patterson would follow the example of teams like Oregon and Boise State.
Instead, Patterson has rejected style points and unleashing all of TCU's offensive might.
This will likely end against BYU on Saturday, as Patterson will let the offense do its worst in response to the perceived betrayal. The worst might get very ugly indeed, so don't be surprised if a truly monstrous score appears at the end of this game.
While TCU went up 35-3 on rival Baylor at halftime before coasting the rest of the way, the Frogs will keep the foot on the pedal and unload.
This will not be a quest for style points. Instead, it will be payback in the worst way. 60-10.
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