Just a little after noon today in Fort Worth, a crowd, including the TCU band, the TCU Showgirls and fans gathered to see the BCS No. 3 Horned Frogs depart from its historic contest in Salt Lake City, the first regular season match up ever featuring two teams from non-automatic qualifying contests.
Most of the TCU players had a very determined look upon their faces, fitting with the blue-collar, hardworking nature of the team and its coach.
TCU coach Gary Patterson was not in his usual khaki plants and long-sleeve shirt, but instead looked very awkward in a suit, having had a morning full of interviews. Patterson, who grew up working from the age of about seven or eight on Kansas farms, was very much looking like all those interviews had taken him a bit out of his comfort zone.
TCU quarterback Andy Dalton was very much in comfort zone, as TCU's happy warrior looked ready, willing, and able to take on the Utes and avenge on his only three losses of the last three seasons (the others being to Boise State and Oklahoma).
For TCU players and coaches, they know the they will have their hands for with the undefeated Utah Utes, even though TCU blew the doors open last season versus the Utes in Salt Lake.
TCU has the nation's best defense currently and is looking to win the title of best defense for the fifth time under Gary Patterson (the previous times being 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2009). No team has ever had the best defense more than four times in the entire history of college football since the NCAA started keeping track in the 1930s.
This year's defense looks to be something very, very special indeed. It is not the defense of 2008, which yielded just 51 yards per game on the ground versus FBS competition.
Instead, this season TCU defense is death against passing. The Frogs allow a mere 119 yards per game passing (leading the next best by almost thirty yards per game). TCU usually rushes just four down-lineman, getting enough pressure.
TCU has the No. 1 total defense and scoring defense. The Frogs may end up with the best scoring defense since 1988.
The TCU defense holds opponents to less than 50 percent of their average yards per game this season.
On offense, TCU's balanced attack means that an opponent can not focus either stopping the pass or the run. TCU RB Ed Wesley, maybe TCU's best RB since LT, leads the nation in first down rush yardage.
While the Frogs are only ninth in rushing and scoring and 11th in total offense, this result as much from Patterson refusal to run up the score as anything. Patterson has said that he would rather lose out on a berth in the BCS title game than win without class and run up points unnecessarily on defeated teams.
Utah is laying in wait for TCU and has the defense and offense to overcome the Frogs.
Utah is No. 3 in scoring and No. 6 in both total defense and scoring defense.
The Utes lead the nation in punt returns with Shaky Smithson leading the nation, averaging over 23 yards per return and having returned two for touchdowns.
Of course, the Utes have faced one of the weakest schedules of any of the top ten teams. In its three games against teams with winning records, Utah has allowed at at least 23 points. The Ute defense also gave up almost 350 yards to Iowa State and over 400 yards to Air Force.
The Ute offense has faced only one top 60 defense (Pitt) and only Air Force was among the top 90 in the country.
Utah has one of the best home field advantages in the country and the student section, known as MUSS, is one of the loudest in the country.
In 2008, No. 11 TCU dominated the No. 9 Utes, out-gaining Utah by 140 yards even with numerous injuries to skill position players, including punt returner Jeremy Kerley and most of TCU's running backs. Converted wide receiver Ryan Christian scored TCU's only touchdown substituting in at running back.
Kicker Ross Evans, who was otherwise gold in 2008, missed two fourth quarter field goals. Utah came back with a final minute, field-length drive, as Brian Johnson brought Utah from the jaws of defeat to victory.
The loss was devastating to TCU, as the Frogs were positioned for a BCS bowl even with an early season loss to Oklahoma. Patterson has called the locker room the most emotional he has ever seen in all his coaching days.
TCU paid Utah back with a smack-down of epic proportion, which led to TCU's first BCS bowl berth.
This season, TCU would like to continue the pain train and deliver a goodbye defeat to the Utes, who are headed to the Pac-10 next season.
Andy Dalton and company remember well their last trip to Salt Lake City and would love to leave on a much happier note.
TCU is a five-point road favorite.
TCU 35—Utah 10