Poinsettia Bowl of San Diego 2011: Key Matchups for TCU vs. LA Tech

Alex Joseph@alex_brosephAnalyst IDecember 5, 2011

Poinsettia Bowl of San Diego 2011: Key Matchups for TCU vs. LA Tech

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    The winner of the MWC (TCU) and the winner of the WAC (Louisiana Tech University) will go head-to-head on December 21 in sunny San Diego, California during the Poinsettia Bowl. 

    After beating UNLV on Saturday to secure their third MWC championship in a row, the TCU Horned Frogs have to feel a little upset that they have been overlooked for a BCS bowl. Instead of facing a more intimidating foe in the Sugar Bowl, or even a Pac-12 opponent in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, the Horned Frogs will be facing the winner of the WAC, the Lousiana Tech Bulldogs.

    Unlike the Horned Frogs, the Bulldogs are likely feeling ecstatic about their first bowl appearance since 2008, and even better, their first WAC championship since 2001. This makes them a dangerous underdog going into the game. 

    Both teams finished out the season on fire, winning their last seven games of the season. This should be an interesting matchup to say the least, and I expect this to be a hard-fought, close game. 

    Here are some matchups to look forward to in the Poinsettia Bowl. 

Casey Pachall vs. Colby Cameron

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    Edge: Casey Pachall 

    TCU's sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall has done an admirable job filling in for former QB Andy Dalton.

    Here are Pachall's season stats: 213 of 314, 2,715 passing yards; 24 touchdowns, six interceptions; 161.9 quarterback rating. 

    During TCU's biggest game of the year against Boise State, Pachall really shined. He finished the game 24 of 37 for 473 yards and five touchdowns. Pachall led the Horned Frogs to their third consecutive MWC championship in a year that was supposed to be meant for rebuilding with a second-place finish to Boise State being an accomplishment.

    Pachall has had the advantage of quarterbacking his team the entire season, where as Lousiana Tech junior quarterback Colby Cameron has only started five games for his Bulldogs. That's what gives Pachall the edge in this game, but only slightly. Cameron has done a wonderful job during his stint as the starter.

    He's 5-0, including a victory against an SEC opponent. Granted, that SEC team happened to be Ole Miss, but a WAC team beating an SEC team is always an upset. 

    Here are Cameron's season stats: 97 of 172, 1,403 passing yards; 11 touchdowns, two interceptions; 143.7 quarterback rating. 

    As you can see, Cameron has played great since filling in for freshman Nick Isham, who started the first seven games for the Bulldogs. 

Getting Pressure on the Quarterback

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    Edge: TCU — slightly

    Now that we've covered what should be a great quarterback battle in the game, there has to be a discussion of whether or not TCU can handle Louisiana Tech's better than average pass rush.

    The contrast between TCU's offensive line and Louisiana Tech's pass rush couldn't be more interesting.

    On the season, TCU has been one of the best in the country when it comes to protecting its quarterback. The Horned Frogs have given up only 13 sacks, which is good enough for No. 18 in the country. This has been a big reason Casey Pachall has had such a tremendous season.

    On the defensive side of the ball, Louisiana Tech has been very active when it comes to getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Bulldogs' 32 sacks on the season is good enough for No. 17 in the country. 

    If Louisiana Tech can get through TCU's strong offensive line and apply pressure on Pachall, this game could get rather interesting. However, if Pachall continues to have all the time in the world to stand in the pocket, say goodnight, Bulldogs' fans. 

The Run Game

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    Edge: TCU

    Louisiana Tech's defensive pressure on Casey Pachall is key. However, TCU's run game is going to put even more pressure on the Bulldogs' defense than Pachall's arm will. 

    Led by senior defensive end Matt Broha, the Bulldogs' defensive line is going to need to have the best performance of their season in order to slow down TCU's balanced rushing attack.

    The Horned Frogs have three running backs that have at least 600 rushing yards on the season, and four players that have at least five rushing touchdowns on the season. 

    Sophomore bruiser Waymon James (5'8", 203 pounds) leads the Horned Frogs with 824 yards on the ground and six touchdowns. Junior Matthew Tucker has rushed for 684 yards, but leads the team with 11 touchdowns on the ground. Junior Ed Wesley is TCU's third leading rusher, but has still accumulated 649 yards and five touchdowns. 

    Nine other players have had carries on the year for TCU, two of them gaining over 100 yards on the season. In total, the Horned Frogs have amassed 2,522 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns on the season. 

    When coupled with Pachall's 2,715 yards through the air, TCU becomes one of the most well-balanced offenses in the country. 

    Louisiana Tech has to apply pressure, slow down the run and give their offense a chance. 

Gary Patterson vs. Sonny Dykes

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    Edge: Gary Patterson (TCU)

    In a competitive game, coaching is what really can decide the crucial moments and determine a winner. In this case, TCU head coach Gary Patterson has the edge over Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes due to his experience. 

    Since taking over the head coaching duties at TCU in 2000, Patterson has established himself as one of the best coaches in college football. He has won six conference championships, six bowl games (one BCS bowl) and has a great 108-30 record. 

    Patterson has already had a big-game moment once this season in Week 11 against Boise State; a game that the Horned Frogs won 36-35. 

    Dykes took over the Louisiana Tech head coaching job last season — his first head coaching job — and has compiled a 13-11 record. However, even though his overall record is underwhelming, it's actually pretty good considering that he led the Bulldogs to their first WAC championship in 10 years in only his second year on the job. 

    Dykes has plenty of time in his coaching career to garner as many big-game coaching moments that Patterson has had, but for now, count on Patterson's experience to play a huge factor in how this game turns out. 

Final Prediction

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    Edge: TCU

    Final Score Prediction: 35-27, TCU 

    Louisiana Tech should have the "we're going to play out of our minds because we're happy to be here" edge, but the fact of the matter is, TCU is just a better team at (almost) every position, and they will have the upper-hand in this game.

    Whether they use their talent to their advantage is up to them. There's a good chance that TCU could runaway with this game, but that depends on how they prepare. 

    Louisiana Tech will leave their hearts on the field, and there's no doubt they will make this a game. Colby Cameron will have to step up and lead his team against what has been an up-and-down TCU defense in order to give his team a chance.

    Look for Louisiana Tech to get off to a quick lead. In fact, the Bulldogs could hold the lead going into the halftime and into the third quarter if TCU starts slow. 

    However, the Horned Frogs will turn it on late and get the job done. This should be a fun game to watch.