Poinsettia Bowl Preview: TCU vs. Louisiana Tech

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIDecember 20, 2011

Poinsettia Bowl Preview: TCU vs. Louisiana Tech

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    This year’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl features two conference champions. The TCU Horned Frogs, representing the Mountain West Conference, will play the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, winners of the Western Athletic Conference.

    The game will be played on Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. ET in San Diego at Snapdragon Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.

    Note: Rankings used are from my National Top 25 rankings.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    Ranking in my National Top 25: #18

    Record: 10-2 (7-0 MWC)

    Biggest win: at #8 Boise State, 36-35, Nov. 12

    Worst loss: vs Southern Methodist, 33-40 (OT), Oct. 1

    The year got off to a tough start with two early losses for the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.

    First, they lost at Baylor in their season opener, then at home they suffered defeat to Southern Methodist.

    From there, the season turned around in a big way. The Horned Frogs finished the season on a seven-game winning streak, including a huge upset victory as they ended Boise State’s 35-game winning streak on the blue turf.

    The Horned Frogs defeated every team in the Mountain West Conference this year, making them conference champions. A big reason for their strong season was their ability to score—the Horned Frogs rank 9th in scoring offense, averaging 41.7 points per game.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

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    Ranking in my National Top 25: not ranked

    Record: 8-4 (6-1 WAC)

    Biggest win: at Utah State, 24-17, Oct. 22

    Worst loss: vs Hawaii, 44-26, Oct. 1

    The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs were champions of the Western Athletic Conference, winning their final seven games of the season.

    And they needed those wins to overcome a very tough start to the year. The Bulldogs lost four of their first five games. However, two of those games were against the two top-25 teams from Conference USA, Southern Miss and Houston. Their lone in-conference blemish came against Hawaii.

Players to Watch

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    TCU QB Casey Pachall, Sophomore

    2013 NFL Draft Grade: Round 2-3

    Casey Pachall certainly had huge shoes to fill this season as the successor to Andy Dalton, TCU’s all-time winningest quarterback who is currently having a very good rookie season as the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

    Fortunately for TCU, the transition has gone very smoothly.

    Once Pachall found his groove, he became one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Pachall actually has physical tools superior to Dalton's. He has better size and a stronger arm. And, Pachall has the 7th-best quarterback rating in the nation (for good measure, he ranks one spot ahead of USC’s Matt Barkley).

    The TCU offense has had a very good year, and Pachall’s tremendous play has been the main reason behind such success.

    Louisiana Tech WR Quinton Patton, Junior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 7

    Quinton Patton, a junior college transfer, was a breakout star for the Bulldogs in his first season at Louisiana Tech.

    In his inaugural season in FBS football, Patton caught 73 passes for 1,135 yards and ten touchdowns. Patton ranks 20th nationally in receiving yards per game with 94.6.

    Patton is a dynamic playmaker who will look to cap off a surprising year with a great bowl performance against possibly the toughest defensive team he will face all year.

    Look for Patton to make a big impact in the Poinsettia Bowl.

    TCU OLB Tank Carder, Senior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 5

    The Horned Frogs’ defense this year was not quite the power it has been in recent years, in large part due to the loss of the team’s best linebacker, junior Tanner Brock, to a season-ending foot injury after just one game.

    That said, Tank Carder continued as a leader and playmaker for the TCU defense.

    Carder is a terrific outside linebacker who tackles with authority and has great instincts. This season, Carder has 66 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and two interceptions (both of which he returned for touchdowns).

    Carder has a knack for making big plays, which is why he was named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Watch for Carder to be a difference-maker when TCU’s defense is on the field in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Comparing the Two Teams

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    Both teams were conference champions.

    Both teams finished their seasons on a seven-game winning streak.

    TCU’s scoring offense: 9th in nation, 41.7 points per game

    Louisiana Tech’s scoring defense: 34th in nation, 22.5 points per game

    Louisiana Tech’s passing offense: 45th in nation, 245.6 yards per game

    TCU’s passing defense: 56th in nation, 220.3 yards per game

Prediction Analysis

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    Since this is a matchup of two conference champions, it is one of the top match-ups prior to New Year’s Day (or Jan. 2, this year).

    However, it could be one of the most lopsided of all the bowl games.

    While both of these teams come into this game on seven-game winning streaks, TCU’s winning streak included four bowl-eligible teams, one of which was Boise State. TCU was the only team to beat them all year.

    Louisiana Tech’s only two victories over bowl-eligible teams were the only two other bowl-eligible teams in the WAC, Utah State and Nevada.

    Led by quarterback Casey Pachall and wide receiver Josh Boyce, the TCU offense can put up points in a hurry. The Horned Frogs defense is not up to its usual caliber, but they have playmakers such as linebacker Tank Carder and cornerback Greg McCoy, the latter of which doubles as one of the nation’s best kickoff returners.

    The Horned Frogs are the superior team at all-around; they should win this game convincingly.

    Final Score Prediction: TCU 48, Louisiana Tech 28