Fiesta Bowl 2022: Factors That Will Decide TCU vs. Michigan Playoff

Joe TanseyDecember 24, 2022

Fiesta Bowl 2022: Factors That Will Decide TCU vs. Michigan Playoff

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    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 03: J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after his teams scores a touchdown during the second half of the Big Ten football championship game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 43-22 over the Purdue Boilermakers. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
    Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

    The Michigan Wolverines entered the final month of the regular season with one big question looming over their offense.

    Quarterback J.J. McCarthy had not played at the same level of other quarterbacks on top-five teams until he broke out against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

    Creating offense was a big issue for the Wolverines in the College Football Playoff last year, but it may not be that much of a concern in the Fiesta Bowl against the TCU Horned Frogs.

    TCU did not have to worry about quarterback play at all with Max Duggan leading the offense. Duggan could single-handedly keep the Big 12 side in the Fiesta Bowl on New Years' Eve.

    The Horned Frogs' major concern is slowing down their opponent. They played from behind in certain games, but if that happens against Michigan, they may not be able to ride Duggan to a come-from-behind win.

Quarterback Play

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 3: Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs carries the ball against the Kansas State Wildcats in the second half of the Big 12 Football Championship at AT&T Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. Kansas State won 31-28 in overtime. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    TCU had the overwhelming edge in quarterback play for most of the season.

    Max Duggan finished 19th in the FBS in passing yards and 12th in passing touchdowns.

    J.J. McCarthy produced just under 1,000 fewer passing yards and 10 fewer touchdown passes than Duggan on his way to the playoff.

    Michigan is not at as much of a disadvantage at the position as it would have been at the start of November. McCarthy played his two best games of the season against the Ohio State Buckeyes and Purdue Boilermakers to clinch the Wolverines' playoff spot.

    That was a big step up from the November 19 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini in which McCarthy did not have a touchdown pass and missed a handful of throws that forced Michigan to settle for field goals.

    McCarthy had four straight games under 200 passing yards leading up to the Illinois game. Michigan controlled those games with its running backs.

    Duggan has thrown over 250 yards nine times this season, and he has 163 rushing yards in his last three games. He has five 50-plus-yard performances on the ground.

    TCU could rely on Duggan making a few plays each game that the opposing quarterback was unable to make. That might not be the case in the Fiesta Bowl if the McCarthy from the last two games shows up.

    The quarterback battle could be even, and if the Wolverines can neutralize or match Duggan's play, the Big Ten side can avoid a second straight loss at the semifinal stage of the playoff.

1st-Half Performance

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03: Devin Mockobee #45 of the Purdue Boilermakers runs the ball during the Big Ten Championship against the Michigan Wolverines at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Michigan could put TCU away before halftime.

    The Wolverines can take advantage of a weakness that the Horned Frogs displayed in a handful of Big 12 games.

    TCU managed just 10 first-half points in the Big 12 Championship Game against the Kansas State Wildcats.

    The Horned Frogs scored one field goal in a defensive struggle against the Texas Longhorns, and they were down at halftime versus the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Tech Red Raiders.

    The legend of TCU grew this season because it pulled out so many close wins in the fourth quarter behind Duggan.

    Michigan could pile on the points in the first half and place TCU in a hole that it can't get out of in the second half because of how tough the Wolverines defense has been.

    Michigan conceded 12 second-half points in its last two wins over Ohio State and Purdue. That's a bad trend for TCU to try to overturn if it can't get going in the first 30 minutes.

    TCU may not win the Fiesta Bowl in the first half, but it can lose the game if it stumbles out of the gates.

    The same applies to Michigan if it gives up a large haul of points to TCU, but because of how well its defense has played, TCU has the larger concern of losing the game in the first half.