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TCU at Clemson Preview

Jimmie MackContributor ISeptember 24, 2009

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley #85 of the TCU Horned Frogs runs for a touchdown in the first quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 16, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

TCU travels to Clemson Saturday for one of the best matchups in college football this weekend, yet few will be able to see the game since it will only be available on ESPN360. This is a big game for two programs trying to show they belong and for two conferences that have been struggling recently. 

TCU, out of the MWC and Clemson from the ACC look to match up very well against each other as both play tough defenses and have had struggles on offense; but how do they really match up? Well, here is how:

Rankings:

TCU: 14th-USA Today Poll; 15th-AP Top 25

Clemson: NR/NR

Defense:
Total defense:
TCU: 8th; 213 yards/game

Clemson: 19th; 257 yards/game

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Scoring defense
TCU: 32nd; 17.5 points/game

Clemson: 31st; 17.00 points/game

Rushing defense
TCU: 3rd; 43.5 yards/game

Clemson: 68th; 140.67 yards/game

Passing defense
TCU: 32nd; 169.5 yards/game

Clemson: 9th; 119.33 yards/game

Sacks
TCU: 1st; 5.5/game

Clemson: 38th; 3.5/game

Offense
Total offense
TCU: 22nd; 444.0 yards/game

Clemson: 84th; 333.33 yards/game

Rushing offense
TCU: 15th; 244.5 yards/game

Clemson: 53rd; 159.33 yards/game

Passing offense
TCU: 80th; 199.5 yards/game

Clemson: 93rd; 174 yards/game

Scoring offense
TCU: 10th; 43 points/game

Clemson: 49th; 29.67 points/game

Red Zone offense
TCU: 1st; 12 of 12

Clemson: 41st; 8 of 9

Behind the numbers:

TCU is 2-0 after dominating both Virginia and Texas State, while Clemson is 2-1 beating Middle Tennessee and Boston College and losing a thriller to Georgia Tech.

Position analysis:

Offense: TCU has a multiple offense, utilizing mostly spread option and pro-sets; Clemson also runs multiple formations with the pro-set and various option oriented plays to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers.

Offensive line: The TCU offensive line, led by Marshall Newhouse & Marcus Cannon has been impressive opening big holes for the running backs and giving up only two sacks (one by stepping on the QBs foot). Clemson has had its struggles on the offensive line, and then to add to their misery their best lineman, tackle Chris Hairston may be out with injury while the entire remaining line looks to be hampered by the flu bug.

Receivers: Clemson has two of the fastest players in college football, one being receiver Jacoby Ford. However, the group has been struggling with dropped balls and poor route running early on and is averaging 174 yards a game. TCU receivers have been sure-handed overall, and while the team is completing 73 percent of their attempts, they average less than 23 attempts a game.

Running backs: The other speedster on Clemson is running back C.J. Spiller, who is one of the all-time, all-purpose yards leader’s in the country; however, the Tiger rushing attack is averaging under 160 yards a game. The Horned Frogs counter with a three-back rotation led by Joseph Turner, who is a bruising back who is averaging 97.5 yards a game.

Quarterbacks:  CU’s Andy Dalton struggled early in game one but has been on fire since then and is completing 75 percent of his passes, mostly to his receivers.  Conversely, Kyle Parker has struggled completing under 47 percent of his attempts.

Defense: Clemson runs multiple defensive sets out of a 4-3 base; TCU uses a 4-2-5 base alignment.

Defensive line: The Clemson defense came up big against Boston College and the defensive line was a huge part of that success.  Starting defensive ends Ricky Sapp and Da’Quan Bowers played high school ball together and were both highly recruited.  For TCU, the defensive line is led by consensus All-American Jerry Hughes who is currently third in the nation in sacks per game and is a major reason why the Frogs are third in the nation in rushing defense.

Linebackers: Having sent four linebackers to the pros the last two seasons, it's hard to imagine that one of the best to play at TCU is still around, but Daryl Washington can flat out play.  Joining him is Tank Carder who continues to get more & more impressive each week. For Clemson, the group is led by sophomore Brandon Maye.

Defensive backs: DeAndre McDaniel is one of the best safeties in the nation and leads the team in tackles and interceptions. Corner backs Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor have a combined 19 picks in their career at Clemson and are a huge factor in the Tigers holding opponents to a 37.5 percent completion rate.  The duo of Raphael Priest and Nick Sanders are starting for the fourth straight season for the Frogs and were picked by Lindy’s as the seventh best tandem in the nation.  TeJay Johnson leads the safeties and brings experience to an otherwise relatively inexperienced group.

Special teams: Last week the Tigers’ special teams accounted for all 25 points in a win against Boston College.  TCU has been solid on the few field goals attempts so far by Ross Evans going 3-for-3.

Final analysis:

Both teams play aggressive, hard-hitting defense and will keep their teams in the game, but neither has been perfect. For TCU, it has been communication problems that have allowed for big plays to be run against them, especially on the wheel route which Clemson runs very effectively. For the Tigers—though they shut down Boston College—teams have been able to run effectively on them though they have been able to force some big turnovers.

Offensively, the Horned Frogs have played a conservative, balanced attack and have not turned the ball over much after a shaky start to the season. The Tigers have struggled in all areas on offense, but have shown the ability to make big plays.

Expect the Tigers coaches to try and test the secondary, but the lack of focus the Frogs have exhibited at times is not likely to show itself this weekend and TCU should break this one open late as the Clemson defense gets worn down. 

My pick: TCU 30-10.

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