Preview: TCU vs. BYU

(10) TCU Horned Frogs vs. (16) BYU Cougars
LaVell Edwards Stadium - Provo, Utah
3:30PM MST, September 5, 2009 (Versus)

Quotes:

"I think emotions will play [a role] for those guys who remember last year and what happened. You feel like, 'that wasn't us.' You want to come out this year and re-establish who you really are and show it." - Brett Denney

"The whole thing about BYU and 'circus' had nothing to do with BYU. It was about the BCS last year. They were going into last year's game with all the talk surrounding them, like we are right now." - Gary Patterson

"If you get ready for the games you are supposed to win, the big games will take care of themselves. I know that is coach speak, but it holds pretty true. You have to worry about getting your guys too sky high. What then happens, you make mistakes because you think you have to do more than you need to. The good teams take care of business." - Bronco Mendenhall

Injury Report:

BYU - Questionable - WR McKay Jacobson (TBA Today); Probable - DT Russell Tialavea, RB Manase Tonga, WR O'Neill Chambers.

TCU - Questionable - DE Ross Forrest.

BYU Offensive Keys:

BYU lacks the speed to get to the outside against TCU. The Cougars have to try to pound the ball up the middle with a combination of mostly Harvey Unga, but including Kariya, Tonga and Pili. Unga and DiLuigi aren't going to have time to get wide. BYU has to play to their strengths and that is overpowering defenders with their heavy O-line and punishing runners. There will be no time to dance around in the backfield waiting for something to open this week.

If you remember last October, BYU's backs had little to no success while trying to run around the edge. Expect Anae to recognize this and rely more on the "north-south" running game and short passes. Bottom line is the Cougars are not going to put up big rushing numbers against the Frogs. TCU gives up 81 yards a game on the ground - good for 8th in the nation. So, despite Unga's average of 95 rushing yards per game, he likely won't get anywhere near that. Unga and the rest of the backs' main job Saturday will be picking up blitzes and giving Hall enough time to throw against what is also a fantastic secondary.

Just as the running backs likely won't be near their normal production, Max Hall has his work cut out for him as well. Again, we all remember last season's performance. So, despite Hall playing unbelievably well the past two weeks, an interception or two on Saturday shouldn't surprise anyone. But if Hall can get enough time in the pocket, and not try so desperately to force the big play down field, he should keep the Cougars competitive. RT Nick Alleto needs to have the game of his life while matched up against DE Jerry Hughes. Also, if McKay Jacobson is able to play, that will be important as the Cougars will need a legitimate threat down field for Hall to keep the Frogs honest. Still, the short passes to the tight ends and the quick screens to Unga and others out of the back-field will be fundamental to moving the ball. Like Mendenhall said, as always, balance is key.

BYU should be okay if they're able to limit their turnovers. If you look at the FSU game and take away the first-half fumbles that game is very different. It was the extra turnovers - outside of Hall's second-half interceptions - that made the game so ugly. But it was the Cougars' inability to stop the run that cost them the game overall. More on the defense after the jump...

BYU Defensive Keys:

TCU has the 11th best rushing attack in the nation. The Frogs average 225 yards per contest on the ground. The Seminoles ran for 313 against the Cougars. If TCU exceeds their average they'll be in business. If TCU even approaches the rushing totals achieved by FSU, the Cougars will get demolished.

Of course, BYU's rushing defense has improved over the past few weeks (now 23rd in the country) but look at the competition. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton isn't quite Christian Ponder when it comes to mobility, but he can cause problems. Dalton has run for 286 yards so far this season (averaging over 5 yards per carry) and has over 1,200 rushing yards for his career. The Frogs have a dangerous sophomore running back in Ed Wesley. Expect Wesley to only get about ten carries but last week he caught 3 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. TCU's main ball carrier is senior Joseph Turner but he's nothing too special. You might remember Turner from last season when he ran for 70 yards on 19 carries against the Cougars in Ft. Worth.

Overall, the Cougars have the ability to limit TCU's running game. Earlier this season, Clemson held TCU to 162 yards rushing and held the Frogs to 14 points. (Of course, the Tigers also didn't commit any turnovers either and still lost the game.) The Frogs' passing game will put up some numbers, as did the Aztecs last weekend. Whereas their passing game isn't going to beat BYU, their rushing game might. If the Frogs run effectively, controlling the clock and keeping the Cougars with poor field position, it could be a long game.

Miscellaneous:

Jeremy Kerley is among the best punt/kick returners in the nation. His phenomenal punt return last week shifted the game's momentum into the Frog's favor and CSU was done for. The Cougars have to contain Kerley and keep TCU on their side of the field at all costs. Easier said than done...Kerley also ran the ball (in the "Wild Frog" formation) 9 times for 77 yards last year against the Cougars.

Overall:

BYU hasn't been an underdog since Week 1 so it'll be interesting to see how the Cougars respond at home following last season's loss in Ft. Worth and the media surrounding Saturday's contest in Provo. The Cougar offense has to come out poised and needs to score early. TCU has notoriously started slow in many of their games this season, last week against CSU was no exception.

If the Cougars can jump out to an early lead it'll put more pressure on their defense. Russell Tialavea's return is huge because if the Frog running game is limited the Cougars should compete throughout. That's what we should expect: a competitive football game. We weren't treated to such last October.

An objective analysis of this game would likely produce a TCU-victory prediction. I'm not feeling too objective however and I'm calling it BYU 24, TCU 23.

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