Everyone knows it is a big game when ESPN trots in their GameDay crew, and that is exactly what is happening this weekend in Provo when #8 TCU Horned Frogs meet #16 BYU Cougars for the game of the week. Last year the roles were reversed with BYU riding high in the top ten while TCU was ranked in the mid-teens, and then the game commenced with TCU absolutely destroying BYU right from the start.
BYU is very good at home and the last time they lost more then one game at home was in 2005 when they lost to Boston College, TCU, and Utah. The weather will be very nice, so BYU does not have the advantage that Air Force had a few weeks back with sub freezing temperatures with icy rain.
In big games BYU has not been all that great especially their quarterback Max Hall. Going back to the most recent five big games of Oklahoma, Florida State, Utah, TCU, and Arizona the Cougars were 1-4. Max Hall has only five touchdowns and 13 interceptions in that five game stretch. Something else that hurt BYU is that speed WR McKay Jacobson is still questionable for this game with a hamstring problem. Without Jacobson BYU will have zero deep threat which will allow TCU to bring the safeties up and provide more pressure on the quarterback.
Max Hall must not force passes which end up into picks, and he has improved on that by not throwing a pick in the last two games. He should make short passes and take what TCU is giving, and use FB Manase Tonga and RB Harvey Unga in the short passing game.
BYU must utilize their running game with Harvey Unga, Manase Tonga, and others to keep TCU hones. The Horned Frogs are eighth in the country in rush defense and that includes a game where they gave up over 200 yards to Air Force. Abandoning the run is not an option for BYU, even if it is not going well, because one TCU makes any team one-dimensional the game is nearly impossible to win.
Protecting the quarterback is the key for BYU, because last year the speed of TCU's defense was nothing they had seen all year. Now, this year the BYU front was able to slow down the Oklahoma front seven which is considered one of the best in the country, but this TCU defense is much faster then the Sooners..
TCU's offense is much better then they have been in the past, and are averaging 33.8 points per game which is good enough for 16th in the country. The perception is that TCU's offense is not very good, but they also are averaging 431 yards per game and that is good enough for 22nd in the nation. QB Andy Dalton is in his third year as a starter and is experienced and not making the mistakes he was making two years ago. He is able to take his time to find the open receiver or make an audible at the line of scrimmage; which could be tough at LaVell Edwards.
The rushing attack has been the strength for TCU the past few years, and this year is no different. Their main back is Joseph Turner who leads the team with 399 yards, and while that may seem low Coach Gary Patterson splits the carries. There are three other players who have over 220 yards on the year with RB's Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker, and also QB Andy Dalton who gets close to fifty yards per game.
TCU has play makers and last year it was WR/PR/KR Jeremy Kerley who took snaps in the gun and surprised BYU early on to take the early lead and never look back. Some pundits are saying that TCU will not run Kerley out of the backfield, but that is not the case he may run it less but Kerley will get some snaps and end arounds.
Also, look for TCU's defense bring the pressue, becaus Max Hall is not good under pressure and is some what agile, but not enough to our run AA candidate DE Jerry Hughes. The Horned Frogs will bring the pressure as they normally do and try to force Max Hall into throwing bad passes plus make them run or pass heavy.
Back to Jeremy Kerley is very versitale and has four scores on the year, two off of punt returns and two running the ball. He is the x-factor in this game and BYU will need to make sure their special teams and defensive backs know where is at all times.
This game could be similar to the 2005 game where the final was 51-50 in favor of TCU, because both teams will be able to score. For as good as TCU's defense is BYU should be able to score since they are at home this week, and with ESPN's GameDay in town the crowd will be more into this game.
Normally predictions are not given here, but in my opinion TCU will win this game in a close battle. The reason is because TCU has more playmakers on offense, and their defense is the best that BYU will have seen all year-- yes better then Oklahoma.