Last year the Salt Lake Tribune headline read "Biggest Game Ever," when TCU and Utah met This season may be even bigger as BCS rated No. 16 Utah and No. 4 TCU are set to square off in what could be the biggest game in Mountain West Conference football history. TCU is looking to overcome its last major hurdle in its route to the BCS and possibly a national championship. Utah meanwhile, is trying to keep their BCS hopes alive. ESPN College GameDay will be on hand, with the entire nation tuning into this Mountain West showdown between Top 15 schools.
Did I mention this game is huge? TCU has sold out their stadium for the first time since 2006. TCU is finally getting the support that it deserves from Fort Worth, who's getting excited for this game. The mayor of Fort Worth is declaring Friday "Go Purple Day" for TCU, where everyone in the city is supposed to wear purple to show their support for their Frogs.
The Horned Frogs will also be sporting new uniforms on Saturday courtesy of Nike. Expect a BCS-type atmosphere at Amon G Carter Stadium on Saturday for a game that should decide who will win the Mountain West in 2009.
No. 4 TCU is playing extremely good football right now. Ever since a 20-17 victory over Air Force, the undefeated Horned Frogs have outscored their opponents 178 to 25, including a 31 point beat down over BYU. Their team has no weaknesses that are visible. Third year starting quarterback Andy Dalton has developed into an outstanding leader for TCU who ranks fourth in the country in quarterback efficiency.
Dalton in his career has struggled against the Utes. In 2007 and 2008 Dalton threw for a combined six interceptions and zero touchdowns, completing just 32% of his passes. Andy Dalton this season is much improved, but the Utah defense could give him fits once again.
The Utah defense once again is very strong this season. They have held every team that they have played under 17 points scoring, except for Oregon. The Utes are going to need an outstanding performance from their defense if to help take pressure off their young offense.
Offensively, TCU is all about the run. They feature three backs using Joseph Turner, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker. Each back has over 400 yards on the season, led by senior Joseph Turner with 560 yards on 5.1 yards per carry. Kyle Whittingham in his weekly press conferences talked about the TCU rushing attack:
The run game at TCU is the best in the conference. You look at yards per carry --which I have said is the real barometer-- and they lead the conference in yards per carry. They are very committed to the run. When you can run the ball like they do, it sets up the throw game, particularity the play action throw game.
The Utah offense has been up and down all season long. After close win after close win over mediocre teams, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham made a major change. True freshman Jordan Wynn replaced Terrance Cain as the team's starting quarterback.
Since the change, the Ute offense has rolled. With only two games of experience under his belt, Wynn is coming into the TCU game confident in what he calls "the biggest game of my life." Wynn however, hasn't faced a defense even close to the level of the TCU's stifling D. He must remain patient and poised if he wants to have any luck against this team.
Everyone knows that TCU has a great defense. With All-American Jerry Hughes at defensive end, the Horned Frogs feature one of the nation's toughest and fastest defenses. Utah will have a very tough time running the ball against their outstanding defensive line. TCU is going to do everything they can do give the young Jordan Wynn trouble throwing the ball.
In 2008, the Utes had a come from behind victory to defeat TCU 13-10. TCU had the game in control, but after two easy missed field goals by Ross Evans, Brian Johnson led the Utes on an epic final drive to steal the victory for the Utes. TCU's BCS hopes were crushed, and they were stuck watching the Utes live the dream as they crushed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. All-American defensive end Jerry Hughes had a few things to say about last year's game:
That loss last year was heartbreaking. To have the game so close and just to lose it in the last couple seconds of the game was heartbreaking. I'm pretty sure a lot of the guys are focusing on that, but at the same time being a senior leader you have to tell them it's just one game that you have to take. It's one more opponent who's in our way. Don't try to take things too personal.
Don't count the defending Mountain West champions out of this game, although TCU is currently a 20 point favorite. There are few coaches who can get their team ready to play in a big game like Kyle Whittingham. Utah all-time is 7-0 against ranked teams, when also being ranked. The Utes were major underdogs to Alabama and came out with a huge chip on their shoulder and shocked the Crimson Tide and the nation with their win. Don't expect TCU to overlook Utah by any means, but Utah will come ready to play.
Utah has a 5-1 record against TCU, with TCU's lone win coming in an overtime match in 2005. They are the only team in the conference with a winning record against TCU since they joined the Mountain West. Each game has been close though. These are two very similar programs, who recruit the same type of athletes. Garry Patterson in his press conference talked about the two programs.
Both programs are playing at a very high level; there is a very small margin between the programs
Utah with a win over TCU would just need a Boise State loss to get into the BCS assuming that they jump over Houston. TCU with a win over Utah can make a big statement that they deserve to play for the national championship. This game has so much on the line for both teams; you don't want to miss this one.