GAME PREVIEW: (16) BYU vs. (7) TCU

GAME PREVIEW: (16) BYU vs. (7) TCU


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PROVO -- BYU versus TCU has quickly become the equivalent of a heavy weight boxing match; two aggressive and highly-skilled opponents, pitting strength against strength, wearing each other down under the lights of the national media and eventually striking with the knockout blow.

In 2007 BYU was the victor. After a year of stewing, TCU got the upper hand in 2008.

Now, TCU (6-0, 2-0 MWC) comes to Provo confident, undefeated and ranked 8th in the BCS. BYU (6-1, 3-0) is ranked 16th with one loss, a bad loss, but also appears confident as it looks to be clicking on all cylinders following four straight dominating wins.

The intrigue of this matchup, the level of play and number of star-quality players have caught the nation's attention, evident by the presence of ESPN's GameDay.

Neither team is new to the national hype and ESPN's presence is good for the conference, but a win, on this stage, would go a long way in establishing and securing either program's national status, not to mention a possible BCS birth.

The Horned Frogs are too good for BYU to take lightly and the Cougars need to avoid the meltdowns that have become too common against quality opponents the past two years.

The Horned Frogs say they understand what is on the line and will be fired up for this game. The Cougars say they will be focused and prepared for what is sure to be a knock-'em-down, drag-'em-out slugfest.

Ding! Ding!

KSL takes a look back and a look ahead as we prep for game day.

What did we learn about BYU versus San Diego State?

  • Max Hall has great moxie and appears to be hitting his stride (48-66, 666 yards, 5 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, 0 Ints in last two games).
  • Hall is a capable, if not effective scrambler (14 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown against SDSU)
  • Dennis Pitta and Andrew George are the best tight end tandem in college football (combined for 10 catches, 147 yards, 2 TDs against SDSU; 50 rec, 699 yds, 7 TDs on the season)
  • BYU is not intimidated by third down (15-21 against SDSU; 64 percent on the year leads the country in that category)
  • The BYU defense is prone to giving up the big play (six plays of 20+ yards allowed against SDSU)

What questions do we still have about BYU?

  • Will BYU's offense be its best defense against TCU?
  • How will BYU counter the Horned Frogs' team speed?
  • Will the Cougars' coverage teams be able to contain an explosive TCU return game?
  • Can the Cougars thrive in the underdog role they occupied versus Oklahoma?

What can BYU expect from TCU?

  • One of the best pass rushers in the country (DE Jerry Hughes- eight sacks in six games; MWC-best 24.5 sacks for his career)
  • An effective game-manager in quarterback in Andy Dalton (1,223 passing yards, 233 rushing yards)
  • A fresh, rotating and explosive running game (14 different players recorded rushing yards against CSU for a total of 275 yards)
  • A stingy and aggressive defense

What can TCU expect from BYU?

  • Greater focus and quicker adjustments than the Horned Frogs saw in 2008
  • A steady balance between pass and run (300+ pass yards/100+ rush yards in four of seven games)
  • A ball control offense geared to wear down the TCU defense and force the Horned Frogs to throw
  • An assignment-focused defense that'll bend but not break

Miscellaneous:

  • According to Bronco Mendenhall, WR McKay Jacobson's playing status is a game-time decision.
  • In four MWC meetings with TCU, BYU is minus-five in turnover margin. TCU has had multiple turnovers in only one meeting; BYU won that game by 14 points (31-17 in 2006).
  • TCU is 40-1 in the last five seasons when "even" or "plus" in the turnover margin; the only loss was the 27-22 setback at BYU in 2007.
  • BYU has recorded back-to-back games with zero turnovers for only the second time in the Mendenhall era (last time was at UNLV and at Wyoming in the 2005 season).
  • Max Hall has gone consecutive games without an interception for only the second time in his career (both wins; bowl game v. UCLA in 2007 and v. Northern Iowa in 2008 opener).
  • In the Mendenhall era, BYU has had 13 games without a turnover; BYU has won all 13 games.
  • BYU allowed 313 rush yards to Florida State, but only an average of 66 rush yards per game in it's six other games
  • TCU has outrushed BYU in all four meetings (avg. 159.5-76.0); BYU has recorded more passing yardage than TCU in all four get-togethers (avg. 354.3-259.0).
  • BYU's record in the Mendenhall era when throwing for 300+ yards without 100+ rush yards: 4-6.
  • Harvey Unga's 26 carries at SDSU were a career-high.

Conclusion:

After BYU went to TCU in 2008 as the undefeated, 6-0 would-be BCS buster, the shoe is on the other foot in 2009. The pressure is on the 6-0 Horned Frogs, and they are playing in a stadium that hasn't seen a conference loss in almost four years.

Expect BYU to be loose and to have a game plan formulated to maximize ball security. BYU has played back-to-back games with zero turnovers, and under Bronco Mendenhall, BYU has never lost a game when not turning the ball over.

This is the kind of game a senior BYU quarterback lives for- a chance to move one step closer to a conference crown, while beating a Top 10 team on a national stage. The Cougars have already proven they can rise to such an occasion by beating Oklahoma, and if you can beat OU, you can beat TCU.

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