TCU Horned Frogs vs BYU Cougars Football Preview
BYU played the very first football game in the new state-of-the-art stadium in 2009 and was victorious in a battle with third-ranked Oklahoma. TCU opened its Rose-Bowl-winning season last year with a win over Oregon State in Arlington.
Unlike in recent years, the two teams face off in a non-conference battle as BYU has set off on independence, while TCU competes for a Mountain West title one more time before heading to the Big 12. In the last six seasons since TCU joined the Mountain West, the Horned Frogs hold a 4-2 series advantage. TCU has absolutely owned the Cougars over the last three years, outscoring BYU 101-17 in three straight wins.
This season is a different look for both teams. TCU’s defense has not been as stout as we’re used to seeing, while BYU has inserted Riley Nelson to its starting quarterback role, a quarterback more dangerous with his feet than with his arm. BYU’s offense had struggled all year, with wins being carried by the defense until Nelson took over for Jake Heaps. In the first four games with Heaps at the helm, BYU averaged just 16 points per game. Including the game that Nelson took over and won late against Utah State, BYU averages 38 points per game in its last four games. Not only has Nelson brought a new look to the offense, but the Cougars discovered a run game on the feet of Michael Alisa, a converted linebacker who played running back in high school. With Alisa’s emergence, BYU has averaged 265 rushing yards per game in the last three games, and the Cougar offense seems to be peaking at the right time for this matchup.
Even though TCU’s defense has been a bit softer than usual, the Horned Frogs’ offense has been a balanced, well-oiled machine. With Ed Wesley at full strength, BYU will have to account for TCU’s unique combination of speed and power at running back found in Wesley, Matthew Tucker, and Waymon James. The Frogs average 217 rushing yards per game on the legs of these three. Interestingly, the two rushing defenses in this game are nearly identical for BYU (123.25 rushing yards allowed per game) and TCU (123.71 rushing yards allowed per game).
But TCU’s three-headed monster at running back was a known quantity before the season started. Where the Frogs’ offense has picked up is with the emergence of Casey Pachall as a legitimate Division I passer. Pachall is completing 70% of his passes while sporting a 17 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His accuracy has made TCU’s offense a scary picture for defenses, creating balanced averages of 234 passing yards and 217 rushing yards per game.While familiar foes, the 2011 versions of both teams have different strengths and weaknesses than from previous years. But the key statistic could remain the same: in those last three matchups, BYU has committed eight total turnovers while TCU has just one. If BYU can figure out a way to limit turnovers, they might finally be able to compete with the Horned Frogs after a few years of embarrassments.
By: Matt Zemek