Yesterday: BSU offense vs. TCU defense, Today: TCU offense vs. BSU defense, Tomorrow: Intangibles vs. Tangibles
Everyone's talking about the titanic battle between Boise State's efficient offense and TCU's fearsome "D." And not vice versa.
The Boise State defense is flying low under the radar, like they always do, with nary an expert looking twice in their direction. The TCU offense has been just as quiet, like it has been since Tomlinson left, taking a back seat to Jerry Hughes and Co. on the defensive side.
Well rest easy, Andy Dalton and Kyle Wilson. We want to talk about you. And, to be honest, we feel that the matchup between Bronco "D" and TCU "O" could ultimately be the most important one in the Poinsettia Bowl. In fact, we're willing to guarantee it: The Poinsettia Bowl's winning team will be the one that wins this matchup, guaranteed. You can take it to the bank. Or the San Diego County Credit Union.
Before we get into the particulars, let's explain why: Boise State's defense can win games all on its own, and TCU's offense can do the same. These are not second-rate units; they are just being overshadowed by tradition (BSU's offense) and statistics (TCU's defense). And for the next 1,500 words, they will be the younger brother no longer. Embrace your birthright for a fleeting moment! Here we go!
TCU's range of styles vs. Boise State's preparedness
The Horned Frogs will bring a veritable Swiss Army Knife of formations and looks to the Poinsettia Bowl. The Broncos will bring a portfolio of Mike Belloti, Hal Mumme, and others weeping on the sidelines.
Our point is that Boise State has seen it all and had an answer for it all. TCU can switch from knock-em, sock-em running formations to the spread in a moment's notice. To counter, Boise State can move Ellis Powers two yards closer or farther away from the line of scrimmage. So long as Gary Patterson doesn't break out the A-11 offense, Boise State will know what it's facing.
TCU's only advantage in this case is that they'll be throwing all of it at the Broncos at once. When New Mexico State's Air Raid stopped working against the Broncos, it wasn't like Mumms couldn't switch over to a powerful running attack. TCU can. If the Broncos are going to plan on shutting down the run, the Horned Frogs will spread it out and pass. If BSU takes away the air, TCU will head to the ground. Essentially, the TCU game is like a final exam for the Boise State defense. They've seen it all throughout the season; they just have to piece it together all at once in the end.
Winner: Boise State's preparedness
Andy Dalton vs. Boise State's pass defense
Andy Dalton reminds of Tom Brandstater, and we are so sorry for even going there.
But think about it: Brandstater is a highly touted passer who takes a back seat to the running game, yet he can put up good numbers when called upon. This is Dalton in a nutshell. His biggest game of the year was against Wyoming. He led his team to a total of 23 points in their two biggest games of the year. The most un-Brandstater thing about him is his four interceptions on the year, but other than that, he is "Awesome" Andy to Brandstater's "Touchdown" Tommy.
Just don't let the TCU fans hear us say this. They hold Dalton in very high regard for the way that he came on late in the year, especially in the upset of BYU. He improved steadily after a mid-season injury and put together some good games by the end of the year. So let's get objective about this. Is Andy Dalton as bad as we think? No. Is he as good as TCU fans think? Also negative. The truth is somewhere in between.
Now let's look at Boise State's pass defense. Are they as good as we think? Absolutely. Quarterbacks have looked downright ridiculous against them this season, including our friend "Touchdown" Tommy. The Broncos have absolutely stoned their opponents when they have tried to pass. We've seen 15-for-34, 9-for-27, and the legendary 19-for-50. Quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy are the types who might succeed against this pass defense. Not quarterbacks like Andy Dalton. Or Tom Brandstater.
Dalton might make a couple plays in the passing game, and he'd be wise to hang on for dear life to those short routes. They might be all he gets.
Winner: Boise State's pass defense
WR Jimmy Young vs. CB Kyle Wilson
Dalton's favorite target in the passing game is TCU WR Jimmy Young, who had 926 yards receiving on the season. Not bad, especially considering he got very little help. The next four receivers on the team had a combined 931 yards.
Is this a testament to Jimmy Young's talent? Probably, but it also spells trouble for the Horned Frogs. Boise State CB Kyle Wilson has been locking up the opposing team's top receiver one-on-one all season long, and we imagine that he will draw the matchup with Young in the P-Bowl. If Young is Dalton's favorite target, and he is, then the Horned Frog passing game will have to go through Kyle Wilson if it hopes to be successful.
Good luck. Wilson was first-team All-WAC, and he is already better than last year's top CB and current Dallas Cowboys nickel back Orlando Scandrick. The word is that Jimmy Young is the next big thing, but it's easy to look like the next big thing when you're racking up 226 yards and three scores against Wyoming. We like to dabble in reality, and here some of that reality is: Young had 44 yards and four catches (no touchdowns) against New Mexico, which just happened to have first team All-MWC cornerback DeAndre Wright on the other side of the field. Coincidence? We think not.
Wilson can neutralize Young one-on-one, and considering the lack of other top-flight receiving options, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox could probably get away with doubling on Young with George Iloka or Jeron Johnson. Either way, the Poinsettia Bowl is looking more like a New Mexico game than a Wyoming game for Young.
Winner: Kyle Wilson
TCU's time of possession vs. Boise State's ability to get off the field
The Horned Frogs are No. 1 in the country in time of possession at a whopping 35 minutes per game. Why? Apparently because Gary Patterson has somewhere to be after the game, and he wants to get there in a hurry.
It makes sense that TCU would dominate on the clock, especially when you think about how ground-focused they can be. Their defense shuts down the opponent's offense in three plays or so, and then the "O" takes over and grinds out first downs, five minutes at a time. It's a great gig, if you can pull it off.
Judging by yesterday's preview, Boise State could use all the time they can get to try to put some offensive drives together. If not, we could be staring at a fast, low-scoring game and very few "Saved by Zero" commercials. Is that really what we want? (Yes, yes, please yes, to the latter).
It might not be what we want, but it might be what we get. Throughout the season Boise State has employed a bend-but-don't-break approach to playing "D." That is why, when people throw out the gaudy defensive stats for the Broncos, they point to points scored rather than yards allowed. A few teams have been able to string some first downs together and move the ball before ultimately bogging down around midfield. Oddly enough, it has been a Bronco specialty killing drives inside their own territory. This bodes well for WAC play, but might not for P-Bowl play.
TCU could find itself with an advantage again in time of possession. If they win the toss and elect to receiver, Kellen Moore might not touch the ball until Lou Holtz has his second Diet RC Cola in him. Boise State will find a way to get the TCU offense off the field. The Horned Frogs just might get a few first downs before they do.
Winner: TCU's time of possession
TCU's offense vs. consistency
We made this chart for you. Hope you like it.
This is a look at the points that the Horned Frogs have scored in each of their games this season. Remind you of something you might find at Lagoon? It's awfully up-and-down for an offense that claims to be on the cusp of greatness.
What this means is that there's a very good chance that the Broncos could hold TCU to 10 points or fewer, which would match the Horned Frogs' output in two of their three games against ranked teams (Utah and Oklahoma). Spare us the lecture about missing field goals versus the Utes. Our point is that there is plenty of evidence to assume that TCU could have trouble hitting the teens against the Broncos.
Winner: TCU's offense (and therefore, not consistency)
Boise State's rush defense vs. TCU's rush offense
When one thinks of the Horned Frogs offense, they think of the running game. And for good reason: TCU is ranked No. 14 in the country in rushing, and they are able to churn up yardage in a number of different ways with their option attack. Shades of last year's Hawaii Bowl are starting to flood our brain. Get them out! Get them out! GET THEM OUT!
Chris Johnson and East Carolina found some running room against the Broncos in their bowl game in 2007, but this is (thankfully) not 2007. Boise State does not get run over any more, and for evidence of this, you need look no further than the Nevada game. The Wolf Pack are one of the few teams in the country that can actually say they are better on the ground than TCU is, and Boise State held them well below their average and actually made them abandon the run well before they wanted to.
So who wins this matchup? Patience. We need to name-drop a little bit. Ellis Powers: TCU needs to block him. Kyle Gingg: him, too. Joseph Turner & Aaron Brown: the Broncos need to key on them. Justin Wilcox will draw up a scheme, and if it works half as well as the one against Nevada did, Boise State should be able to hold the TCU running game in check.
Winner: Boise State's rush defense
Overall winner: Boise State's defense
We just realized that we went through this whole preview and only declared TCU the winner in one category. Is this our horrible bias shining through or is it that this matchup really is one-sided? We'll find out for sure on Tuesday, but in the meantime, precedent speaks loudly in favor of the Broncos.
Boise State has shown itself capable of shutting down virtually any offense it sees. TCU has shown itself capable of underwhelming offensively against good teams. The Horned Frogs' points might have to come from defense or special teams because marching down the field against the Broncos will be a tough task.
Hey, speaking of the Horned Frogs' defense, we were just reading on ESPN.com ...