To BYU, none of these differences matter. The similarity that the Cougars want to stop is the similarity in the game’s outcome. For three years, TCU has embarrassed BYU. The Horned Frogs have not allowed the Cougars to score more than a touchdown in a single game since 2007. The Horned Frogs have not won by less than 25 points during this three year span.
The outcome, probably, will be different this year as each team has a different identity than in years past.
From 2008-10, TCU has had the best defense in the country each year. In 2011, the Horned Frogs are number 37 allowing 347.3 yards per game. They are allowing 21.9 points per game (34th in the nation). That is 9.1 points more than TCU allowed during any of the past three seasons.
The Horned Frog offense has a new identity as well. Gone is Andy Dalton. Casey Pachall is now the quarterback in Fort Worth. With him at the helm, the offense has remained potent averaging 43.6 points per game (8th) and 452 yards of total offense. Despite returning its top three rushers from 2010, the TCU offense has shifted from a 52% run and 48% pass to a 52% pass and 48% run total offense split.
While TCU has shown it is much more vulnerable this year, it still won’t be an easy task for the Cougars. Whether BYU can win or not will depend on its new identity.
Led by Riley Nelson, the BYU offense has a new identity. Max Hall (2008-09) and Jake Heaps (2010) were typical drop back passers. Nelson is well known as a quarterback who will tuck it and run. He is averaging over 70 yards rushing per game since he won the starting job.
Nelson’s legs bring a different element to the BYU offense, but it was with their arms that the Baylor and SMU quarterbacks used to beat TCU (359 and 349 yards passing, respectively). The BYU passing game looks to be better prepared for TCU than the previous three seasons.
In 2011, BYU’s top three passing targets are wide receivers. Wide receivers have caught 54.6% of all completed passes. That is up from 50.9% in 2008, which was the highest percentage over the last three years (50.6% in 2010, 37.2% in 2009).
BYU wide receivers have had a particularly hard time getting open and catching passes against TCU the last three years. In 2008, running backs and tight ends caught 64% of BYU’s 22 pass completions. In 2009, running backs and tight ends caught 65% of BYU’s 20 pass completions. In 2010, running backs and tight ends caught 93% of BYU’s 14 pass completions.
Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo need to be BYU’s leading receivers. BYU cannot afford to allow TCU to shrink the field by forcing the Cougars into a short passing game. That will only make it easier for TCU to defend a scrambling Nelson and the rest of the BYU run game.
The Cougar secondary has a new identity this year. For two years, Brian Logan, Brandon Bradley, and Andrew Rich were solid, steady players. With TCU becoming more of a passing offense this year, the secondary play is that much more important. Josh Boyce is clearly Pachall’s favorite target. Blanketing Boyce is the top priority.
For the outcome of the game to be 180 degrees different, BYU must pass the ball effectively and defend the pass effectively.
Things to watch for:
- Proving Ground. Much of the increased offensive production has been credited to the emergence of Riley Nelson and Michael Alisa. Tonight, they finally will prove how good they really are. The same goes for the BYU secondary. Debate has been going for weeks about how good/bad BYU has been defending the pass. Shutdown TCU and you shutdown the discussion.
- First half total offense. BYU had 14 yards of total offense against TCU in the first half last year. Obviously, that wasn’t enough then, and it won’t be enough this year. BYU has to move the ball early and score multiple times in the first half. SMU scored 14 in the first quarter. Baylor had 34 points at halftime. You have to jump out to an early lead if you want to beat TCU.
- Second Half Adjustments. BYU lost to Texas because the offense didn’t do anything different in the second half to keep scoring points. TCU has staged furious fourth quarter rallies (25 and 23 points) in both of its losses. BYU cannot sit on a lead. The offense has to keep pushing the ball and scoring points till the final whistle.
- Turnovers. Another key stat in the three embarrassments against TCU has been turnovers. BYU: 8, TCU: 1. BYU turned the ball over 10 times in its two losses this year.
- 3 Punts. Since Nelson took over at quarterback, BYU punted zero times in his first start, one time in his second start, and twice in his third start. That trend suggests BYU will punt three times against TCU. If that ends up being true, BYU should be in a good position to win (unless #4 is what is keeping the number of punts so low).
Last: TCU won 31-3 (2010)
Streak: TCU won 3
KICKOFF: 6:00 PM (Mountain Time)
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM