"They had better athletes than we've ever seen,"
former Bronco All-America and current National Football League running back Ian Johnson said.
Which is probably why oddsmakers and pundits are jacking up
the point spread even as you read this to 7 ½ points.
They realize that the way
And TCU is much, much better this year.
Coach Gary Patterson's team is loaded with talent on the
defensive side of the ball, perhaps more than
TCU leads the country in total defense, allowing just
233.25 yards all game by their opponents on average.
They are #3 in rushing defense, allowing 80.50 yards per game, the kind
of numbers that the
There are some very telling statistics that explain why
TCU's famed defense has been so successful.
One is that TCU has allowed just eight field goals all year
long. That is incredible.
What kind of team achieves that? One
explanation could be that opposing field goal kickers are just plain horrible or
that TCU is adept at blocking field goals. But
the real reason is that the Frog defense doesn't even give you a chance at a
field goal—they don't allow you to get close enough to attempt one.
While TCU is 19th in red zone defense, they lead
the entire country in allowing a mere 19 drives into their red zone all season.
Ponder that for a moment. This
talented defense has allowed just 19 penetrations into their own 30-yard line in
12 games, a little over one per game. Boy,
you had better make it count against this defense.
You're not going to get many chances!
If you shut down the run, stop the pass, and don't allow
teams to get inside your 30-yard line, you're going to win some games.
Twelve to be exact.
TCU leads the country in allowing just 5.11 yards per
passing attempt. That speaks volumes
about not only their secondary but their pass rush.
They do not give up a lot of big plays, or that 5.11 average would
balloon real quickly. They don't
give a cushion to an opposing receiver either because if they did, opponents
would easily click off 5-7 yards just on short passes.
Screens would not work either; at least those numbers don't suggest it.
How can a team allow just over five yards per passing
attempt? A tenacious pass rush is
the key. When you harass opposing
quarterbacks all game long, they are going to be tentative, not confident,
hurried, and make poor decisions. Often
they will have to throw the ball away, the numbers suggest.
When they dump it off to a running back, said running back is tackled for
a loss. When the QB tries a screen
pass, it blows up.
TCU is #21 as a team in sacks.
It is no wonder that the Horned Frogs rank second in the
country in pass efficiency defense, an average of 90.28.
They have allowed 10 touchdowns through the air all season.
Given those numbers, TCU has to feel pretty good about its
chances when they meet
Opponents have been forced into third-down situations 176
times against TCU. That is quite a
few but not as much as some. They
have you right where they want you, for you will only be awarded a new set of
downs about one-fourth of the time (26.14%), another category in which the
Horned Frog defense leads the country.
Those are mind-boggling statistics, especially considering
that TCU faced three Top 25 teams this year.
Tank Carder has been tested and walked away the victor most of the time
with 11 pass breakups. Tejay Johnson
leads the team with three interceptions.
TCU has allowed just 145 first downs all season.
Opponents converted 71 by pass and 50 by run.
This alone tells us that most of the time, opponents were in
third-and-long situations because they had to pass their way out of it.
When they were fortunate enough to face a third-and-short, TCU often
stopped them cold. 50 conversions on
the ground in 12 games—that number is 12 less than the Crimson Tide allowed.
Coaches will teach the importance of "gang tackling",
when a defense swarms to the ball with four or five tacklers.
This is because an opponent will often break a tackle or two and run to
daylight. A defense always wants to
be around the ball carrier. Sometimes
though, a defender cannot shake their man and is kept out of the play.
It is in these situations when a defense needs to have a playmaker,
someone they can rely on to make the stop by themselves.
No running through a tackle against these guys.
They certainly have one in Hughes and much has been written
about him. But they have another in
The truth is that there just isn't a hole in the TCU
defense. They do everything
well—fight off blocks, make the tackle, disrupt the backfield, harass the
quarterback, force the fumble, knock the pass away, take away the short
reception, take away the long reception, don't allow the first down, don't
allow long drives.
Simply put, TCU's defense does not have a weakness.
You can bet Boise State head coach Chris Petersen and his offensive
coordinator Bryan Harsin have spent a good part of the last month trying to find
one. An opponent has to have a big,
physical group up front to combat this team and
You would have to have a great back to be able to break
tackles, but again TCU doesn't miss. Clemson
has one of the nation's top running backs in C.J. Spiller (1,145 yards) and
even he could not find his way around nor through the Frog defense.
Harvey Unger is a pretty fair back with 1,087 yards on the ground and
5.87 yards per carry. He couldn't
do it either—obviously Unger faced much easier competition than TCU when he
churned out those numbers.
It would be fun to see how a
And the nation is betting that