The Cougar ground game was humming and dominant a week ago against the San Diego State Aztecs. The front five were asserting their will consistently throughout the game, leading to gaping holes that the running backs took full advantage of.
The Horned Frogs will operate out of a 4-2-5 base defensive alignment that is extremely athletic up front. They've been stingy against the run this season, but some teams have had decent outings on the ground against them. Most notable was SMU, which galloped for 192 yards against TCU on just 29 carries.
TCU's strength inside is with their two senior tackles, Kelly Griffen (6-1, 310) and Cory Grant (6-2, 305). Their primary playmaker however is defensive end Wayne Daniels (6-2, 250), who leads the MWC in tackles-for-loss with 8.5 and has accounted for 5.5 sacks on the year.
Their leading tackler is middle linebacker Tanner Brock (6-3, 246 So.), who will join with preseason All-American Tank Carder (6-3, 237 Jr.) as the two primary playmakers at the linebacker position.
TCU uses a very aggressive man system that exploits their athletic advantage in getting to spots quickly to make plays. It's a system that BYU has struggled mightily with over the past two years, but it is a defense that has yielded some good gains on the ground, such as when Harvey Unga ran for 123 yards on 21 carries a year ago.
TCU's game plan since 2007 has been to take away BYU's passing attack while dropping their safeties farther in coverage than they do against most opponents. This has led to some decent ground gains by the Cougars, but look for them to change that up this season, if only a bit.
It's no secret that the Cougar passing attack is struggling mightily, and therefore the Horned Frogs could be stacking the box to force BYU to beat them through the air.
BYU also doesn't have Harvey Unga, who was able to counteract a lot of TCU's speed and quickness on defense by pure power running. J.J. Di Luigi is more of a speed guy without the power of Unga, which could lead to some tough gains on the ground come Saturday.
Look for TCU to crowd the box initially and limit BYU's ground game to less than 100 yards.
BYU passing attack vs. TCU
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae has fashioned Jake Heaps and the passing attack with training wheels recently, and will likely try to do so again this week against the Horned Frogs. The passing game has been very limited, but considering the likelihood that TCU will be reverting back to a straight-man system against them, Anae will likely have to take off the wheels at some point during the game.
TCU gives up a scant 132 yards per game through the air, which is somewhat remarkable considering the very aggressive coverage system that they employ. It speaks well to their overall athleticism and ability to shut down opposing players with man-coverage.
They have two shutdown corners in Jason Teague (6-2, 197 Sr.) and Greg McCoy (5-10, 181 Jr.), but their primary playmaker is free safety TeJay Johnson (6-1, 212 Sr.), who can wreak havoc on a defense. BYU won't have to contend with Jerry Hughes, who almost single-handedly stopped the Cougar passing attack the past two years, but will have to contend with Daniels, who was cited above as a real threat rushing from the outside.
BYU's game plan of pounding it out on the ground likely won't work against TCU, although they'll certainly try to do just that. Heaps and the offense will have to prove to have the ability to beat the Horned Frogs deep, which they simply have yet to do against anyone this year.
Look for TCU to be hyper-aggressive in daring BYU to go deep, and if his receivers can hang on to the football, Heaps should cash in a few times on those opportunities.
BYU rush defense vs. TCU
The defensive line and the linebackers had remarkable outings last week, improving drastically over their play the prior four games. Look for Bronco to use Andrew Rich as a linebacker for the majority of his reps while Jray Galae'i takes his spot, as it worked very well last week against the Aztecs.
TCU has flat-out murdered opponents on the ground this year, running for 278.7 yards per game and averaging 5.9 yards per rush. Their quarterback Andy Dalton has been running better than ever, but it's Ed Wesley (5-9, 200 So.) and his average of 7 yards per carry that they'll have to watch out for most.
The warm fuzzies passed out last week by the Cougar front seven may turn cold rather quickly against a TCU team that they simply don't match up well with. Expect the Cougars to show forth a great effort, but it likely won't matter, as the Horned Frogs should rush for about their average in this one.
BYU pass defense vs. TCU
BYU's passing defense hasn't been tested much so far this season. This is mostly due to most teams finding a lot of success on the ground against the Cougars, but when tested through the air, they generally prove equal to the task.
Dalton has been very good, although he hasn't had to beat a team with his arm in any game this year. Both Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young are back this year, and they've both done their part in torching BYU defenses the past two years.
TCU averages a modest 203 yards per game through the air this year, but when considering that they average 278 yards on the ground, that number becomes more impressive. The Cougars simply have to make Dalton beat them through the air if they're to have any hope of limiting what has been a very productive TCU offense.
Even if they do find a way in limiting their ground attack, Dalton is experienced enough to beat a defense when it's all on him.
Overall, BYU looks extremely overmatched in this game. Although it's easy to like the strides they made last week, they're still aiming to match the productive Cougar teams that have been manhandled by TCU over the past two seasons. Factor in that this game is on the road, and it's tough and almost impossible to predict anything but a very comfortable win for the Horned Frogs.
Final Score Prediction: TCU 38, BYU 13