BYU vs. TCU: The Match-ups

Entering the 2006 season, the BYU football team held one goal above all others: to win a Mountain West Conference championship. After running the table in the MWC last year, the TCU Horned Frogs proved that the championship will go through Fort Worth. The G-man backs up his prediction for who will take the early lead in the MWC standings with a position-by-position analysis of the two teams.

Quarterbacks:

TCU: It was close to a year ago today that Jeff Ballard took the QB reigns and was off on his way to a Mountain West Conference championship. Ballard was the QB that came in when TCU was down 34-17 and led his team to a 51-50 overtime win.

Ballard has had a solid season so far; in fact, his entire career could not have gone much better. Ballard is 11-0 as the Horned Frog starting quarterback. He makes few mistakes while completing over 60% of his passes. Although he is solid, Ballard is not asked to do much in TCU's offensive scheme as he's yet to break the 400 yard passing marker after playing three full games for a mere 125.3 yards per game average to go along with 2 touchdowns. Ballard is also mobile and has rushed for 125 yards in three games.

BYU: John Beck will be back for today's game after sitting last week out. Beck threw for more yards against Boston College than Ballard has all season. Then again, the BYU offense is much more pass intensive.

Conclusion: While Ballard's record is more impressive his overall stats do not hold a candle to Beck. Much more is asked of Beck in BYU's offensive system and he responds more time than not.

Edge: BYU

Running Backs:

TCU: Aaron Brown will be TCU's primary tailback. He picked up right where he left off as a freshman. Brown has rushed for 204 yards so far this season and has a 4.2 yards per a carry average. He is a speedster who can take it the distance on any play. Detrick James will split time with Brown.

BYU: Curtis Brown remains the linchpin of BYU's offensive success while Fui Vakapuna becomes more of a factor with every game. Manase Tonga is fully healthy and will see a full duty after being limited against Utah State.

Conclusion: Both sets of backs are very capable of gaining well over 150 yards each. It is a tough race, but again, BYU has shown a bit more consistency and productivity.

Edge: BYU

Wide Receivers:

TCU: TCU has a very good one in Quentil Harmon. Harmon 16 catches so far this year and one touchdown. Like BYU, TCU's passing attack includes a lot of underneath passes to the running back.

BYU: BYU's rotation of Matt Allen, Zac Collie, Michael Reed and McKay Jacobson have been quietly effective during the previous four games. Allen is becoming Beck's go-to guy on third down.

Conclusion: TCU's defensive system may allow for the Cougar receivers to become a bigger focus in the pass game than they would against most teams. Fans saw what BYU's receivers could do against a man coverage system and may be able to exploit the coverages again.

Edge: BYU

Tight Ends:

TCU: Like most teams, TCU does not feature its tight ends much in the passing game, choosing to have them help block in most occasions. The TCU tight ends have five receptions among them over three games.

BYU: Jonny Harline and Daniel Coats are as good a twosome as any in the country.

Conclusion: Fans are waiting for Harline to have his breakout game this year as big things were expected of him this season, and this game may just be that game. Harline has been hampered by double-teams most of the year which is something to which TCU has shown an aversion.

Edge: BYU

Offensive Line:

TCU: TCU's offensive front will be led by preseason all-American Herb Taylor who has started for four straight years. TCU will start 3 seniors, a junior and a sophomore.

BYU: BYU's offensive line took a gigantic hit when left tackle Eddie Keele was lost for the season. BYU's offensive line has a patchwork feel to it with the loss of Keele and injuries slowing Jake Kuresa.

Conclusion: It is difficult to know how effective BYU's offensive line will fare against the best defensive front they've seen all year. Meanwhile TCU's offensive line is in tact and ready to roll.

Edge: TCU

Defensive Line:

TCU: This may be TCU's strongest position as they return last year's MWC sacks leader in Chase Ortiz along with preseason all-American Tommy Blake at the two defensive end positions. In the middle they'll have a couple of inexperienced yet capable sophomores in Cody Moore and Lorenzo Jones.

BYU: BYU will rotate as many as nine defensive linemen. After proving effective during the Cougars' first three games, the D-line did not look dominant against a weak Utah State offensive line.

Conclusion: BYU's defensive line has proven to be solid, but TCU has the best front BYU will face all year.

Edge: TCU

Linebackers:

TCU: TCU only starts two linebackers in their 4-2-5 system but those two are very good. David Hawthorne and Robert Henson will rotate at the Strong linebacking position while Jason Phillips will be the starter at middle linebacker. Phillips was a freshman all-American a year ago.

BYU: Linebacker is the position of strength for the BYU 3-4 defensive system. Look for Markell Staffieri to get more time this game as he appears fully recovered from his leg injury.

Conclusion: Phillips is as good as any linebacker BYU will face this year, but Cameron Jensen, Bryan Kehl, David Nixon and others will likely be the best linebacker crew TCU faces all year.

Edge: BYU

Defensive Backs:

TCU: TCU's safety corps is a close second to the defensive line in terms of being the strength of TCU's defense. Eric Buchanan, Brian Bonner, David Roach and Marvin White will rotate throughout the game. All are experienced and will be called on to be primary playmakers in TCU's 4-2-5 system.

TCU will start two redshirt freshmen at cornerback. Although they are athletic, they are also inexperienced. Despite their limited experience, they did shut down pass-happy Texas Tech a couple of weeks ago.

BYU: BYU's secondary is showing improvement with every game. The new 3-4 system is much more conducive to their collective skill. Dustin Gabriel will be back while Justin Robinson's health is in question heading into the game.

Conclusion: BYU's secondary is improving, but TCU's defensive backs are already good and have been for several years.

Edge: TCU

Five Predictions

1. BYU will come out strong

With a lot of senior experience and a chip still on their shoulder from losing close games to Arizona and Boston College – not to mention last year's overtime loss to TCU – BYU will be raring to go. It will be important for BYU to secure an early lead if they hope to beat the Horned Frogs.

2. TCU's defense will present some surprises

With a full two weeks to prepare, TCU will present some kinks to which offensive coordinator Robert Anae will have to adjust to during the game. BYU torched TCU's defense a season ago, so it is not likely the Horned Frogs will present the same zero-coverage man-on-man system, they has success with it against Texas Tech.

3. Hold your breath when the Cougars are on offense

Beck will take some hits during this game. His decreased mobility coupled with the loss of his starting left tackle will leave him vulnerable in the pocket. That and TCU's aforementioned sack machines at both defensive end positions make for a long soak in the hot tub for Beck following tonight's game. Hopefully Beck can withstand the pressure that will come from all angles with TCU's frequent blitzes.

4. Today's game will be much more low-scoring

TCU's defense was not prepared for BYU last year, but they will be this year. On the other side, BYU's defense has improved and will be better able to keep TCU's offense in check this time around.

5. BYU will get worn down toward the end of the game

A short week coupled with a lack of depth at the crucial offensive line position may prove to be what does BYU in at the end. Getting off to an early lead is extremely important in this game.

Top Three

BYU's top three offensive performers in this game will be Curtis Brown, Jonny Harline and McKay Jacobson.

Final Score: TCU 27 BYU 24

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