The quarterback position has been a shaky one for the Horned Frogs so far this season. Freshman Andy Dalton will be under center as he looks to improve on last week's solid outing against New Mexico. Backup Marcus Jackson got into the action last week as primarily a run threat from the quarterback position, and look for him to get some reps.
Neither Dalton nor Jackson are big threats to beat a team down the field. Dalton averages a paltry 186 passing yards per game, and has a 59-percent completion percentage, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Jackson averages just over 40 yards passing, and has a 42-percent completion rate, three touchdowns and an interception on the season. Both quarterbacks are threats to run the ball out of the pocket.
TCU at wide receiver
TCU's main receiving threat is Ervin Dickerson, who has 26 catches on the year for 370 yards and three touchdowns. Dickerson will be joined by Marcus Brock, Derek Moore and Donald Massey, as TCU goes to multiple-wide receiver sets often to spread a defense out.
Like their quarterbacks, TCU's wide receiver are efficient, but not spectacular. TCU beats you in other ways other than passing the ball for big yards down the field.
TCU at Tight End
The Horned Frogs rarely employ a tight end in their formations, but when they do it will be manned primarily by Shae Reagan, who has six catches on the year for 100 yards. His backup Quinton Cunigan also has six catches on the year, for a total of 53 yards.
TCU at running back
Aaron Brown is the name that the Cougar defenders will have to account for more than anyone else on the field. Brown is a speed demon who can kill a defense in the open field. Through seven games, Brown has rushed for 449 yards for an average of 5.2 yards per carry and a single touchdown. He has also been efficient through the air, with 22 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown. Brown will share running back duties with Joseph Turner and Marcus Christian.
TCU's Offensive Line
TCU starts a senior, two juniors and two sophomores on their offensive line. They've given up just 15 sacks on the year, which is partly due to TCU's proclivity not to simply drop back their quarterback in classic fashion time and again over the course of a game.
Their best offensive lineman is their left guard Matty Linder, who was Second-Team All-Conference a year ago and is on the Outland Trophy watch list. Look for TCU to run behind him a lot during the game.
BYU vs. TCU's running attack
This should prove to be a great matchup. The Cougar defense has been very stingy against the run all year long and has made a living at limiting an opposing rusher's effectiveness. TCU poses a new threat with Brown, who will bring an element of speed and burst that the Cougars haven't seen this year.
The key to defending TCU comes with containment. The Cougar backers and ends will work hard to be disciplined in their gap assignments, working hard in preventing Brown from getting into the open field where he can kill a defense with his speed and lateral movement.
BYU vs. TCU's passing attack
If BYU can force Dalton to make plays, then the Cougars should do well in limiting TCU's offensive effectiveness. From what he's shown so far this season, Dalton doesn't have what it takes to beat a defense with throws downfield. BYU's pass defense has been very good recently and should limit TCU's effectiveness in throwing the football.
TCU has always been a team that doesn't look to beat an opponent with gaudy offensive numbers. They're a defensive football team that relies on solid play on both sides of the ball and on taking advantage of other team's mistakes.
TCU's Defensive Line
The big news for the Horned Frogs is that preseason All-American Tommy Blake is back after a four-game medical leave. Blake is a beast and widely considered to be the best defensive lineman in the conference. He returned against New Mexico a week ago and headed the Horned Frog dominating defensive performance against the Lobos, holding them to 119 total yards.
It doesn't end with Blake, as Chase Ortiz is just as dominant on the other side of the line. TCU poses the best defensive front the Cougars will have seen this year and likely for the rest of the season.
TCU at Linebacker
The Horned Frogs use just two linebackers in their 4-2-5 base defensive attack. TCU will rotate four LBs throughout the game, two of which have garnered All-MWC honors in Robert Henson and Jason Phillips.
The Horned Frogs will be led in the secondary by Brian Bonner and Stephen Hodge, who both play safety. Bonner and Hodge will front a very aggressive and athletic secondary that can wreak havoc on a passing attack.
TCU also fields two very good sophomore cornerbacks who both started last season as freshmen. Nick Sanders was a Freshman All-American a season ago and will join with Rafael Priest in covering the outside of the field primarily in man-coverage.
BYU vs. TCU's run defense
It should be a tough go for the Cougar running backs in Thursday night's game. TCU poses the best defensive front BYU will face this season. The Horned Frogs are tough and athletic up front and should indeed make the going tough for Harvey Unga and company.
BYU vs. TCU's pass defense
Max Hall and the Cougar wideouts should have some opportunities downfield and up the sidelines, as TCU often employs zero-safety coverage, relying instead on their cornerbacks' ability to cover effectively in man-coverage. Austin Collie, Michael Reed and Matt Allen will all need to have good games if the Cougars hope to be effective offensively.
While other teams have gone with soft zones, bottling up the Cougar wideouts in their deep and intermediate routes, TCU won't likely follow suit. Look for Hall's outlets and underneath opportunities to be limited and his opportunities downfield to increase in this game. He'll have to take advantage of those opportunities if the Cougars are to find success against a very dangerous Horned Frog defense.
Picking up the furious pass rush will also be key. It's no secret that the Cougar OL has struggled at picking up outside rushers, and they don't come tougher than Tommy Blake. Containing Blake and the outside pass rush will be one of the chief components in Thursday night's game. The Cougars' offensive success, and whether BYU comes out on top on the scoreboard, will largely depend on their ability to pick up the outside pass rush and the myriad of blitz packages TCU is sure to present.
Predicted Final Score: BYU 27, TCU 23