Thursday Night Football: BYU at TCU
by Matt Severance - 10/15/2008
There are two Division I college games on Thursday night, but only one truly has national meaning - so, even though the Florida State-NC State game will be televised nationally on ESPN, it's the Brigham Young and Texas Christian Mountain West matchup that has the better storylines.
The No. 9 Cougars (6-0, 2-0 MWC) have the nation's longest winning streak at 16 and have won 18-straight conference games, also is tops in the country. And they have their eyes on a BCS bowl, yet they aren't even favored against the unranked Horned Frogs (6-1, 3-0), as the game is a 'pick'em' on SBGGlobal.
Perhaps that's because TCU's only loss came at Oklahoma and that it has held five of its opponents to seven points or fewer, with only the Sooners scoring more than 14. The Horned Frogs rank ninth in the nation in scoring defense with 11.4 points allowed per game and No. 1 in the nation in total defense (207.4 yards per game), in rushing defense (20.7 ypg), in total sacks (27) and average first downs allowed per game (10.6).
"We've been talking about the BYU game since last January," Frogs coach Gary Patterson said. "They are the team that has won the conference the last two seasons, so that has to be the mileage marker where you set your sights."
BYU has one of the nation's best offenses behind junior QB Max Hall, who is 17-2 in his career and led a 27-22 win over the Horned Frogs last year. Hall is hitting on 70.7 percent of his completions for 1,845 yards and 20 TDs to go with only four interceptions as the Cougars rank No. 8 in the country in passing. He has at least two TD passes in his past eight games.
"I have to be on top of my game," Hall said of the Frogs, who play a 4-2-5 alignment designed to get pressure on the QB. "They're just mixing it up and bringing blitzes from different areas and disguising what they're trying to do."
That BYU offense has been trending downward lately, however. Since scoring 59 points in a rout over UCLA, the Cougars' offensive output has declined in each successive week against Wyoming (44), Utah State (34) and New Mexico (21); the 21 vs. the Lobos was a season-low for BYU.
Surprisingly, the Cougars rank second in the nation in scoring defense (10.7 ppg), and coach Bronco Mendenhall said the key has been BYU's ability to create turnovers: The Cougars are second in Division I in fumbles forced with 12.
The over/under for Thursday's game at SBGGlobal is 46.
Meanwhile, TCU's Patterson still hasn't named a starter at quarterback for Thursday's game, but Andy Dalton, who has missed the past two games with a right knee injury, has been working mostly with the first team during practice this week. Regardless, Patterson wants to run the ball all night to keep that potent BYU offense off the field.
The TCU-BYU winner has won the Mountain West each of the past three seasons, and the Cougars won their last trip to Fort Worth, 31-17, on Sept. 28, 2006, which is one of only four home losses for TCU in its past 32 games.
In their last two losses to BYU, the Frogs have been down 14-3 and 17-3 in 2007 and 2006, respectively. That can't happen again Thursday.
"I don't think you want to do that against BYU," Patterson said. "It has to be a close ballgame going into the fourth quarter."
Bet on BYU-TCU at SBGGlobal.