Posts Tagged ‘TCU Horned Frogs’

Cam Newton

SPORTS: Podcast: BYU-CSU Preview, College Football Update, Jazz Resurrection

Written by Preston Johnson on . Posted in Sports

Is the new, competent-looking BYU football team for real — or was it just a one-time aberration against a sub-standard opponent? How will the Mountain West shake out — and does BYU actually have the potential to go to a respectable bowl game? Will Auburn stumble in the face of the latest allegations against star quarterback Cam Newton — and will that open up a slot in the national title game for TCU? And what the heck is going on with the Utah Jazz? The answers to all these questions and more are in this week’s edition of The PB&J Report. Enjoy!

You can stream the podcast by simply clicking on the link below, or you can download it to your computer by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save Link As” from the menu.

Listen to: Rhombus Podcast 028 — The PB&J Report (2010.11.12)

Boise State

SPORTS: The Economic Case Against the Irrationality of College Football and the BCS

Written by Daniel Anderson on . Posted in Sports

You’ve taken part in this argument before. It’s everywhere. You can’t avoid it.

A decade ago, it was even somewhat enjoyable. We would analyze the stats like pundits, spout our opinions, and fantasize about the hypothetical. How would one of these non-BCS schools do against the big kids? Do non-BCS schools belong in the championship picture?

Since there exists no playoff in college football (although their basketball counterparts seem to pull it off just fine), fans of the game live and die by this kind of conjecture. This age of parity turns the heat up on these discussions to a full-blown boil. Competently run programs like Utah, TCU and Boise State (and until recently BYU) annually produce quality teams that stir the BCS pot. To complicate things further, the BCS has been around long enough to not only betray its own futility, but also render our arguments pointless.

To illustrate, let’s run through two generic conversations inspired by real life events. I’ve volunteered Jake Welch of PB&J Report fame to participate in these hypothetical conversations with me. Here we go.

Jake: “I think if TCU runs the table and finishes undefeated, they deserve to play for the national title.”

Me: “What about Boise State?”

Jake: “They’ve had a great couple of seasons, but they don’t play any quality opponents. Their schedule is so weak.”

Me: “They beat TCU last season.”

Jake: “True, but I think TCU was a little shell shocked by their first BCS bowl. It’s not like Boise State beat them by a lot, and I think TCU is a better team overall. They’ve beaten Oregon State more soundly than Boise State did this year, plus Boise State looked less than impressive in their last win against San Jose State.” (Side note, just to underscore the subjectivity of these types of arguments: Boise State beat San Jose State by 29 points. That’s more than four touchdowns.)

Me: “Ah. I see.”

Notice that Jake (representing all of us) uses the same logic of transitivity that has become the all-powerful measuring stick of college football rankings. In economics, we use the same logic to figure out which types of goods consumers will buy. Essentially, if a person prefers A over B and B over C, then that person must also prefer A over C. Notice further that Jake also takes into consideration margin of victory of common opponents and “style points” in order to determine which bundle/team was hypothetically preferred/better than the other.

While transitivity is a fine way to determine relatively stable consumer preferences, it turns out it is a really bad way to determine who would win a football game. (If you’re not buying this assertion, please refer the entire 2007-2008 college football season).

Next conversation:

Jake: “I think that if Alabama wins the rest of their games, they should go to the National Championship game over TCU or Boise State, even if either of those teams is undefeated.” 1

Me: “Why is that? Isn’t losing zero games better than losing one?”

Jake: “Well, Alabama plays a much tougher schedule. TCU or Boise State would get shredded in the SEC, or any other power conference.”

Me: “Yeah, but Utah beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago. And Boise State beat Oklahoma in 2007.”

Jake: “True, but I just don’t think Alabama cared about that game very much, having just lost the SEC title game and their shot at the national championship. They weren’t motivated to play, and after Utah went up big on them, they scored 17 straight points. Obviously they were the better team. And Boise State got lucky that Oklahoma wasn’t ready for their trick plays.”

Me: “Ah. Right.”

Nauseous yet? Some interesting points about this second conversation: First, this is just a minimal example of the conjectural firestorm that went on after both of those BCS bowl victories by Utah and Boise State. It was out of control — small conference fans demanding that their teams get respect and automatic bids; large conference fans playing damage control and diminishing their losses by saying it was bad luck and that the teams they were facing were so pathetic they underestimated them and didn’t try hard.

Second, the logic is entirely wrong. And it’s our friends at the Bowl Championship Series that deserve the blame. Because their subjective ranking system means everything, we (and the computers) must try to figure out who has the best team(s). We have to do this because the match-up in the championship game depends on figuring it out. Hence, the speculation.

But there is a major problem with this. As much as we try, the sport of football is not set up to divine who is the better team based on one single game alone. The sample size is insufficient. We draw a conclusion that Boise State is just as good or better than Oklahoma because they beat them in one game. But in reality, the only conclusion we are allowed to draw from that magical Fiesta Bowl is that Boise State scored more points than Oklahoma did by the time the game ended.

This is like those loudmouths that, the second there is a big snowstorm in April or May, start sarcastically saying “Wow, I guess we’re really going through this whole ‘global warming’ thing after all.” They simply come across as uneducated. Arguing that climate trends can be proven or disproven based on the weather for one day — for even one week or one month or one year — is the acme of foolishness. (The same goes for arguing that a very warm day in December or January means global warming, in fact, exists.)

Yet this is what college football forces us to do week in and week out — and I can’t take it anymore.

Last season, TCU played as perfect a regular season as you could play against as strong a schedule as you could ask for, excepting the SEC schedule. And instead of getting a shot at the national title, they got shafted to play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Then, when they lost, everyone used it as proof that climate change was bogus — that they weren’t a good team after all. Their entire season must have been a fluke since they lost a game.

Using one game to draw valuations and conclusions about teams as a whole is (and this is important) so unbelievably pointless. But we have to. It’s college football. There’s no playoff. It’s unavoidable.

But that’s not entirely true. There is one way to avoid it. Watch football on Sunday.

In the blessed world of professional football, there are no subjective rankings. There are no “style points” and margin of victory analysis. There are no conclusions drawn about one team beating another aside from the winning team simply scored more points than the losing team. Every team has a one-in-four chance of winning their division and making the playoffs — and some are even invited in as a wild card in case they don’t. When the defending champion Saints lost at home to lowly Cleveland two weeks ago, their season was not over. They are still in the race for their division and firmly in control of their own destiny. Compare that with the crushing effects of BYU’s loss to Florida State last year, just two weeks after beating Oklahoma.

In the refreshing land of the NFL, a win is what it was meant to be — a reflection of who was the better team on that day. Not a means of building up your resume in order to make the case that you’re hypothetically better than everyone else, so you can play in a championship game decided by a computer that takes into account whether you beat your opponent by enough points and with enough flash. Being hypothetically better means nothing in the NFL. Just ask the hypothetically better Indianapolis Colts after the clock read all zeroes at last years’ Super Bowl. No one was up in arms claiming the Colts were unmotivated but were still the better team in actuality. All of that conjecture would have been comically pointless.

Yet, in college football, that kind of postulating is what fills much of what we discuss on a daily and weekly basis. It will form the foundation of the discussion this season as we await the computer results regarding whether yet another undefeated team from a small conference deserves to play for the national championship over a one-loss BCS conference team. And no matter what happens, some people will be unhappy and unfulfilled.

For those of us seeking a bit of rationality in our football experience, the NFL provides the objective breath of fresh air.

—————

1At the time of writing, Alabama was still a one-loss team. They have since lost to LSU, making this conversation a little outdated. But it is still an accurate representation of the logic involved in college football debates, so it stayed.

SPORTS: 5 Things Learned on "Championship Saturday"

Written by Preston Johnson on . Posted in Sports

Alabamas Greg McElroy is the real deal.

Alabama's Greg McElroy is the real deal.

In his first print contribution to the magazine, Rhombus sports podcast featured contributor Preston Johnson offers the five things he learned from college football’s recent “Championship Saturday.”

Five Things I Learned on “Championship Saturday”:

1. Life with a playoff in college football would be ten times better. It is true, and I invite anybody to argue to the contrary. If you wish to see a blog post I wrote before bowl season last year on ESPN.com regarding my idea for a college football playoff, check it here.

2.  Alabama and Greg McElroy are for real. They dominated a Florida team that held a 22-game winning streak and seemed unbeatable the last two seasons. One of the reasons for the dominant Florida era is their quarterback Tim Tebow. Alabama was able to hold the former Heisman Trophy-winner to 247 yards passing with only one touchdown on Saturday, and also forced a costly interception in the red zone. Tebow was also limited to just 63 yards on the ground.

For the Crimson Tide, however, they feature a Heisman hopeful running back in Mark Ingram, and a sophomore quarterback that nobody was sure would even start this season in Greg Mcelroy. The result?  A 13-0 season, a trip to Pasadena to play in the BCS National Championship and, in my opinion, the best performance by any one quarterback this year. McElroy led his team by completing 66 percent of his passes for 239 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.

Aside from the brilliant way McElroy managed the game against top-ranked Florida, he converted two key third down plays rushing the ball that resulted in 14 Alabama points. One more side note for those that are unaware: Greg Mcelroy has never lost a football game in his life. Ever. After leading the Southlake Carroll Dragons to an undefeated season and high school state championship in Texas, he has now done the college equivalent for the Crimson Tide. The result? Bama will win the National Title this year.

3. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be going to New York city as a Heisman finalist. If anyone caught the instant classic between the Cornhuskers and the Longhorns of Texas on Saturday night, they know that Suh put up unreal numbers on the defensive side with 12 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Audibles, double teams and offensive line shifts didn’t matter. Suh gave Nebraska the chance to win despite their offense’s pathetic 109 total yard performance. The last and only other defensive player to be a finalist in the Heisman Trophy race was Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997; He won the award.

4.  Nebraska came .314 seconds away from ruining Texas’ title hopes and sending a non-automatic BCS qualifying team to the national championship game for the first time. TCU and the entire Mountain West Conference groaned when Longhorn kicker Hunter Lawrence converted the game-winning field goal as time expired.

5. Texas didn’t play a single team this year that finished with less than 3 losses. (All had at least four losses, except for Oklahoma State at 9-3 — but they lost to the University of Houston at home.) And let’s be honest: Nobody can definitely say that Texas is better than TCU, Cincinnati or Boise State. Not after Texas needed a Thanksgiving Day escape two weeks ago against a pitiful Texas A&M squad and certainly not after the Longhorns bumbled around against Nebraska on Saturday. As far as the Heisman race goes? Texas quarterback and team leader Colt McCoy threw for 184 yards, zero touchdowns and three picks. Give the trophy to Suh.

Unfortunately, this college football season has come to an end and the bowls are set. And what we do know? An undeserving Longhorn team will be playing the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national title game. The result?  Texas loses by at least two touchdowns to Bama, and we will all be left wondering what could have been had TCU, Cincinnati or Boise State gotten their shot at the crystal ball.

This is Preston Johnson’s first article for Rhombus. He can also be heard regularly on the magazine’s weekly sports podcast.

SPORTS: BYU Football Weekly Roundup (Week 11)

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

The only Heisman pose that Max Hall will be striking this year...

The only Heisman pose that Max Hall will be striking this year...

Week 11: BYU vs. Air Force

How about those TCU Horned Frogs?

They sure proved to the nation they are worthy of their ranking by beating the snot out of Utah. I thank my lucky stars for this blessed event, not because a MWC team got some loving or the fact that Utah got put in its place, but because it completely overshadowed the fact that BYU almost got beat by winless New Mexico.

While the rest of the country was prepping for the showdown in Fort Worth, a couple thousand people in Albuquerque and thirty seven people via The Mountain watched a very lethargic BYU team get challenged by a New Mexico squad that proved they had some heart.

I said last week that if BYU didn’t score more than 45 and/or gave up more than ten points, it would be a disappointment. Well, it was. The offense found a rhythm a couple times and sputtered the rest of the way, while the defense looked like they were in Laramie (a.k.a. lost.)

Patchwork Line
Usually when a team struggles, the natural reaction is to point to the quarterback, cornerbacks or the coach. Most of the time we can easily blame the loss on the secondary, but that is not the case with this game.

One of the reasons why the BYU offense was not as effective on Saturday was that starting right tackle Nick Alletto was out with an injury. His back-up, Braden Brown, did pretty well for starting his first game at offensive line, but anytime you throw a new lineman into the mix you get less than stellar results.

Just look at the game earlier this year when the listless Oakland Raiders somehow beat the Philadelphia Eagles. Donavan McNabb had a horrible game throwing the ball, mostly because he was on the run all day long. On that particular day, the Eagles’ starting right guard and tackle were out with injuries.

For most of the year the offensive line has played stellar, considering their inexperience and long list of injuries. In these last two games, it will be critical for them to stay healthy. Air Force and Utah have good enough defenses that will take advantage of a banged-up BYU offensive line.

Flying High
If there is any team in the Mountain West conference that I am a legitimate fan of, besides BYU, it would have to be Air Force. I lived about an hour away from Colorado Springs and, almost every year, my father and I would go down to a football game at the Academy. It was around the seventh grade that I fell in love with Air Force’s triple option offense.

I remember spending hours in middle school social studies classes drawing up option plays in my notebook. I would go online and look at option strategies, so that one day I could fulfill my dream of coaching a high school football team to the state championship without throwing a forward pass the entire season.

My dreams have since changed, but Air Force is still one of the best option offenses in the country, despite lacking top-tier athletes. Just try and think of a player from Air Force that is now in the NFL. Usually their squad is a bunch of Rudys — guys that have a lot of heart, but not the build to be an All-American.

Their effectiveness stems from their hard work and discipline. Because they aren’t the biggest or the fastest, they have to be the most unified and cohesive team in order to get victories. They understand their limitations and make the most of their situation. If BYU does not match their discipline and effort, it could be a long day for the Cougars.

Prediction
Contrary to popular understanding, BYU has a pretty decent run defense. Sure, we can make any quarterback in the conference look like a world beater, but our defense has a strong commitment to stopping the run. However, Air Force will always find a way to run the ball, even against good defenses. The key for BYU in this game will be controlling the line of scrimmage on first and second down. If they can force the Falcons into third and long, they will control the game. Expect this game to be a dogfight. Air Force and BYU have had some epic showdowns over the years and this one should be no different. BYU 31, Air Force 27.

Three Cheers
1. The goal post — Blocked three kicks for the Cougars.

2. Andrew Rich — Was all over the field making tackles and stopping the run.

3. Andrew George — Caught a TD pass and became a dad… all in a day’s work.

Three Jeers
1. O’Neill Chambers — Football term of the season for O’Neill: fair catch.

2. Brian Kariya — Usually known for his ball security, coughed it up in the fourth quarter.

3. Matt Bauman — He makes me look like greased lightening… (I’m not.)

Basketball Blurb
There are two things you need to know about this week in BYU basketball: One, Jonathan Tarvernari might lose his spot on the Brazilian national team if he keeps shooting like this. He was 2-12 against Idaho State and 0-6 behind the arc. And two, it’s a good thing Jackson “The Golden Child” Emery decided to play offense. Like I said last week, BYU needs him to produce and he did just that with 19 points and 7 rebounds on Monday night.

BYU’s schedule looks like a list of community colleges until December 2nd, when they face off against Utah State in Logan. Freshman Tyler Haws is still looking lost on the floor, but he shows flashes of greatness that get me pretty darn excited for the future. Brandon Davies is just a beast. If those two come into their own by season’s end (and Tavernari discovers his calling in life is to be something other than a basketball player), then we might be able to win a game in the NCAA tournament.

Jake Welch is a sports correspondent for Rhombus. He is not, by any means, greased lightening.

SPORTS: Go Forth and Learn

Written by Adam Stevens on . Posted in Sports

If I’ve learned one thing about football this season, it’s that Peyton Manning is even better than anyone thought. If I’ve learned two things, the second is that life and football are significantly more enjoyable when you pledge allegiance to no team.

I grew up in a home where, because my dad went to BYU, everyone in the home was a BYU fan. For years I was raised on Cougar football and schooled in the ways of passing attacks and the overratedness of having a good defense and special teams. (Full disclosure: turns out having a good defense and special teams is not overrated.) I’ve lost my voice many times over the years of attending BYU games in Cougar/LaVell Edwards Stadium. I’ve seen every Mountain West Conference team at least once, and I’ve seen out-of-conference opponents as well. On the flip side, I’ve been to two Utah Ute football games in my life — a win against Wyoming and a win against Utah State.

While I am a fan of the big three professional sports (and trying to be a fan of hockey and soccer as well), I’ve lost almost all interest in college basketball because nobody around here is really any good and college basketball is, for the most part, sloppy.  I can’t stand watching NBA games because of the referees. Star treatment in the NBA is real and more out-of-control than our national debt and the BCS combined. Soccer and hockey are rarely on TV and not worth paying for an Internet viewing subscription. Sadly, I don’t have much time to watch a full baseball game anymore. Hence, football has become the sport I watch most, and I have no problem with that. I try to catch a few NFL games each Sunday and I never miss a Colts game if it’s available, but I love college football and I’ll watch just about any game I possibly can.

I’ve put a lot of time and effort into learning more about football and becoming familiar with a greater variety of football programs around the country. I even took a class on coaching football. Understanding the game on an in-depth level makes it easier to appreciate what you see a team do on the field and, for me, it’s made it impossible to dislike teams. I’ve found that I have a greater appreciation for the amount of work it takes to execute a game plan, especially when we’re dealing with students who also carry a full-time school schedule.

In the social sciences, we are taught to look at everything from an objective point-of-view and remove all bias from our analysis and conclusion.  As a student of the social sciences, I try to apply this pattern of thought to everything I’m involved in, and that includes football.  I’ve been able to drift out of my mental block and realize that BYU would only be the best team in the Mid-American Conference (maybe), and that there are so many other fantastic teams out there that I can appreciate and wish great success for.

This category now includes the University of Utah. Aside from being a truly great academic institution, the football program has done phenomenal things in recent seasons. Anyone who is unable to recognize, appreciate and support the Utes’ success  might need to 1) take a break from football to consider what’s really important in life, and 2) devote some time to learn more about football, and see if your perspective changes a little bit.

There came a point when I realized that I had no reason to “hate” the Utes and that the only reason I was a Cougar fan was because that’s just what I was told when I was a kid. I took the time to learn and decide for myself and, based on a variety of factors, many of which I won’t take the time and space to get into, I concluded at a certain point last year that I had no need to choose between the two teams.

This paradigm shift takes root in a BYU-Utah matchup a few years back, when Utah rolled into Provo, embarrassed BYU in the first half, and fought off a Cougar rally in the second half to win in overtime — with a backup quarterback, nonetheless. Let’s just say I expressed my frustrations with an unnecessary display of anger which was both embarrassing and thought-provoking. How can I dislike a team whose coach is a fierce competitor, deemed by Urban Meyer as the best assistant coach he’s ever had? How can I dislike a team who year after year, despite their record, plays absolutely out of their minds to try to beat their rivals at BYU? How can I dislike a team who has fought through past seasons of mediocrity to build the program into what can arguably be called the premier program in the Mountain West Conference? True, they don’t bring in elite quarterback recruits and pile up gaudy offensive statistics, but they manage to be efficient and remain capable of lighting up the scoreboard when necessary. This is a program who focuses on defensive and special teams dominance, and they have achieved it.

I feel like the Cougars have reached their peak. It is realistic to believe that they’ll go many more years with two or three losses, sometimes perhaps just one — but because of recruiting philosophies, they’ll never have the elite athletes it takes to inflict true dominance on other great opponents. Although BYU deserves all the credit in the world for an inspired performance against Oklahoma this season, recent significant games show that the Cougars do not match up well against very athletic teams.

I will admit, though, that I got caught up in the hype just like everyone else after the Oklahoma win. Turns out we were all mistaken. BYU will always be a fun team to watch. They have a system in place which allows great success for the offense, and most people probably agree that watching a good offense is the best part of watching football. Occasionally, there are great defensive players who come through Provo, and they make big plays and earn chants from the home fans.  There is a pretty good coaching staff in place (although Bronco was BYU’s fourth choice, he was probably the right choice) and there is ample reason to believe that BYU will continue to compete for the MWC title each year. There’s just not much reason to believe they’ll ever play in a bowl game not in Las Vegas. (Anyone else getting really tired of that?)

My purpose here is not to talk people out of being BYU fans and converting to Ute-ism. I’ve found a way to have optimal enjoyment of college football, and it works really well for me. Of course, rivalries would not be rivalries without fans saying really stupid things to each other via the media! Although, I do wonder if fans of other teams around the country are capable of saying things that are quite as idiotic as what is exchanged between Ute and Cougar fans. I’ve often heard peopel say, “I hate Utah/BYU because of their fans.” Every team in the world has a number of fans who suffer from an age-inappropriate level of maturity and intelligence, people. If you need to hate a team because of their fans, don’t tell anyone else about it.

Anyway, back to my main discussion.  I can’t help but wonder how many closet Ute fans there are out there who perhaps relate to my sentiments here. I might be called a bandwagon fan, and that’s fine if you feel that way. I don’t consider it to be an issue of bandwagons. I knew Utah would be experiencing a learning curve this season and wouldn’t bust the BCS, and I also knew BYU would get trounced by TCU. I still wish the best success possible for all three of those teams. I would love nothing more than for TCU to play in (and win) a BCS game, especially over Boise State! I would love for BYU to start consistently winning bowl games, but mostly I would love to see them play somewhere besides the Las Vegas Bowl and against someone not from the Pac-10. I fully expect Utah to continue their streak of bowl victories. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s now at eight.) From the successes of these teams and the hopeful rise of programs such as Air Force and San Diego State, the Mountain West Conference will keep climbing the ladder of recognition in college football.

Keep your allegiances if you must — but, based on the reactions to a BYU loss I read all over Facebook this last weekend, I must make one recommendation. As football fans, we all owe it to ourselves to make an effort to expand our field of knowledge and learn as much as we can about the game. Not only will football be more fun to watch, but you may even gain an appreciation for some of the great programs around the country (including your rival).

Football has so much more to offer than just a team to love or hate. It is a coach’s responsibility to make football a life-lesson learning experience for his players. Well, I say, as fans, it is our responsibility to make football the same thing for ourselves. It is then and only then, no matter who our teams are, that we can be the greatest fans in the world. Now, go forth and learn.

Adam Stevens is an occasional sports correspondent for Rhombus. He will be hiding out in a cave for the foreseeable future to avoid the death threats he will surely receive in response to this column.

SPORTS: BYU Football Weekly Roundup (Week 8)

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

The Cougs might have looked lethargic, but at least Max Hall didnt throw any picks.

The Cougs might have looked lethargic, but at least Max Hall didn't throw any picks.

Week 8: BYU vs. TCU

This time of year, when Provo is starting to get a little chilly, many BYU students will take a trip down to San Diego to enjoy a nice little vacation. It’s still very warm down there and there is plenty to do.

Instead of going to Southern California to take care of the Aztecs of San Diego State, the BYU football team looked like they were on vacation. Sure, the offense was able to put up pretty good numbers, but there was very little fight in the Cougars. Their whole performance last Saturday was aptly summed up on one play.

In the fourth quarter, BYU had the ball and a commanding 14-point lead. Facing a fourth-and-one on their own forty yard line, Bronco decided to go for it. This might not have been the smartest decision on his part, but I was glad he did it because it proves my point.

On the play, the offensive line was blown back by the SDSU blitz and Harvey Unga was stuffed in the backfield. Everyone looked lethargic and lackluster, giving me reason to wonder how much they wanted to win.

My high school football coach always preached to us that if we couldn’t gain one yard on any given play then we didn’t deserve to win the football game. It was clear on this play that, based on effort alone, BYU didn’t deserve to win. They were able to come away with a victory because they were more talented, not because they wanted it more.

If they put up that kind of effort against TCU on Saturday, then it will be Florida State all over again. It’s a good thing they were embarrassed in Fort Worth last year, because now they will hopefully be seeking revenge.

Death via Play Action
One of the glaring stats from the game in San Diego was the fact that BYU had a hard time defending the pass. Big news, right? Well they made Ryan Linley look like Tom Brady and Vincent Brown like Andre Johnson. The biggest reason they were able to get open was the play action pass.

BYU has a good group of defenders when it comes to stopping the run. The linebackers and defensive backs are very good at filling the wholes and laying down a good hit. Because they are so aggressive in pursuit of the running game, they often get caught on their heels by play action passes. Also, the BYU cornerbacks cover double moves like the Wall Street Journal covers sports.

This is why they struggled so much against FSU and CSU. Both teams ran multiple play action passes and did so with good success. San Diego State exploited this weakness. Look for other teams to do so for the rest of the season.

Texas Two-Step
OK, enough about San Diego State. This week is undoubtedly the most important game of the year, because BYU can either put themselves back on the list of BCS busters or they can put themselves back on the fast track to the Las Vegas Bowl. As fantastic as it would be to go to Vegas for a 37th consecutive season, I would assume the Cougars want a change of scenery.

People have been going bananas in the past week about how BYU is going to contain Jerry Hughes and his relentless pass rush. He is the leader of the defense, but there is another reason why TCU has one of the best defenses in the land.

Gary Patterson’s vaunted defense lines up in a 4-2-5. In order for this system to work they need two pseudo-safeties that can cover receivers and stop the run. The way they line up looks almost like they’re running a 4-4. These safeties are the reason why this defense works. Because they are so versatile, Patterson can blitz from every direction and control what the offense can do.

If BYU wants to win, they need to attack this defense and dictate the pace of play. Last year, TCU basically sucker-punched the Cougar offense in the mouth and held them in a headlock. BYU must come out with confidence and run the ball up the middle. The weakness in the 4-2-5 (if there even is one) is in the middle and that’s where they need to attack. Running the ball outside will never work against this team. They are just too fast and too talented.

Think that throwing the ball will be easy against the Horned Frogs? Think again. TCU’s defense has held their opponents to an average completion percentage of 45 percent.

Big Game Preparation
Ever since head coach Bronco Mendenhall took over the program in 2005, people have criticized him for his inability to win big games against good teams. He has a few quality wins, including this year’s upset of Oklahoma, but history still tells us that he struggles against ranked opponents.

Last year, the Cougars looked downright silly against TCU in Fort Worth because the game was played on a Thursday night, and coaches and players didn’t have much time to prepare for the Horned Frogs. They were riding a nice winning streak and thought that another game of simple execution would get them the win.

This year should be completely different. After being embarrassed last year, BYU coaches implemented a few new drills in practice and have made specific adjustments to prepare for this game.

Now Bronco will be the last one to say that he is seeking some payback. He will probably say that it’s like any other game and, if they execute and play the best of their ability, they will win the game. He did say that they will have a more specific game plan for TCU and their playmakers this year. Hopefully the Cougars will come out with some fire and take pride in defending their home turf.

Prediction
This game has all the makings of a showdown; however, if BYU doesn’t come to play in the first half, TCU could run away with another easy victory. If the Horned Frogs jumps out to an early lead, BYU will be forced to become one dimensional — and we know how effective Max Hall is when he has to throw the ball every down. The Cougars need to play a balanced game with good ball control and long sustained drives. Obviously we expect big games out of Hall, Unga and Pitta, but DiLuigi and Kariya need to provide some big plays as well. I want to say that the Cougars will step up and show the rest of the country that they’re for real, but TCU is just too good defensively for us to keep pace. In a good old-fashioned slugfest, the Horned Frogs come out victorious after pulling out to an early lead. TCU 31, BYU 17.

Three Cheers
1. J.J. DiLuigi — He is starting to provide a legitimate spark on offense.

2. Max Hall — Once again, he had no interceptions. Let’s hope this continues…

3. Scott Johnson — Had a touchdown-saving tackle and a key interception.

Three Jeers
1. Andrew Rich — I love the way he hits, but he looked lost in the secondary against SDSU.

2. Swine flu — Colby Clawson and O’Neil Chambers were just two of the many victims.

3. Sideline reporters — In last week’s game, the woman asked Bronco how they were going to control SDSU’s running game. They had 34 rushing yards at the half. Nice.

Jake Welch is a sports correspondent for Rhombus. He has a problem with uninformed sideline reporters. You can follow him on Twitter @jraywelch.