Casey Pachall has outplayed Ryan Lindley so far this season, statistic-wise. Pachall already has well over 1,000 yards throwing on the season while Lindley stands at 875 yards on the season. The Horned Frogs have played one more game than the Aztecs, so the numbers do not tell the entire story. I expect Lindley to throw more in this game than he will in any other game this season. Lindley versus the TCU secondary gives the Aztecs the advantage at quarterback.
Advantage: San Diego State
TCU will not play a single team all season with more running back depth than itself. Ed Wesley returned and made some big plays last week on the ground and catching the ball. However, Ronnie Hillman may be the best running back that TCU will face all season. Hillman already has 626 rushing yards on the season after just four games. He averages 6.2 yards per carry, and he has already scored eight times.
The TCU secondary will be tested by the San Diego State passing game. If SMU had Ryan Lindley at quarterback last Saturday, the Mustangs could have scored in the 50s. Colin Lockett, Dylan Denso and Gavin Escobar give SDSU three consistent threats on the edges. Josh Boyce has continued to make big plays for the Frogs, but Antoine Hicks and Skye Dawson have been anything but consistent. With SDSU receivers playing against the TCU secondary, I think the Aztec receivers will have a better game in this one.
Advantage: San Diego State
The TCU and SDSU offensive lines are quite similar in size. The TCU offensive line averages 298 pounds compared to an average of 294 pounds for SDSU. However, the TCU offensive line could not have done a better job so far this season protecting Casey Pachall. Also, the Frogs did a great job blocking for the running backs against SMU.
Stansly Maponga said at a press conference Tuesday that he felt like the two losses this season have been his fault. He said that he has to get better pressure on the quarterback because the secondary can only cover for so long. He was right in saying a good pass rush is one of the best ways to mask deficiencies in the secondary. If TCU wants to win against San Diego State, it will have to sack Lindley and have him lying on the turf the entire game. If Lindley can stand in the pocket and go through reads, TCU will lose. Jerome Long has three sacks on the season for the Aztecs, and I expect more of the same from the TCU offensive line protecting Pachall.
Miles Burris and Jake Fely are San Diego State’s two leading tacklers on the year, and they have three sacks combined this season. In San Diego State’s base 4-3 scheme, the linebackers are key in stopping the run, and the Aztecs have three linebackers with good lateral speed that can cover the field from sideline to sideline. Tank Carder had his best game of the season last week against SMU, Gary Patterson said, and Kenny Cain is sixth on the team in tackling despite missing an entire game. I will take TCU’s linebackers in this one. But will it matter?
What can you say? Gary Patterson is doing his best to put players in a position to succeed in the secondary. Jason Verrett has been a bright spot for TCU because he has played great cornerback ever since the Baylor game. Now, Patterson must get the safeties and Greg McCoy to play at that same level. If Ryan Lindley had been on the field last week, SMU would have scored well over 50. Time is TCU’s friend, and let’s hope that another week of practice has made the TCU secondary better. And that improvement better be huge.
TCU will need to make a play here. In the return game, Skye Dawson and Greg McCoy need to get TCU a score to take some pressure off the TCU offense. Ross Evans is going to have to make his field goals and refrain from making incompetent plays like kicking the ball out of bounds like he did last week against SMU. Anson Kelton will also be important. San Diego State averages starting drives on the 34.5 yard line this season while their opponents’ average starting position is just on the 24.
Gary Patterson is going to have to do one of his best coaching jobs ever to get his secondary ready for this one. San Diego State’s offense is balanced and will keep the TCU defense off balance. SMU running back Zach Line killed the Frogs on delayed handoffs a week ago, and if TCU is going to stop the Aztec offense, it must slow down the running game and keep Ryan Lindley in 3rd and long passing situations. The problem there is that TCU’s defense has had trouble getting off the field on 3rd and long. If Pachall and the offense start slow in this one, their ship will be sunk early. San Diego State beats TCU 48-31.