The Horned Frogs are 4-0 in the Mountain West Conference this season, but will face a different animal on Saturday when they square off with conference newcomer Boise State.
Most would acknowledge that the Broncos present a different challenge than the likes of Air Force, San Diego State, New Mexico and Wyoming. And, most would agree-if for no other reason than that they are ranked no. 5 in the nation-that Boise State is the favorite to win Saturday’s game on the blue turf.
But, if you examine the season leading up to Saturday’s showdown, the prospect of the Frogs making the 1,200-mile journey to Boise and shocking Bronco Nation is not one that seems terribly unrealistic.
The first thing that makes this game closer than it may appear is that TCU is only a few plays away from being a 9-0 football team.
The two-point loss to Baylor in week one could have been avoided if Ross Evans had made all of his field goals, or if the Frogs came up with one more defensive stop on Robert Griffin III and the Bears.
On a similar note, the Iron Skillet could still be in Fort Worth if the Frogs would have come up with one more big offensive play, or if a couple whistles would not have been blown by the Conference USA referees.
Besides those losses, the Frogs have been escaping defeat with some narrow wins. A 16-point win in week two at Air Force was closer than some thought it would be. The Frogs were up 35-9 after three quarters, and surrendered a touchdown with four seconds left in the game, with back-ups in the game on defense and the game all but decided.
This Boise State team beat the same Falcons team by only 11 points in a game that was close all the way through, at Bronco Stadium.
Another close game the Frogs played was a 38-28 victory over BYU at Jerry’s World in Arlington. The defense surrendered a similar late score with two minutes left in that game, with the game well in hand.
Last week’s 11-point win against Wyoming is another game that could cause concern for the Horned Frog faithful. However, that was a game in which TCU’s offense put up video game numbers, compiling 617 total yards. The team had five turnovers in the game, including three in the red zone. If the Frogs punched it in on those three possessions rather than coughing it up in scoring range, we’re talking about a potential 30-plus-point blowout.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson has reiterated all year that his team’s most challenging games take place on the road this season, and the road is where the Frogs played their best football.
The Baylor game, although it resulted in a loss, showed the resilience of this team early in the season as it surged back from a 24-point deficit to take a lead with four minutes left in the game. The Frogs’ performance in Colorado Springs the next week was a convincing rebound from that loss, and games at San Diego State and Wyoming proved this TCU team to be road warriors.
On paper, the two teams are pretty close in offensive numbers. TCU has posted 41.6 points per game this season, good for eighth in the country. Boise State has the seventh best total, scoring 43.9 points per contest. Each team gains over 450 yards per game on average.
Neither defense has been on its A game this season, both allowing over 300 yards per game. Both teams were top five defenses last season, since TCU was first in the country in yards and points surrendered per game, and Boise finished the 2010 campaign fourth in each category.
Because of the somewhat disappointing defenses (compared to each school’s recent standard), Saturday’s game could turn into a shootout. With Kellen Moore, who became college football’s all-time winningest quarterback last week, Boise State’s passing attack will be potent as always.
But the Frogs also have a weapon in Casey Pachall, who is on pace to break many TCU passing records, some of which were set by NFL standout rookie Andy Dalton. And with speed on the outside in Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson, the Frogs can air it out if need be.
These are not the same two teams that butted heads in the Fiesta Bowl in 2010, and the Poinsettia Bowl the year before. But fans can expect a battle of high-powered offenses and defenses that are susceptible to the big play.
While a game between a team ranked fifth in the BCS standings and a BCS unranked team that just broke back into the top 25 in the Coaches’ poll doesn’t seem like a compelling matchup, the game this weekend in Idaho should provide sixty minutes of exciting football.
TCU finds itself the underdog in this game, which could be a positive for the players on the field. Frog fans may recall a certain game where their team was being picked against out in Pasadena just over 10 months ago.
Landon Haaf is a junior and News Now Sports Director