Matchups: Defense Frogs’ key advantage over Air Force

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    Quarterbacks

    TCU: Sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton is coming off one of his worst games of the season against Utah, completing just 16 of his 37 pass attempts and throwing two costly interceptions on drives at the end of the second and fourth quarters. But it’s worth noting that he threw nine touchdowns and no interceptions in the three games prior.

    Air Force: Freshman quarterback Tim Jefferson has played in eight of the Falcons’ 11 games this season. Jefferson has completed 35 of 59 passes so far this year and has thrown five touchdowns compared with three interceptions. Air Force’s run-happy offense gives Dalton the edge here.

    Advantage: TCU

    Running Backs

    TCU: Both teams run the ball effectively. TCU is averaging 4.5 yards per rush, while Air Force is averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. Junior tailback Joseph Turner, the Frogs’ leading rusher, missed the game against Utah because of injury, but head football coach Gary Patterson said he is back to running 100 percent.

    Air Force: The Falcons have had 17 different players run the ball so far, and five different players have more than 300 yards rushing. Senior fullback Todd Newell leads the team with 585 yards and four touchdowns.

    Advantage: Push

    Wide Receivers

    TCU: Seven different players caught passes during the game two weeks ago, but once again sophomore Jimmy Young stole the show, making six catches for 97 yards. Young is still dominating the rest of the team with 49 catches and 826 yards receiving.

    Air Force: Patterson said he didn’t want to look foolish by getting prepared for the run and having Air Force throw over the top of the Frogs, so don’t expect too many big passing plays from the Falcons. Sophomore Kyle Halderman leads the team with 256 yards and three touchdowns.

    Advantage: TCU

    Offensive Line

    TCU: The Frogs’ front five have done a good job this season of keeping people from getting to Dalton, but last week the quarterback was taken down four times. Junior left tackle Marshall Newhouse was All-Mountain West Conference Honorable Mention last season.

    Air Force: The offensive line for the Falcons has allowed just two sacks all season, partially because the Falcons run the ball twice as often as they throw it. Junior right tackle Chris Campbell has helped the Falcons become one of two teams to have more than 3,000 rushing yards this season.

    Advantage: TCU

    Defensive Line

    TCU: The defensive front for the Frogs has helped them to the nation’s best run defense ranking, allowing 39.5 yards per game. Junior defensive end Jerry Hughes, who has 14 sacks and 43 tackles, has been named a Sporting News Today’s Midseason All-American.

    Air Force: So far the Falcons have recorded 29 sacks and are averaging 135.8 rushing yards allowed per game. Senior defensive end Jake Paulson has 48 tackles and 14 sacks through 11 games this season.

    Advantage: TCU

    Linebacker

    TCU: This will be the last home game together for one of the best linebacker trios in the nation. Seniors Robert Henson and Jason Phillips will be leaving junior Daryl Washington behind to fill their shoes. Phillips leads the team in tackles, 70, and tackles for loss, 11. Phillips also has 48 career starts, the most of any current Frog.

    Air Force: Air Force has the No. 35 total defense in the nation, allowing 320 yards of offense per game. Sophomore linebacker Ken Lamendola leads the Falcons with 101 total tackles and has 2.5 sacks so far this season.

    Advantage: TCU

    Secondary

    TCU: The passing defense for the Frogs has been improving throughout the season, allowing just four teams to throw for more than 200 yards against them. Senior safety Stephen Hodge will be playing his last home game for the Frogs and currently leads the secondary with 66 total tackles and seven tackles for loss.

    Air Force: The secondary for the Falcons has allowed 184.2 passing yards per game through 11 games this year and has allowed five teams to throw for 200 or more yards against them. Junior safety Chris Thomas is second on the team in tackles with 82. He has six sacks and four passes defended.

    Advantage: TCU

    Special Teams

    TCU: Two missed field goals cost the Frogs’ their game against Utah, but Patterson said he has had his team work on the kicking game by adding extra pressure to kicks during practice. Sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Kerley is back to full health and could be back to returning punts this week.

    Air Force: Similar to Utah, Air Force has a player who both punts and kicks. Senior kicker Ryan Harrison has made all 33 of his extra points and has made 21 out of 24 field goal attempts this season. Harrison has also made 35 punts, with an average of 38.5 yards per kick.

    Advantage: Air Force

    Coaching

    TCU: This will be Patterson’s 99th game as the head coach for the Frogs. A win would give the Frogs their sixth 10-win season since 2000. The Frogs have allowed their opponents into the red zone 17 times this season and have allowed points on just 11 of those drives.

    Air Force: Troy Calhoun is in his second year coaching the Falcons and has a 17-7 record so far. Calhoun is 11-4 so far in the Mountain West Conference, giving him the fourth highest winning percentage of coaches in the conference, behind Patterson, Bronco Mendenhall at Brigham Young University (2005 to present) and Urban Meyer at Utah (2003 to 2005).

    Advantage: TCU

    Prediction

    The seniors have the chance to tie for the winningest class in school history, and they won’t disappoint. TCU wins 38-10.