Former Clemson standout C.J. Spiller may be a distant memory to the TCU defense, but this year’s team could learn a lot from TCU’s top out-of-conference opponent last season.
Like last year’s Tigers, Oregon State will come into the game with a game-breaking running back, a playmaking receiver who will be used in multiple ways, and an experienced offensive line.
TCU scraped out a 14-10 win at Clemson last season despite Spiller’s 191 offensive yards. The Frogs’ offense is stronger than last year’s edition and their defense should be near the level of last year’s squad, which led the country in total defense.
With that in mind, the main questions coming into Saturday’s game will be on the offensive and defensive lines of the Frogs and Beavers.
TCU Offensive Line vs. Oregon State Defensive Line
This matchup is all about the interior. Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea has been mentioned by TCU coach Gary Patterson several times leading up to the weekend, with good reason. Paea is on the Lombardi, Outland and Nagurski Award watch lists and is the strongest Beaver on defense. He will call for a double team, and he and his line are run stoppers. The question will be the Beavers’ ability to pressure TCU quarterback Andy Dalton.
The TCU interior line is powerful with all three starters returning, led by All-American center Jake Kirkpatrick. As long as a combination of Kirkpatrick and help are available to negate Paea, the Frogs should hold an advantage. Establishing the run is a concern, but if they can do that, they have a big advantage in skill positions.
Oregon State Offensive Line vs. TCU Defensive line
The Frogs’ defense will function a little differently this year. Head coach Gary Patterson said his defense won’t have a singular standout like in years prior, but will bring pressure from different looks. Experienced senior defensive end Wayne Daniels (5.5 sacks in 2009) should provide steady outside pressure, but the team may look to more zone blitzing with much of the first and second string defense returning.
The Beavers return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen. Oregon State Running back Jacquizz Rodgers has Heisman aspirations for a reason 8212; it won’t take him a huge hole to escape to the defensive secondary. The Horned Frog defense should hope to contain the small and evasive back, while putting pressure on OSU sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz.
TCU Offensive Skill Positions vs. Oregon State Defensive Backfield
Oregon State usually has a strong defense under coach Mike Riley. However, Riley, much like Patterson, is used to having star linebackers who can cover the field. After last year, he lost the defense’s top two tacklers, both linebackers. The TCU offense is simply loaded at the skill positions. They can match the Beavers’ defensive backs in man-to-man coverage, and use speed at receiver and running back to test OSU’s linebackers’ ability to cover the field.
Oregon State Offensive Skill Positions vs. TCU Defensive Backfield
Both TCU cornerbacks, senior Jason Teague and junior Greg McCoy, are “new” starters but both come in experienced, as does sophomore linebacker Tanner Brock, replacing Arizona Cardinals draftee Daryl Washington. Overall, the pass defense may not be quite what it was last year, but it still has the potential to be a top-10 unit nationally. Junior linebacker Tank Carder was a second team All-MWC selection as a first year starter last season.
The Beavers live and die on the impact of the Rodgers brothers, junior running back Jacquizz and senior wide receiver James. The pair combined to gain 62 percent of OSU’s rushing and receiving offense last year, but those rates are likely to rise with a young quarterback this year. Keeping the pair from turning the game into a track meet is the key to the game.
The Rodgers brothers may gain a fair amount of yards in the game, but if the TCU defensive line can make plays behind the line of scrimmage, they will not be able to keep up with the TCU offense over four quarters. The Oregon State defense will be under pressure to make plays. Steady offensive line play and management of Paea should leave Dalton free to assess his numerous weapons and move the ball.