2007 Mountain West Football -tcu the Team to Beat

By: Eric

For the TCU Horned Frogs, success or failure in the Mountain West Conference is all about Thursdays.

TCU won the league title in 2005 by going unbeaten, beginning with an overtime victory over defending champion Utah in a nationally televised Thursday night game. Last season, the Frogs pretty much played their way out of contention with consecutive losses to BYU and Utah on Thursdays.

So here they are again, having lost only those two games in their two seasons as MWC members, and the Frogs figure to be in the thick of things again. And what games are likely to decide the 2007 championship? "When" is a better question, and the answer is Thursdays.

TCU will host Utah (Oct. 18) and visit BYU (Nov. 8) in Thursday contests. Unlike the past two years, when the Frogs' first two league games were against some combination of the Utes and Cougars, this season's schedule will allow some drama to build.

TCU is the favorite because of the league's best defense. The Frogs are led by linemen Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz and LB Jason Phillips.

There are some questions offensively, but RB Aaron Brown and a solid line will provide enough answers. And by pushing Utah and BYU further into the schedule, the Frogs will have some time to develop their new QB, Marcus Jackson or Andy Dalton.

Utah has no quarterbacking issues, with Brian Johnson returning after having redshirted while recovering from knee surgery that sidelined him at the end of the 2005 season. The Utes should have the league's best offense, but they are young on defense, with the secondary having lost the versatile Eric Weddle, a 2nd-round NFL draft choice.

BYU's big losses were on offense, namely QB John Beck another 2nd-round pick. The Cougars will turn to Arizona State transfer Max Hall.

TCU HORNED FROGS

KEY TEAM INFORMATION
2006 RECORD: 11-2 (6.3 ML units), 9-3 (75.0%) ATS, O/U: 6-6
HEAD COACH: Gary Patterson, 7th year
STADIUM: Amon G. Carter Stadium (Grass)
RETURNING STARTERS - OFFENSE: 6, DEFENSE: 9
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 48, LOST: 23
2007 SCHEDULE
Date - Opponent
9/1/2007 - BAYLOR
9/8/2007 - at Texas
9/13/2007 - at Air Force (C)
9/22/2007 - SMU
9/29/2007 - COLORADO ST (C)
10/6/2007 - at Wyoming (C)
10/13/2007 - at Stanford
10/18/2007 - UTAH (C)
11/3/2007 - NEW MEXICO (C)
11/8/2007 - at BYU (C)
11/17/2007 - UNLV (C)
11/24/2007 - at San Diego St (C)
2006 SITUATIONAL RECORDS
Home: 5-1 SU, 4-1 ATS
Away: 6-1 SU, 5-2 ATS
Conference: 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS
as Favorite ATS: 9-2
as Underdog ATS: 0-1
2006 KEY STRENGTH RATINGS (Ncaa Rank)
Scoring Differential: 16.9 (10)
StatFox Outplay Factor: 13.6 (18)
Yardage Differential: 171.3 (3)
Yards Per Play Differential: 1.76 (8)
Turnover Differential: 0.46 (30)
Strength of Schedule: 29.23 (87)

INTRODUCTION & REVIEW:

TCU fans will spend the summer thinking about one thing: Texas. The Horned Frogs themselves had better remember they still have a full MWC schedule to play after the trip to Austin. That was a problem last season when the Frogs experienced a two-game lull after an emotional upset of Texas Tech. While they regrouped to win their last eight games, they were out of the league race in October. They should last much longer this season, if only because their tougher games against Utah and BYU are not scheduled until later in the season. That will give them time to regroup, regardless of what happens against Texas. If a young quarterback can develop quickly and complement an excellent defense, TCU will have a chance to beat everybody, including the Longhorns.

OFFENSE

TCU's offense could not produce enough points to stay with BYU despite gaining 400-plus yards and also struggled the next week at Utah, but was otherwise effective all season and even explosive at times. The big issue is replacing QB Jeff Ballard, with Marcus Jackson having played some last season and now competing with Andy Dalton. The Horned Frogs' scheme is built around its running backs, and Aaron Brown returns after rushing for 66.8 yards a game. TCU also has a solid offensive line, led by Matty Lindner, but lost NFL-draftee Herbert Taylor. The Frogs ranked 2nd in the Mountain West with 408 total yards a game, but may have trouble sustaining that level of production with a new quarterback.

DEFENSE

After fielding one of the best defenses in the country last season, while being exposed only by BYU QB John Beck, TCU should be just as good or better. It all starts up front with Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, two remarkably productive linemen. Blake recorded seven sacks and combined with Ortiz for 27.5 tackles for loss. Anything they miss is usually covered up by LB Jason Phillips. The Frogs should again be solid in the secondary, although they lost S Marvin White to the NFL. TCU coach Gary Patterson is a defensive mastermind and his teams almost always play consistently on that side of the ball. The Frogs allowed only 234 yards a game in 2006.
PREDICTION

The conference race should come down to a Thursday night game, Nov. 8: TCU at BYU. The Frogs are 14-2 in two seasons of Mountain West play, and everything suggests they will be one of the league's top teams again. The other big test is another Thursday night contest as Utah comes to Fort Worth on Oct. 18. Other than having to play Texas early, the schedule allows the Frogs an opportunity to develop their offense before getting into the meat of the conference season.

TCU is 5-0 Over versus poor offensive teams - averaging <=310 yards/game over the L3 seasons
TCU was 6-0 ATS after playing their last game on the road last season
TCU was 6-1 ATS vs. poor passing defenses - allowing a comp. pct. of 58% or worse last season
TCU is 6-1 SU & ATS when the line is +3 to -3 over the L3 seasons




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