Wednesday, December 26

The Texas Bowl - Yeeehaw!

It’s kind of fitting that the old Houston Bowl includes Houston this year. Of course, they’re calling it the Texas Bowl now, but it doesn’t always contain teams from Texas, even though you’d think a bowl from Texas would contain teams from …y’know, Texas. Or that a NCAA football game wouldn’t be on the NFL Network. Only one of these things is actually true this year.

So you want to know about the history of the Texas Bowl, huh? So do they. They also want consistent conference matchups, we’ve seen Big 12 v. C-USA, Big 12 v. Independent, Big 12. v. Western Athletic, Big 12 v. Mountain West, and Big 12 v. Big East. So while you’d think that the Big 12 would have a consistent tie-in, apparently this year is the loser’s bracket, since we have C-USA vs. Mountain West.

TCU (by Coach Pendley)

Yeah, so much for the BCS, guys. The perennial BCS whiners opened up the season with a thud, losing big to Texas in the 2nd game of the season. That was followed up by a series of close losses in conference play (@ Air Force by 3, @ Wyoming by 3, vs. Utah by 7, @ BYU by 5) leaving the Horned Frogs at 4-4 in-conference (7-5 overall). Of course, TCU fans will tell you they were incredibly close to 11-1, but …y’know .500 in-conference. Of course, it’s normally feast or famine with the Horned Frogs with either 10+ wins or hovering around .500 in every year from 2000 on.

The good news is that most of the playmakers on offense return. That’s critical for the TCU rushing attack; Joseph Turner (soph.) and Aaron Brown (jr.) averaged nearly 120 yards a game on the ground combined, and WR Ryan Christian and QB Andy Dalton chipping in about another 40 a game on average, TCU’s ground game is in good shape. The passing game is about what you’d expect from TCU, too: five different players averaged over 20 yards a game receiving, but none of them averaged over 40 yards. This isn’t a quick-strike offense, but they did average 26.6 ppg this year, so they can score.

Of course, TCU’s signature is their defense, and this year wasn’t any different, allowing only 19.2 ppg and only allowing 110 yards on the ground per game. It didn’t hurt that the pass defense picked off more passes than they allowed TDs. However, what didn’t help matters were the 27 turnovers on the season (including 16 fumbles) and the -6 margin. Fun fact: in every loss but BYU, TCU didn’t win the turnover battle. How’s that for a key to victory?

Keys to Victory:
1: Gash the middle. TCU runs the ball both first and second, and they should be effective against a team that allowed 145 yards on the ground (including 339 to Oregon) without facing Kevin Smith or the Forte Express. (Houston played Tulane early, but Forte hadn’t gotten rolling yet.) Houston allowed 3.91 yards per carry, so TCU – who normally only runs for 3.79 yards per carry – should be golden.

2: Win the turnover battle. I mean, duh. You saw the stats right up there.

3: Win your strength. Thanks to Anthony Aldrige, Houston has a stellar rushing attack. It’s up to TCU – who’s done a good job stopping the rushing teams that needed to be stopped. The odd corollary to that is the Horned Frogs haven’t stopped the bad rushing teams (170 to Stanford, 232 to Wyoming), but since Houston doesn’t fall into that category, who cares? The important thing is that if TCU can even hold the Cougars to 150 yards, their passing game will be hard-pressed to make up the difference.

4: Equalize the passing game. TCU won’t need a ton from the air – which is good since Houston’s D is good against the pass – but if they can equalize both the yardage and the scores through the air, then they’ll force the game to a point where they can win.

Houston (by Coach Lawrence)

I checked stats to see if much had changed in Houston over the last few years (no, I don’t follow the Cougars that closely.... and by “that” closely I mean “at all”). 47 rushes per game, 5.0 ypc average, 240 ypg rushing. Two backs – senior Anthony Aldridge and freshman Terrance Ganaway – have carried the ball over 100 times total and average over 5 yards per carry. Yeah that sounds about right. The Houston Cougars are a team who will pound you all game long with a brutal rushing attack. They won’t necessarily do much to stop you (365 ypg total defense), but they’ll wear you down and outscore you.

Considering who they are, Houston doesn’t have any bad losses (two of the four coming to Oregon and Alabama, and a third - ECU - just beat Boise State) but nothing that would qualify as an impressive win even for a mid-major. Awesome. OK, then, let’s go:

Keys to Victory:
1. Run, run, run... duh? That’s what Houston has been doing – and with a modicum of success – for at least five seasons. In eight wins, Houston has rushed for 260 ypg, while in four losses they have been held to 198 ypg. Yeah, even when they lose they still pound you... it’s what they do.

2. One interception max. It turns out, Houston averages 1.5 fumbles lost/game both in victory and defeat. I guess when you run almost 50 times a game, that happens. But the interception average jumps from 0.75 to 2.25 in wins vs in losses. Houston doesn’t need the pass to win, but Keenum and Joseph cannot cost the Cougars valuable possessions.

I’m gonna say that’s it. Run the ball and don’t throw interceptions. Woody Hayes would be proud.