It’s finally here. Bowl game week. And with the Frogs staring down their final opponent of the season, Michigan State, we begin to take a look at the weaknesses TCU can expose.
The Spartans hang their hats on their defense, much like the Frogs. Allowing only 16.3 points per game, Michigan State has the 10th best total defense in the country, and is allowing less than 275 yards per game to opposing offenses.
This bodes poorly for a TCU offense that has struggled mightily with consistency this season.
For the Spartans, they’re led by junior linebacker Max Bullough and junior defensive end William Gholston, the team leaders in tackles and sacks, respectively. They are also tied for the team lead with 12 tackles for loss apiece. Gholston also leads the team in pass breakups with nin, and quarterback hits, with five. Bullough and Gholston do much more than fill a stat sheet though, they’re emotional leaders on this vaunted defense.
In the secondary, shutdown cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Johnny Adams both have three interceptions and seven passes broken up on the year. One positive for the Frogs is that Adams is suffering from turf toe, and will most likely be less than 100% for the game this Saturday.
Personally, I would line up TCU’s receivers against any corners in the country. I think that highly of them. However, with Boykin at quarterback, it sometimes doesn’t matter how open Boyce, Carter, Dawson and Brown get.
The most disturbing thing about this matchup with the Spartans though, is their run defense vs. TCU’s running game. The Spartans, much like TCU, lock it down on running plays. They allow an average of 100.4 rushing yards per game, good for eighth best in the nation. Denicos Allen, often overlooked because he’s playing next to Bullough, has nine tackles for loss on the season, including two sacks an interception and a fumble recovery.
Where TCU can take advantage of the Spartans is when MSU has the ball. Their offense is bad, arguably worse than TCU’s.
They’re lead by Le’Veon Bell, who’s sixth in the nation with 1,648 rushing yards on the season. That’s pretty much where the offensive firepower ends though, and while Bell has feasted on Big 10 rushing defenses this year, seven of which allowed more than 156 rush yards per game on the season, he’ll face a much tougher test against the Frogs.
Bell had his worst rushing day of the season against the best running defense he faced, Ohio State. The Buckeyes, who allow just over 116 yards per game on the ground, held Bell to 45 rushing yards on 17 carries.
The Frogs are better against the run than OSU, so stopping Bell shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.
For all you Big 10 homers out there that want to harp on how big your offensive lines are, how your power running game will eventually wear down TCU, just hush. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the 4-2-5 is primed to stop the run, because there’s an extra safety on the field to come up into the box (that’s a very short and basic description, obviously).
If the Frogs can put Michigan State in obvious passing situations, they should be able to feast on the mistake prone junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
Maxwell threw four interceptions in his last two games, a loss to Northwestern and a win against Minnesota. He’s completed only 52.9% of his passes this year, and has been relatively inconsistent as a passer all season.
This is going to be a low scoring game, no doubt, but if the Frogs can contain Bell, and move the ball a little bit, they should come away with the victory.