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The Alamo Bowl: The Myth of TCU’s “receding defense”

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This is the dumbest take.

Big 12 Championship - Oklahoma v TCU Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Ah, Bleacher Report. Your home for poorly constructed slideshows and the baddest of takes. And, just when you thought they couldn’t get worse, along comes Bowl Season.

In their EVERY BOWL GAME EVER prediction piece, they called for a close game between TCU and Stanford in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Okay, makes sense, I can dig that. But then, they said Stanford has been out of contention since early November and called TCU’s defense “decent, yet receding”.

Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 13 Stanford (9-4) vs. No. 15 TCU (10-3)

Game info: Thursday, Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Most of the numbers favor TCU. Call it a gut feeling, though, that the Alamo Bowl is where a mini-upset occurs. Stanford has been eliminated from contention since early November, while this contest will be TCU's first since dropping the Big 12 title. Bryce Love expects to be healthy, per Tim Griffin of DieHards, and the Heisman runner-up will propel the Cardinal past a decent, yet receding, TCU defense.

Prediction: Stanford 24, TCU 23

Okay... hold up... wait a minute...

Decent yet receding?

Before we dive into that, let’s also take a look at the stupidity of calling Stanford “out of contention since early November” (they played in the Pac 12 Championship game) and mentioning this being TCU’s first game since the Big 12 Championship game (it’s every team’s first game since their last game, and for both of these teams, the last game was their conference championship game).

But, this is about the Frogs supposedly ‘decent’ defense, so let’s go to the facts:

  • TCU is ranked #19 overall in total defense, despite playing the country’s #1 offense - twice
  • The Frogs are ranked #8 overall in third down conversion percentage, a stat they led the nation in for a large portion of the season, with a stingy 29.7% success rate
  • Like defensive TDs? Gary Patterson’s team gave you four on the year, tied for seventh and just two off the national lead
  • #2 in the country in red zone defense, the Frogs allowed 20 scores from inside the 20, eight of which were field goals. They are the highest rated Power Five team in that category, trailing Troy by three.
  • The Alamo Bowl features a Heisman Runner-Up at running back, but he will have his work cut out for him against the Frogs and their fourth ranked rushing D. TCU has allowed just six scores on the ground all season, allowed less than three yards per carry (2.91) and 100 yards per game (99.8).
  • The Frogs were 12th in scoring defense - and they played two of the top four scoring offenses in the country a total of three times - allowing just 17.6 points per game. Mind you, half the conference is in the top 50 of scoring offenses.
  • The Killer B’s (Mat Boesen (11.5), Ben Banogu (8.5), Chris Bradley (1.5), and Ross Blacklock (2.0) with help from Travin Howard (1.0), Ridwan Issahakuk (2.0), Ty Summers (4.0), Innis Gaines (2.0), Ranthony Texada (2.0), Corey Bethley (1.0), LJ Collier (3.0), Joe Broadnax (1.5), and Gary Overshown (1.0) racked up the country’s third most sacks on the season, and only Wisconsin had more sack yardage than the Frogs’ 264. TCU averaged 3.15 take downs per game, the ninth best rate in all of NCAA Football in 2017.

I would say that the Frogs’ defense is a little more than decent, when you look at how they performed over the course of the season, despite facing the #1, #3, #11, #12, #16, #24, #32, and #36 passing offenses - led by guys like Mason Rudolph (#4 in QBR), Baker Mayfield (#2 in QBR), and four others in the top 50.

As far as the receding angle, the Frogs went on a seven game stretch to close the regular season where they didn’t allow a second half touchdown, and that included a game against the Sooners in Norman. They held six teams to single digit scoring outputs, and only two teams not quarterbacked by Baker Mayfield hit 30 - and both of those were TCU victories (SMU and Oklahoma State).

This version of GP’s 4-2-5 isn’t invincible. They are still occasionally susceptible to the big pass play - SMU, OSU, WVU, OU, and Baylor all had over 300 passing yards - but they excel in the red zone making a ‘bend, don’t break’ philosophy effective. They are exceptional against the run as well, and can control the tempo of games in that regard. But with veterans in every position group - Chris Bradley and Mat Boesen along the defensive line, Travin Howard and Ty Summers at linebacker, and Ranthony Texada and Nick Orr in the secondary - the unit performs so well as a whole, in sync, communicating well, and adjusting on the fly when needed. There is a ton of leadership, a ton of talent, and a ton of pride. And they feel like they got snubbed by the New Year’s Six. They’ll play angry, and that tends to be when they play their best (see post-fight of the Baylor game).

Bryce Love is absolutely the best running back TCU will have faced in 2017, and he presents a difficult challenge. It wouldn’t be a major upset if the Cardinal pulled off the win. But, to say that the Frogs’ D is trending down, or to call them decent at all, is purely uniformed and ignorant. This defense has come to play all year long, and will do just that once again in San Antonio. It should be a fun battle to watch.