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Keys to Victory: TCU vs BYU

What will the Horned Frogs need to do as they renew their rivalry with an old Mountain West for?

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The last time these two teams met on the field was in 2011 and the Horned Frogs walked away with a 38-28 victory. TCU is 6-5 all-time against BYU, but the Frogs won the last 4 games of the series in the Mountain West. Let’s take a look at what TCU must do to end their 2 game skid and come away with a victory on Saturday.

BYU Offense

Let’s start with the good news. BYU is one of the worst rushing attacks in the country. The Cougars are currently averaging 62 yards per game on the ground. The only team that is worse is Hawaii, and they throw the ball 40 times a game. The Cougars want to slow the game down and try to score on every possession. They currently average 60 plays per game, ranking 114th nationally.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis (#10) has done a good job protecting the football this year with just 3 interceptions thrown. The Cougars have lost 2 fumbles as well, meaning they’re one of the best in the country when it comes to offensive turnovers. Slovis is only completing 59% of his passes on the season and he’s thrown for just 1240 yards in their 5 games (an average of 248 per game). Looking through the offensive statistics makes it difficult to understand exactly how BYU is 4-1 on the year. This truly is a team that just finds a way to get the job done. The biggest threat for the Cougars is wide receiver Chase Roberts (#2). The 6-4, sophomore has 24 receptions for 358 yards and 3 touchdowns on the year, eclipsing his totals from last year just halfway through the season. On the opposite side, wide receiver Darius Lassiter (#5) could also be a problem. The 6-3 senior also has 3 touchdowns on the year to go along with his 18 catches and 222 yards.

The story of the game for the TCU defense will be keeping those two receivers in check. It’s no secret that TCU’s biggest issue this year has been the secondary, and they’ll be tested against some big-bodied receivers on Saturday. The Frogs are giving up 242 passing yards per game, ranking 89th nationally. This week it will be crucial for Josh Newton and Avery Helm to win their 1 on 1 battles with these BYU receivers. To help, it will be important for TCU to generate a solid pass rush, especially in obvious passing situations. The Cougars have only allowed 6 sacks on the entire season.

As I’ve mentioned - the strategy of this BYU team is obvious. Slow the game down, take care of the football, don’t beat yourself with offensive mistakes, and score on the few possessions you get.

BYU Defense

The Cougars are strikingly average on defense this year. They rank 60th in yards allowed, 38th in passing yards allowed, 85th in rushing yards allowed, and 49th in points allowed. TCU’s defensive numbers are almost identical (except flip the pass and rush defense) for those who were wondering. The biggest difference between the two teams is the turnover margin. BYU has forced 9 turnovers on the year, making their turnover margin +4. The Frogs' turnover margin on the year is -3. That right there may be the story of the game (and TCU’s whole season, to be honest).

This defense is led by a solid group of linebackers who are experienced. Max Tooley (#31) leads the team in tackles with 38 on the season while A.J. Vongphachanh (#10) and Ben Bywater (#2) are right behind with 34 and 32 tackles respectively. The fact that the 3 linebackers are leading the team in tackles while the BYU rush defense is not very good tells me that the problems with this defense are up front. Defensive end Tyler Batty (#92) has 3.5 sacks on the year, and nobody else on the team has more than 1. In fact, BYU ranks 112th nationally in sacks. TCU shouldn’t have any issues running the ball on Saturday, and they haven’t all season. I don’t think the offensive line will have any issues protecting Josh Hoover as long as they know where Batty is at all times.

The secondary is the obvious strength of this BYU defense. As mentioned earlier, the Cougars rank 38th nationally in passing defense, allowing just 208 yards per game through the air. Cornerback Jakob Robinson (#0) is the one TCU will need to watch out for. Despite being undersized at 5-10, 170 lbs, Robinson has 3 interceptions on the season (tied for 2nd nationally). The Cougars also have two other defensive backs with interceptions on the year.

Final Thoughts

It will be interesting to see if Kendal Briles adjusts the offense because of the change at quarterback. Hoover is more of a pocket-passer than Morris will ever be. In his senior year of high school, he threw for 3,252 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 63% of his passes. My concern for TCU in this game is a young quarterback trying to force throws and making mistakes against a defense that will make him pay.

It will be important for TCU to slow down this BYU passing attack as well. Giving up yards isn’t a huge deal, but red zone defense will be crucial for TCU in this game. If the Frogs can continually get BYU to settle for field goals then they’ll likely win this game. The most important thing, however, will be the turnover battle. If TCU loses the turnover battle I’m having a hard time seeing a victory on Saturday.

I think this will be a one-score game. The teams match up pretty well based on their strengths and weaknesses. While TCU has the talent advantage according to 247 Sports’ Team Talent Composite with an average player of 88.23 to BYU’s 83.05, the experience factor is definitely on the Cougars’ side.