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The Cougars and Horned Frogs keep their old Mountain West Conference rivalry alive, despite the fact that BYU is rolling solo as an independent and TCU is heading to the Big 12 or the Big East... errr, somewhere next season.
"I consider this like a conference game, we've played BYU for so long,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson told the Star-Telegram. “I'd rather not play a non-conference game in the middle of the season but this is the only time we could work it out."
The respective religious schools collide on the grand stage that is Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas Friday night.
The Horned Frogs opened as 11.5-point favorites, and that spread has been bet up to 13.5 – just below the key number of two touchdowns. The total opened at 56 points and has remained fairly steady.
Brigham Young has been looking forward to erasing a 31-3 beating from TCU since it walked off the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium last October.
The Cougars were demolished in that game, especially quarterback Jake Heaps, who threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. BYU put up only 14 yards of offense in the first half of that loss, finishing with 147 total yards on the day.
Heaps, who has continued to struggle, has been replaced by junior passer Riley Nelson, who head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced as the team’s starter again this week.
"I see the game going, and the rotation going, as it has been going. I like the direction of our team offensively," Mendenhall told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Again, if the team were to struggle, and if we weren’t able to move the ball and score points, Jake would come in and perform. But I like the chance for the quarterbacks to get into rhythm and to play, and until proven otherwise, we will go down the same road we have been traveling, with Riley."
Nelson has been impressive since taking over under center. He’s completed almost 62 percent of his passes, thrown for 11 touchdowns (to just three interceptions), and, since becoming the No. 1 three games ago, has yet to have a three-and-out, with BYU punting only twice in possessions started with Nelson at QB.
Nelson is also a dangerous option on the ground, rushing for 284 yards, including 62 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 56-3 beating of FCS Idaho State.
Texas Christian flexed its offensive muscle with a 69-0 thumping of New Mexico last weekend, putting up over 500 total yards of offense in the win.
The Horned Frogs rank eighth in the country in scoring, averaging almost 44 points a game. In the case of TCU, it’s true that speed kills. It boasts the 18th-best rushing attack in the nation and is tied for 11th for most yards per play with 6.6.
"With the style of offense that they run and the kind of athletes that they have, it's one of those games where you have to do your assignment," BYU senior linebacker Jordan Pendleton told the Daily Herald. "Playing Idaho State you could maybe screw up once or twice and someone else would make the play but against these guys your can't.”
The TCU rushing attack is anchored by running backs Waymon James and Matthew Tucker. James, the speedier of the two, is fourth in the MWC with 450 yards on the ground, while Tucker, the smash-mouth short-yardage back, is third in the league in touchdowns, rumbling for seven scores this season.
On the wings, TCU has perhaps the fastest receiving corps in college football. Josh Boyce, who runs a 10.4 100-meter dash, has reeled in 604 yards receiving and five TDs. His partner, Skye Dawson, is the current MWC 100-meter champ at a time of 10.2 seconds and has grabbed 27 balls for 268 yards and three scores.
Sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall is second in the conference in passing, with 1,566 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. He threw for just 175 yards and two scores in the blowout over the Lobos last week.
NOT FORT WORTH IT
Despite the prestige of playing in one of the greatest stadiums on the planet, TCU isn’t crazy about having a home game moved to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. The Horned Frogs are insisting that this be their final game played inside Jerry Jones’ cutting-edge setting.
"I'd have 40,000 in purple instead of it being 50-50," Patterson told reporters about playing in Arlington. "That's why we won't play people in the Big 12 over at Cowboys Stadium, if I get any say. Because I'd rather have home-field advantage. As soon as you go into Cowboys Stadium you no longer have home-field advantage."
Last season, the Horned Frogs drew 46,138 fans to Cowboys Stadium for their season opener with Oregon State, winning 30-21 but failing to cover as 13.5-point chalk. Brigham Young took on Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium in 2009, shocking the Sooners 14-13 as a 22.5-point pup in front of 75,437 fans.
* Cougars are 4-0 ATS in their last four games as road underdog.
* Horned Frogs are 0-5 ATS in their last five non-conference games.
* Under is 13-3 in Cougars last 16 games as underdogs.
* Over is 5-1 in Horned Frogs last six games as favorites.