Today, Brett (@bhein3) tells us why Utah will be the victor. Tomorrow, Zach (@zbloxham) will explain why TCU is the team to bet on.
Are the Utes untested? You bet. An opening week win against Pitt was looking very unimpressive for a while, though now the Panthers could still help Utah out by winning the Big East. Utah has also played 4 of the 5 worst offenses in the country.
The numbers seem to favor TCU.
But here are some factors I am liking for the Utes. Most of these things are admittedly subjective, but it's why I feel Utah will win:
Since 2003, Utah is 39-6 at home, which includes a current streak of 21 in a row. During this stretch at home, Utah has defeated: Oregon, Cal, Texas A&M, North Carolina, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon State, Louisville, and Pitt, as well as BYU and TCU when both have been ranked.
I also feel that Kyle Whittingham is a better big-game coach. (A win Saturday, and we should probably give the "Big Game" nickname to Coach Whitt -- since Bob Stoops has well since lost the title). We at The Upset honestly felt that last year's TCU team was better than Boise State. Giving credit where it's due, Boise State's defense had a major impact in the game, but it still seemed like TCU just wasn't ready. TCU dominates inferior opponents, but on the biggest stages (2006 vs. BYU, 2008 @ Utah, 2010 Fiesta Bowl) they are just flat. They did come out huge against Utah in 2009, BUT it was freshman Jordan Wynn's first career start at Utah and it was at home.
Whittingham coaches 'em up and wins close games (with BYU games excepting -- in-state, decades-old rivalries always go that way). Under Whittingham, Utah is 5-0 in bowl games and scores points doing it. In those 5 bowl games, Utah has won by an average of 33-20.
|TCU should watch out for this guy|
(late hit behind the play not included)
The season is oh-so-reminiscent of Utah's 2008 campaign. They dominated lesser teams, and played in a few squeakers. But somehow, some way, they pulled out wins against Air Force, Oregon State, and TCU. Call me a kool-aid drinker armed with bad cliches, but it just seems like Utah is a team that finds a way to win. This speaks volumes about the coaching staff.
In my observations (admittedly limited at times), Utah seems to run an offense decidedly less vanilla than does TCU. Utah's offensive staff does an excellent job of getting its playmakers the ball in a very effective way beyond just running trick plays.
One thing that concerns me about TCU is that the Andy Dalton of 2009 is different than the Dalton of 2010, this including the Fiesta Bowl vs. Boise State. Dalton seems much more mistake-prone and is seemingly under-performing for a 5th-year senior enrolled in only one class in the current semester -- football is his life right now. Dalton threw only 5 interceptions in 12 games in 2009, but in 2010 has thrown 8 interceptions in 10 games.
This season, TCU hasn't played a defense ranked higher than 62nd (SMU). Utah scored 27 points on the nation's 14th best defense in Pitt. The last time TCU played anyone with a defense nearly as good was Boise in the Fiesta Bowl, when TCU mustered just 10 points.
Whittingham also seems to have an innate ability to motivate his players while building them up. Please believe that Utah coaches are using "being disrespected" (real or imagined) to fire up their guys. Craig James didn't put us in his top 10 on a national TV broadcast? Pin that one up on the board. People are down-playing our success because of our schedule? We'll show you. I tend to favor this leadership style over the Rick Majerus scare-your-players-s***less-so-they-perform-for-you style I hear Gary Patterson employs.
This should be a fantastic game and should be a nail-biter to the end. So even though Craig Bolerjack (on the call for CBS-C) always tells you to "Buckle up if you got 'em" (I'm guaranteeing he breaks it out before kickoff on this one), this time he'll be right. And if that is the case, if it's a close battle and Utah's at home, I'm taking Utah.