Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.
- Back on track, Clayton gets another shot at TCU
- Marchal, Murphy will be in the spotlight in Fort Worth
- The Greene Room: TCU is favored by a million over UNLV … who ya got?
- Mondays with Mike: Sanford showing optimism with TCU on the horizon
- Record-setting Wolfe paces UNLV to 34-17 victory over New Mexico
- UNLV-UNM Box Score
- 2009 UNLV Football schedule/results
- 2009 UNLV Football Stats
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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech talk about what to expect from UNLV's trip to face a loaded TCU squad this weekend in Fort Worth. The guys both are taking TCU, but have differing philosophies on how it'll all play out. Plus, a look at what's the latest from UNLV's first couple weeks of hoops practices.
- Opponent: TCU
- Date: Oct. 31, 1 p.m.
- Where: Fort Worth, Texas
- TV: Versus (Cox Ch. 38, HD 738)
- Radio: ESPN 1100 AM
- All-time series: TCU leads, 6-1
- The line: TCU by 35
By the time UNLV and TCU kick off this afternoon in Fort Worth, the Rebels will more than likely be sick and tired of having heard all week about how they have no shot.
The oddsmakers have set UNLV as an underdog by 35 points. TCU's defense, which ranks fifth out of 120 FBS teams, is fresh off a 38-7 whipping of BYU in Provo last weekend. At the same time, the Rebels were taking care of New Mexico, 34-17.
Here's a look at why few outside of the UNLV program are giving Mike Sanford's club much of a chance in this one.
1) Speed kills
What the Horned Frogs have banked on in recent seasons under ninth-year head coach Gary Patterson is overall team speed.
Instead of just focusing on having receivers, running backs and defensive backs with speed to burn, TCU thrives on having quickness everywhere, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Speed is what makes TCU's defense and special teams so consistent, too.
The Horned Frogs are eighth in the nation in run defense, tenth in pass defense and fifth in total defense. TCU allows the sixth-fewest points per game in the country, surrendering just 12.71 per outing.
In the kick and punt return departments, TCU might have college football's most dangerous weapon in junior receiver Jeremy Kerley.
He leads the team with 22 receptions, but does most of his damage returning kicks. His 27-yard average on kick returns ranks 26th in the FBS, while his 16.2-yard average on punt returns comes in at eighth. He has returned two punts for touchdowns this season, including an electric stop-and-go 69-yarder against Colorado State on Oct. 17 in a 44-6 triumph.
2) What makes it all work
What makes TCU's defense so dangerous is the fact that its future NFL talent at the defensive end and cornerback positions works hand-in-hand so effectively.
In the middle of seemingly every play is senior defensive end Jerry Hughes, who is fourth in the nation with nine sacks. Recruited to TCU as a running back, he's incredibly quick off the ball at 6-foot-3 and 257 pounds. Meanwhile, junior Wayne Daniels on the other side has 3.5 quarterback takedowns.
Pressure also comes frequently on blitzes up the middle via senior linebacker Daryl Washington. He leads the team with 57 tackles and two interceptions, and also has 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks to his credit.
Senior corners Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders are in charge up front and regularly rattle the cages of opposing quarterbacks. Between the two of them, they have one pick, but both provide blanket coverage regularly on receivers, making quick decisions by opposing quarterbacks even tougher.
3) Moving the ball by committee
With a wealth of depth on offense, plenty of fresh bodies keep the TCU offense moving.
Including junior quarterback Andy Dalton, four players have carried the ball at least 56 times this season. Among the receivers, six targets have at least 100 yards this season.
In the backfield, senior Joseph Turner and highly-touted redshirt freshman Ed Wesley work well to complement one another.
Wesley was voted by the league media as the preseason Newcomer of the Year, and so far has delivered. He's rushed for 298 yards on 56 carries with one touchdown to his credit, while he's caught six passes for 143 yards and two more scores.
Turner is a specialist in the red zone, with eight touchdown runs.
The best stat to show off TCU's depth at the skill positions? Six different receivers have caught a pass of 29 yards or longer.
4) Consistency at the controls
At the helm of the offense is Dalton, who is a model of consistency.
Not asked to do too much, he simply doesn't screw up, leaving opposing defenses with few opportunities to capitalize on miscues.
Aside from completing 63.9 percent of his 166 pass attempts, Dalton has 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
He's coming into his prime within Patterson's offense. After dealing with turnover issues as a freshman in 12 starts in 2007, he bloomed as a sophomore.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Dalton is also a punishing runner, giving opposing defenses yet another offensive option to account for.
This year, he has 244 yards on 64 carries. In his first two seasons, Dalton amassed 664 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns.
Most of the fanfare among collegiate quarterbacks in the Lone Star State goes to Texas senior Colt McCoy and Houston junior Case Keenum, Dalton has a higher passer rating than both this season.
Dalton's 156.19 rating ranks eighth in the nation, while Keenum is 13th at 153.68 and McCoy — widely considered a top Heisman candidate — is 29th at 143.27.
5) Historically speaking
TCU is en route to making its 11th bowl appearance in the last 12 seasons.
That said, it's a program that is used to winning and maintaining focus. That should help put to rest any notion that the Horned Frogs won't take UNLV seriously on the heels of such a resounding victory in a game on the national radar.
For example, when TCU was in a similar situation last year heading into its game against BYU — who was at the time undefeated and eyeing a BCS berth of its own — the Horned Frogs thrashed the Cougars, 32-7. Then, instead of letting up, they won their next two games against Wyoming and UNLV by a combined score of 98-21.
Now, TCU's toughest test remaining is a home date with Utah on Nov. 14. The Horned Frogs might have revenge on their minds at that point, as they outplayed the Utes in Salt Lake City, but missed field goals in the fourth quarter helped pave the way for Utah to land in the Sugar Bowl.
Don't expect any mental lapses between here and, oh, Easter.