Biggest game ever in the history of the universe! # 3 TCU (9-0) @ # 5 Utah (8-0)

Think I'm overselling it? Maybe just a little. But this game is epic. So much is on the line and the least of which is a conference championship. You know it's a huge game when the least exciting thing about winning is most likely locking up the Mountain West title. 

I mean, isn't winning their conference the number one goal for every team in America? 

But that's the smallest of what is on the line Saturday. The winner should be the favorite for a BCS bowl. The winner could position themselves for a BCS championship berth. Those are the stakes. 

Now can Utah get it done? Are the Utes really a top-five team? Is 2010 going to mirror 2009's game or 2008's? Those are the burning questions and I can't answer them. I don't think anyone can. Not even TCU fans. Hope might lead us to believe this team will get it done. I expect them to get it done. Do I know they'll get it done? Of course not. But I think that is the case whenever you take on a legitimate top-ten team. There is a reason both these programs are ranked where they are and it's not just the fluff of an easy schedule. It's because they're worthy and good and capable of beating anyone in the nation.

Including the 3rd ranked BCS team. 

For Utah, that's their fight. That is what stands between them and near-perfection. It's not an easy obstacle - but it's probably the most intriguing. As a fan, I'd not want it any other way. I love that the Utes are being tested in the regular season against a team that enters this contest with a BCS ranking better than what Utah saw in the 2009 Sugar Bowl with Alabama. I like the bigness of this game. I like that everyone in the nation will be focused on Rice-Eccles Stadium because so much is on the line. I like the publicity and buzz. And as odd as it sounds, I like the butterflies. 

But that's only half the battle. The other half is actually winning these type of games. So that takes us back to the original question - will Utah get it done? Well I'll lay out the statistics and maybe they'll paint a clearer picture. 

Utah TCU Edge
Passing Offense
#33 NCAA
258.13 YPG
#60 NCAA
214.78 YPG
Rushing Offense
#27 NCAA
190.50
YPG
#9 NCAA
270.89 YPG
Total Offense
#21 NCAA
449.63
YPG
#11 NCAA
485.67 YPG
Scoring Offense
#3
NCAA
45.25
PPG
#9 NCAA
40.78 YPG
Rush Defense
#14 NCAA
102.75 YPG
#9 NCAA
98.33 YPG
EVEN
Pass Defense
#10
NCAA
165.00
YPG
#1 NCAA
119.00 YPG
Total Defense
#6
NCAA
267.75
YPG
#1 NCAA
217.33 YPG
Scoring Defense
#6
NCAA
14.2 PPG
#1 NCAA
8.67 PPG
Fumbles Recovered
#55 NCAA
6
#55 NCAA
6
EVEN
Fumbles Lost
#83 NCAA
8
#5 NCAA
3
Interceptions Thrown
#25 NCAA
6
#16 NCAA
5
EVEN
Passes Intercepted
#62
NCAA
7
#62 NCAA
7
EVEN
Turnovers Lost
#55 NCAA
14
#6 NCAA
8
Turnovers Gained
#65
NCAA
13
#65 NCAA
13
EVEN
Passing Efficiency
#4 NCAA
71.05
#13 NCAA
66.22
Pass Efficiency Defense
#23 NCAA
54.95
#4 NCAA
49.55
Fewest Penalties Per Game
#22 NCAA
41
#16 NCAA
45
EVEN
Sacks Allowed
#2 NCAA
3
#9 NCAA
5
Sacks
#12 NCAA
23
#46 NCAA
20
Third Down Conversion Percentage
#4 NCAA
54.29
#6 NCAA
53.85
EVEN
Third Down Defense
#5 NCAA
28.57
#1 NCAA
23.89
EVEN
Fourth Down Conversion Percentage
#12 NCAA
75.00
#32 NCAA
63.64
Fourth Down Defense
#4 NCAA
23.08
#19 NCAA
35.71
Red Zone Offense
#12
NCAA
0.90
#17 NCAA
0.89
EVEN
Red Zone Defense
#42 NCAA
0.79
#11 NCAA
0.70
Special Teams
Punting
Field Goals
Kickoff Returns
Punt Returns

Statistically, there is minimal difference between the two teams. Utah has the better offense and TCU the better defense, but neither holds a significant advantage. In fact, the Utes lead in 8 statistical categories and the Frogs 9. That's how close this game is on paper. 

What's interesting is how similar these two teams are in most categories. There are nine categories I list as EVEN because they are extremely close. 

Compared to last year, where the Utes led in zero categories, it shows you just how much they have improved.

Utah had the 55th best passing offense heading into the TCU game in 2009. The Frogs aren't much better or worse than their numbers in '09. 

The Utes are almost exactly where they were in rushing offense, TCU slightly worse. 

In total offense, Utah was 35th and now they're 21st. TCU is marginally worse here. 

The biggest difference, though, was scoring offense. The Utes were only 46th nationally with 29.1 points per game heading into their contest against TCU and now they're 3rd nationally. The Frogs are two points worse. 

On the defensive side, Utah is also better in most categories than the 2009 team. In rushing defense, they were 51st heading into the game. This year, they're 14th. TCU is slightly worse. 

Utah's pass defense was good in 2009 and it remains good in 2010. Now TCU's pass defense, if you can believe it, is actually much better this year, as they gave up 151 yards per game through the air and now they only give up 119 yards. Impressive. 

The Utes ranked 16th last year in scoring defense and they're 6th now. Big gains. But TCU also was 1st then and 1st now, however, they gave up 11.2 points per game. This year, they're holding opponents under 10 points. A pretty remarkable feat. 

Of course, Utah's made the most gains and took what was a statistically lopsided comparison in TCU's favor and has pretty much evened it out this year.

Like I said, Utah led in zero of the major categories heading into the 2009 game. In this game, they lead in two and TCU holds the lead in five. 

But as I mentioned, their margins aren't extreme anymore like last year. 

Look at scoring defense. Utah is only giving up 5.53 more points than TCU per game. Not a huge difference.

Now that's comparing this game to 2009. In 2008, Utah only led in one major category (passing offense). Each other statistical category TCU led in or it was essentially a tie. 

This year, which wasn't the case last year, the Utes lead by a significant margin in passing offense. 

So what to take away from all of this? Pretty much expect a battle. Neither team is dominating the others in the statistical categories like it was last year. Add the fact this will be played in Salt Lake City and I give the advantage to Utah. 

That's where I'm leaning based on the categories. There is just not a considerable difference between each team to suggest TCU has the upper hand in this contest. 

Had the statistics been similar to last year's game and I probably wouldn't feel as good as I do right now. But since both teams look pretty similar, you've got to go with the home team. 

Even more so when you realize how loud that crowd is going to be and the fact every one of those players remembers last year's beating in Fort Worth. Don't think for a second Kyle Whittingham isn't using that as motivation for a huge game. They were embarrassed and now it's time to pay TCU back for that tough loss. Overall, I have a feeling this game is going to live up to its billing. Both teams are really good. Last year, only TCU was really good. That will be the difference in 2010 and because of that, I've got to take Utah. Utes win 27-14.

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