We're now on the cusp of the biggest game in Kyle Whittingham's coaching career. Tonight, the Utes will either be forging their path to the BCS, or picking up the pieces of a shattered dream.
So what will happen? I don't know. In fact, this is the first game since Michigan where I believe the prospects of a loss are there. I didn't feel this way prior to Oregon State, but right now, I have no clue how this will play out. I'd like to think Utah will win and I'm not nervous for tonight, but in reality, I just don't know one way or another how this game will go. I think a lot of this might be because of Utah's performance last weekend against the Lobos, but also because of how dominant TCU looked against the Cougars. Of course, that was just one game and at home, tonight's is here in Salt Lake, a place where TCU struggled two years ago. In that game, a slumping Utah team -- they were coming off a humiliating loss to Boise State -- knocked off the Frogs in a defensive struggle. TCU would not lose again, finishing the year 11-2. Utah did lose a few more times, ending the season at 8-5. So even then, a mediocre Utes team managed to upset a solid Frogs squad. That is a positive to take into this game, since Utah is in much better position than they were two years ago. With that said, so is TCU.
How does TCU win this game? Well they've got the defense to do it. They only give up 11 points per game, third best in the country. While only allowing 214 yards a game, second in the country. Their rushing defense ranks third in the nation and their pass defense twenty-first. It's not a pretty picture for Utah's offense, even though they have looked explosive at times. The Frogs will keep the Utes grounded and if they create turnovers, capitalizing on them, they will win. But that isn't set in stone.
How does Utah win this game? Well, like TCU, they've got a pretty good defense as well. Utah only allows 18 points per game, nineteenth in the country. They only allow 266 yards per game, eight in the country. Their pass defense, though not great, still is respectable and their run defense is ninth. This means tonight's game most likely will be a defensive effort by both teams, much like the game played two years ago. How Utah pulls out the victory is by shortening the field, something they did in 2006. If they can keep the Frogs pinned in their own territory and slowly position themselves closer and closer to the TCU goal, it will be very likely they produce enough scores to win. That won't be easy, but it is something they can do, especially with Louie Sakoda, who has been the MVP for this team.
Utah can win, but I realize it won't be easy. They can't have turnovers and the defense can't give up too many big plays. I expect a gritty game with both teams really battling it out. I know I said I don't know what to expect, but since I want to be on the record with a prediction, I will say Utah wins 28-14.
What do you think?