TCU-Air Force Preview
United States AF ACA, CO - TCU finally opens conference play this weekend at Air Force, but there will likely be more on the mind of coach Gary Patterson's team than a bid for its first Mountain West title since 2005.
The 10th-ranked Horned Frogs - boasting just their second top-10 ranking in the last half-century - enter league play with high hopes of an unbeaten run to a BCS bowl, but Saturday's game in Colorado Springs will be the first of several hurdles they'll face along the way.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made TCU –10 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 70% of bets for this game have been placed on TCU -10 (View College Football bet percentages).
Quarterback Andy Dalton won't need to be reminded about the threat the Falcons pose. Two seasons ago, TCU lost 20-17 in overtime at Air Force after Dalton - then a redshirt freshman - threw a key interception late in regulation as the Horned Frogs blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead Sept. 13, 2007.
There will be even more motivation for the Falcons - and all of TCU's conference opponents - to knock off the Frogs (4-0, 0-0 MWC) this season, with the team having assumed the role of the MWC team chasing a BCS bid.
"They've got us circled," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "We've got to get ready to play."
Last season, Utah completed a 13-0 run with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, in the process handing TCU its only conference defeat with a dramatic 13-10 victory Nov. 6.
In 2009, the Utes have already lost at Oregon. BYU got blown out by Florida State, leaving the Frogs as the league's lone remaining unbeaten after non-conference road wins over Virginia and Clemson.
"We know where we're at. There's people who believe we're not good enough to be there, and others who believe that we are," Patterson said. "Our whole goal is just to keep winning one more and keep proving people wrong. It hasn't changed since I started here."
They had no problems last week, winning their regional battle with SMU 39-14. The victory pushed the Horned Frogs up one spot to No. 10, just the second time since 1959 they've been ranked so highly, along with a two-week stint in November 2003.
While Dalton threw for 189 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Mustangs, TCU's defense again made the biggest impact, forcing three turnovers and holding SMU to minus-16 yards on the ground, including five sacks.
The Horned Frogs have allowed an average of 47.0 rushing yards per game - fewest in the nation. The unit has been so dominant that its players were disappointed after allowing two touchdowns to SMU.
"Right now, we're at a good pace," said star defensive end Jerry Hughes, who has six sacks. "But we gave up 14 points. We know we made some careless mistakes we have to correct."
TCU's dominance against the run doesn't figure to create a good matchup for Air Force, which does the vast majority of its damage on the ground.
The Falcons (3-2, 2-0) have more than three times as many rushing yards (1,459) as passing yards (408), and quarterback Tim Jefferson was 6 for 14 for 57 yards and an interception in a 16-13 overtime loss to Navy last Saturday. He also injured his ankle, leaving his status unclear.
Last year in Fort Worth, Air Force fell behind early and had almost no success through the air, completing a total of three passes for 11 yards in a 44-10 loss to TCU. The Falcons did manage 150 yards on 37 carries in the game, but were still outgained 504-161 as Dalton threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more.
"Since we've been here, we've faced some really, really good squads, and this one is as good as any team we've played so far," third-year Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said this week. "It's probably as good a team that has come into Falcon Stadium since, you could go back to 2001," when the Falcons hosted then-No. 3 Oklahoma.
Air Force lost that game to the Sooners, 44-3.
Posted: 10/6/09 9:54PM ET