Texas Bowl Preview: TCU vs. Houston

Texas Bowl
Dec. 28, 5 p.m. PST
TCU (7-5) vs. Houston (8-4)
Houston, Texas
Payout: $625,000
Spread: TCU – 4

Houston is one of the many teams transitioning between coaches right now. Former coach Art Briles has left for Baylor, taking the offensive coordinators with him. New coach Kevin Sumlin won’t take over until after the bowl, leaving recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Cliff Thurmond to man the ship until that time. The affect this might have on the play calling is huge for this game even though they have had a while to prepare for it.

As running back Anthony Aldridge goes, so too do the Cougars. Aldridge ran for over 1,500 yards this season and caught 41 passes for 19 total TD’s. His speed is hard to match and TCU will have to game plan around him in order to defend against the big play. They can allow him to nickel and dime them down the field, just as long as they tighten up near the red zone. Bend but don’t break will have to be the TCU theme on defense. They’ll also have to prepare for two quarterbacks in Case Keenum and Blake Joseph. Keenum is the more agile of the two and he takes a majority of the snaps. He has thrown 10 interceptions to only 13 TD’s but the freshman has hit pay dirt on the ground an additional nine times. While Joseph has the bigger arm it’s the extra dimension Keenum adds with his feet that keeps him on the field. Both QB’s offer something different for TCU to prepare for. Their favorite target is Donnie Avery and much like Aldridge, he’s undersized and one of the fastest in the country. He has 81 catches, 1,300 yards and 7 TD’s.

The Horned Frogs defense should be ready. They rank in the top 20 in scoring defense, total defense and run defense. Even in passing defense they sit at No. 34. Defensive end Chase Ortiz is a menace with eight sacks and pre-season all-american Tommy Blake at the other end spot may finally have his personal situation sorted out. When all is well those two form one of the most dangerous pass rushing tandems in the country. It won’t matter who is under center for the Cougars, these two will be putting him on the ground.

TCU’s offense isn’t as powerful. Tailback Aaron Brown’s injury keeps an experienced off the field, forcing sophomore Joseph Turner into action. Turner is a load at 225 lbs and has performed well when called upon. The 4-2-5 defensive alignment used by Houston will have to tighten up in the box or Turner have a big day. Freshman quarterback Andy Dalton isn’t much of a threat and if Houston is going to win this game they’ll have to capitalize off of an errant pass or two. Dalton will have to play a mistake free game and wait until TCU establishes the run to take any shots downfield. He can ill afford to have a game like he did against Utah where he threw four interceptions in a seven-point loss.

Were it not for the coaching change this would be an easy call. Houston’s offense would’ve carried them to the victory with some relative ease. That can still happen but it’s less likely now. Despite all of Houston’s playmakers this could be a defensive stalemate and that favors the Horned Frogs.

Prediction:
TCU 17 – Houston 14

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