The #18 ranked TCU Horned Frogs (10-2) get set to take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-4) in today’s featured bowl game, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, live from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.
Though TCU had aspirations of making it back into a BCS bowl game for the third consecutive year after sweeping through the Mountain West Conference with a 7-0 record, their early season losses to SMU and Baylor kept them out of a major bowl by the slimmest of margins as they needed to be ranked 16th or better in the BCS, alongside winning the Mountain West and beating out one other conference champion from an automatic qualifying conference. Nonetheless, the Horned Frogs find themselves in their third trip to the Poinsettia Bowl, and focus will need to be kept on the matter at hand and not what could have been, as they’ll face a hungry Louisiana Tech team that has played very well down the stretch, winning its last 7 games in a row after a rough 1-4 start. For TCU, the offense as usual hinges on another standout quarterback, as this year sophomore starter Casey Pachall has filled in admirably in place of the departed Andy Dalton, who last year led the Horned Frogs to victory in the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin, 21-19, and set just about every school passing record possible. Pachall has excelled as the leader of the TCU offense with his impressive efficiency, completing 67.8 percent of his passes, while having a TD:INT ratio of 24 to 6 and throwing for 2715 yards on the season. His main weapon in the receiving game, fellow sophomore Josh Boyce (56 catches, 932 yards, 9 TDs), will have to be utilized more often tonight than he has down the home stretch of the season (just 10 catches in the last 3 games combined), but as was evident in his 5 catch, 163 yard, 3 TD performance in a win against Boise State on Nov. 12th, Boyce will be the main downfield threat for the Frogs in tonight’s Poinsettia Bowl.
TCU has also added a very talented running game to their offensive mix, generating 210 yards per game on the ground behind the three-headed monster of Waymon James (107 carries, 824 yards, 6 TDs) Ed Wesley (104 carries, 649 yards, 5 TDs) and Matthew Tucker (116 carries, 684 yards, 11 TDs). That will give a test to a pretty good Louisiana Tech defense, which is surrendering just 122 yards/game against the run, and allowing only 22.5 points/game in total. Louisiana Tech has the WAC conference defensive player in the year Adrien Cole (121 tackles, 12 for loss), and is very opportunistic against the pass especially, picking off 20 balls to rank third in the nation in interceptions. However, against a productive TCU offense that will put up points regardless of what defense is in front of them (ranking 9th in the nation with almost 42 points per game), Louisiana Tech will need to find a way to generate similar offensive numbers against a TCU defense that is also quite good. Allowing just 21.3 points/game, the Horned Frogs will look first and foremost to stopping the Louisiana Tech run, led by Lennon Creer (838 yards, 9 TDs), but will need to deal with the solid play of fill-in quarterback Colby Cameron (11 TDs to just 2 INTs in 5 starts, all wins) who has the Bulldogs scoring 35 points per contest while racking up 445.6 yards of total offense in games he’s started. In the passing game for the Bulldogs, the main threat downfield is Quinton Patton, who is averaging 15.3 yards/catch and has 1135 yards and 10 TDs coming into tonight’s match-up, and the TCU defense led by senior linebacker Tank Carder would do well to respect both aspects of the Tech offense. Pressure is key for the Horned Frogs, who have one of the nation’s elite defensive schemes, and getting Cameron in a position to make poor choices (he’s only completing 56.4 percent of his passes, which could be a major shortcoming tonight) will certainly aid in TCU’s effort to keep Louisiana’s offense off the field.
Betting Lines for #18 TCU vs. Louisiana Tech
TopBet Sportsbook is our featured online sportsbook for wagering on tonight’s Poinsettia Bowl, but you can also review betting lines across some of the best sportsbooks reviewed here by heading to our NCAA odds section, which features betting lines for tonight’s match-up across 6 top sportsbooks. At TopBet Sportsbook, TCU gets the favorite at 9.5 points against the spread (-110 odds), and on the money line comes in at -365 odds to win outright. Louisiana Tech on the other hand will get a 9.5 point cushion, with the best odds on that found at Intertops Sportsbook (-105 odds vs. TopBet’s -110), and enters as an underdog at -305 odds to win outright. With the game total at 56.5 points expecting TCU’s talented offense to put up some serious numbers, we’re looking towards pushing the underside of the total points margin, as we could very well be in for a slow starting game with neither side’s defense wanting to give up anything in the early going, which could lead to this game falling just short of the over/under mark.
Our Pick to Win:
This may very well turn out to be a closer game that either the spread, or most sports analysts might predict, as Louisiana Tech has shown they can hang with just about any team they play (as is evident in close losses to SMU, Houston and Mississippi State, by a combined total of just 9 points). Tech also doesn’t seem to have a problem playing away from home, winning their last 5 road contests, but it’s been their inability to close out ballgames against good opponent’s that has kept them from being more recognized than they are. TCU may be in for a tough challenge, especially with a possibility of a letdown in performance due to their poor bowl draw this year, but nonetheless the Horned Frogs are a program packed with pride and talent, and should be able to hang in there for a victory in their 3rd Poinsettia Bowl appearance. We’re backing TCU to pull away with a close win tonight, 27-24, in what should be the best bowl game thus far in the 2011-12 NCAA Football Bowl Season.