From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
Riding high on a 21-game regular-season winning streak, the fourth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs take the spotlight on Saturday night as they battle with the UNLV Rebels in a Mountain West Conference showdown at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Rated fourth in the most current BCS rankings as well, the Horned Frogs are off to an 8-0 start for the second straight year and are currently tied with nationally-ranked Utah for the top spot in the MWC standings at 4-0. The Frogs have been simply dominant in all phases of the game thus far and have held the last four opponents to a combined 10 points. Last weekend the team easily dismissed the Air Force Falcons down in Fort Worth by a final of 38-7.
As for the Rebels, very little has gone right for them this season under new head coach Bobby Hauck. The squad has just a single win, a 45-10 victory over New Mexico in conference play, but even that has to be taken with a grain of salt since the Lobos enter this week tied for the longest losing streak in the nation at eight games. The Rebels have been on an extended break since being pummeled by Colorado State on the road back on October 16th, 43-10. The loss was the third straight and the sixth in seven tries this season for the program.
TCU crushed the Rebels last season in a 41-0 decision, which means the Frogs have taken all but one of the previous eight meetings in the series. The Frogs have won six straight over UNLV, capturing victories by an average of 30.2 ppg during that stretch. The lone win for UNLV against TCU came in 1997 at home by a score of 21-19.
"That was a great performance," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said of his offense against the Falcons last week. "A lot of it had to do with Ed (Wesley) and a lot of it had to do with the offensive line. We were down three starting offensive lineman who didn't play this ballgame. For us to go run the ball like we did speaks volumes for what we can do in the future."
Wesley, who was named the MWC's Co-Offensive Player of the Week, generated a career-best 209 rushing yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on 28 carries as the Frogs ran all over the academy. The offensive line also kept quarterback Andy Dalton in an upright position as the signal-caller converted 11-of-20 passes for 185 yards and a score and also gained 93 yards and added a TD on the ground. The Frogs as a group logged a hefty 377 yards and four TDs running the ball, which kept the Falcons from gaining possession of the ball when they needed it most.
In addition to the strong offensive effort by the Horned Frogs, the defense stepped up and again shut down the opposition, limiting Air Force to just three completed passes and a modest 184 rushing yards.
"The confidence plays a big part, especially on defense," TCU safety Colin Jones said after holding the nation's leading rushing attack under 200 yards. "When you get going, you like to keep going. Big plays hurt that, and if you eliminate those then everything else works out. Air Force is a great offense, so they will make plays but you have to come back and stop them."
The defense for the Horned Frogs is again the crown jewel in a decorated program that is pushing all the right buttons from one week to the next. The run defense is holding opponents to a mere 102.0 ypg, second in the conference and 15th in the nation, and after beating up on the Falcons the pass defense is tops in the country with a mere 117.9 ypg allowed. TCU's total defense has few rivals, holding foes to a scant 219.9 ypg and once you put it all together it is easy to see how this group is first in the country in scoring defense with just 9.0 ppg permitted.
The emergence of Wesley coming out of the backfield has certainly taken some of the pressure off Dalton who has been carrying this program since he first stood under center. Wesley ranks second in the conference and 13th nationally with 109.3 ypg on the ground and three times this season he has scored a pair of TDs in a game. However, the rushing attack for the Frogs is so much more than Wesley, with the team gaining a hefty 270.6 ypg at the moment.
While TCU has been humming along and running over opponents, the Rebels have unfortunately been on the other side of such happenings again this year. The offense has been shut down and the defense whipped every time the squad takes the field, aside from that one date with New Mexico which really shouldn't factor into this assessment given how poor the Lobos are again in 2010.
The squad has scored a mere five touchdowns on the ground compared to 19 by the opposition thus far. Tim Cornett leads the bunch with 237 yards and two TDs on 45 attempts, but with so many players getting their hands on the ball the level of consistency among running backs has been difficult to locate.
Omar Clayton continues to be the best option at quarterback for coach Hauck, completing 56.6 percent of his attempts, but a mere five TDs and 134.4 ypg through the air means opponents don't have to worry so much about the deep ball and can crowd the line of scrimmage. What it means for Clayton and anyone else who chooses to line up under center is that they are in great danger of being taken down behind the line of scrimmage. In fact, UNLV ranks 113th in the country at the moment with 3.57 sacks allowed per game.
From a defensive standpoint, opponents lick their chops when they see that they are facing off against the Rebels because, for the most part, UNLV can't seem to stop anyone. Outside of the 10 points allowed to New Mexico last month, every foe has tallied no less than 30 points on the Rebels, which means the scoring defense is giving up a hefty 36.4 ppg at the moment (eighth in the conference and 110th in the nation). The pressure at the line of scrimmage just isn't there for the Rebels who are permitting 213.9 ypg on the ground (115th) and are logging 3.71 TFLs per outing (117th).
As long as the Horned Frogs don't look beyond this game and focus on the task at hand it should be another blowout for one of the most dominant teams, on both sides of the ball, in the country.