From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: One of the first teams in the nation to collect 10 wins, the third-ranked TCU Horned Frogs try to follow up another blowout victory as they challenge the San Diego State Aztecs in Mountain West Conference action in the final home game for the Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Tied with Auburn for the most wins in the country heading into play this week, the Horned Frogs are again trying to run the table in the MWC and need only get by SDSU this weekend and defeat New Mexico on the road two weeks later to complete the job. Last Saturday figured to have TCU fighting for respectability on a national scale as it clashed with a top-10 Utah squad in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately for the Utes, perhaps they were ranked a bit too high by the national voters as they were taken down in a heap, 47-7. The lopsided win for the Horned Frogs, who jumped over undefeated Boise State in the AP poll and are again third in the most recent BCS rankings, marked the sixth straight game in which the opposition has been held to a touchdown or less and the seventh time this season overall.
As for the Aztecs, maybe the best conference opponent the Horned Frogs will end up facing this year, they are off to their best start since 1977 and are already bowl eligible with seven wins in nine tries. Since bowing to BYU by a field goal back in early October, SDSU has hit the win column four straight times, including last Saturday night when it slipped by Colorado State at home in a 24-19 final.
As far as the all-time series between these two teams is concerned, TCU's 55-12 romp over the Aztecs on the road last year pushed the Frogs to an undefeated 5-0 in the series. This weekend TCU will be trying to establish a new conference record for consecutive home victories at 14 in a row.
Ryan Lindley converted 14-of-23 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, but he was also picked off two times in the close call against Colorado State last Saturday night. Stepping up to take some of the heat of Lindley was running back Ronnie Hillman who, in gaining a game-high 151 yards, became just the third freshman in school history to reach 1,000 rushing yards, yet that mattered little to the back in the grand scheme of things.
"It means nothing," Hillman said of the feat. "If the team wins, I'm fine. I could rush for 1,000 yards and be on a losing team. I would rather rush for 500 yards if it meant we were a better team."
From a defensive standpoint, the Aztecs clamped down on Colorado State's attempts to run the ball, allowing a mere 27 net yards on 34 attempts, thanks in large part to the unit posting five sacks of quarterback Pete Thomas. Named a Co-Defensive Player of the Week in the MWC, Miles Burris registered a career-high 10 tackles and four tackles for loss, a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles in the contest.
"We knew if we took them out of the running game that they were going to have to go to the pass," Burris said of the pressure he and his teammates supplied. "Previous to this game, they have given up a lot of sacks, so we knew that if we forced them to pass we were going to get in the backfield."
Quietly the Aztecs have put together an outstanding defensive effort this season and at the moment the group is ranked first in the conference and fifth in the nation with an average of eight TFLs per game, producing a season-high 13 of them versus the Rams. In fact, in the last two games the Aztecs have combined for 10 sacks and 23 TFLs.
Not only is the group disrupting plays behind the line, the pass defense is also standing tall with an efficiency rating of 103.0 at the moment, good enough for second in the conference (behind TCU) and seventh in the nation.
As for the offense, Lindley is dealing with an ankle injury that might be slowing him a bit, but with him converting better than 54 percent of his passes for 269.6 ypg it would be hard to tell. Lindley has some added incentive to perform well this week after he converted just 16-of-34 for 164 yards and a TD, with two INTs in last year's meeting with TCU.
Unfortunately for Lindley, the chances of him having a better outing this time around might be rather small given how dominant the TCU defense is yet again in 2010. In fact, entering this week the Horned Frogs are first in the entire nation in total defense (215.5 ypg) and scoring defense (8.5 ppg), not to mention a pass defense which is also tops in the country with a mere 121.9 ypg allowed. Add to that a run defense that is holding foes to a mere 93.6 ypg (seventh nationally) and there's little this group of Horned Frogs can't do when they set their mind to it.
Against the Utes last weekend TCU made it known to the rest of the country that the Horned Frogs needed to be taken seriously when bowl invitations were ready to be handed out. Utah was held to just 11 first downs, 51 yards rushing and 199 yards of total offense as Brock Tanner recorded a career-high 12 tackles and picked off a pass which he returned 57 yards, on his way to being named the MWC's Co-Defensive Player of the Week.
For the third time this season Andy Dalton was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week as he completed 21-of-26 passes for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns. Dalton, who leads all active quarterbacks in wins, tossed a 93-yard scoring strike to Josh Boyce which ranks as the third-longest play in TCU history and the second-longest in the history of the Mountain West. In addition to the individual accolades for the Horned Frogs, the team as a whole was named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week as well.
"We were beaten soundly by an outstanding TCU football team," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said in his weekly press conference. "They had control pretty much the entire way. The game got away from us early on. It was similar to last year but it unfolded in a little different way. Give TCU all the credit in the world. They are a good football team and deserving of their ranking."
Dalton is now second all-time in MWC history with 11,320 yards of offense and has his team hitting on all cylinders as the top offense in the conference with close to 500 ypg. Early on the team's 62-7 romp over tiny Tennessee Tech looked like a big-time program beating up on an overmatched opponent, but now its clear that that score was simply the norm for a squad that is generating 41.4 ppg (eighth nationally).
Marrying the top defense in the country with an offense that rarely hits a sour note is almost unfair to the rest of the Mountain West Conference, but for now those teams have to face the fact that few clubs in the nation could compete with the Frogs right now.