2007 Texas Bowl - TCU vs. Houston
Houston RB Anthony Alridge
Houston RB Anthony Alridge
Posted Dec 20, 2007

2007 Texas Bowl Preview & Analysis - TCU vs. Houston

TCU (7-5) vs. Houston (8-4)

Dec. 28, 8:00 p.m. ET, NFL Network

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2007 Texas Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
TCU Houston
Total Offense
64th  388.42 ypg  4th  513.17 ypg
Total Defense
16th  320 ypg 49th  365.67 ypg
Scoring Offense
66th  26.58 ppg  17th  36.33 ppg
Scoring Defense
16th  19.17 ppg 82nd  29.92 ppg
Run Offense
40th  169.08 ypg 10th  239.92 ypg
Run Defense
18th  109.42 ypg 51st  141.83 ypg
Pass Offense
61st  219.33 ypg 27th  273.25 ypg
Pass Defense
34th  210.58 ypg 53rd  223.83 ypg
Turnover Margin
92nd  -0.50 101st  -0.67
Baylor W 27-0
at Texas L 34-13
at A Force L 20-17 OT
SMU W 21-7
Col State
W 24-12
at Wyoming
L 24-21
at Stanford
W 38-36
L 27-20
New Mexico
W 37-0
at BYU
L 27-22
W 34-10
W 45-33
at Oregon L 48-27
at Tulane W 34-10
Colorado St W 35-24
East Carolina L 37-35
at Alabama L 30-24
Rice W 56-48
at UAB W 49-10
at UTEP W 34-31
SMU W 38-28
at Tulsa L 56-7
Marshall W 35-28
Texas South W 59-6
Position Ratings
relative to each other
TCU 5 highest
1 lowest
3 Quarterbacks 4
3 RBs 4
2.5 Receivers 3.5
3.5 O Line 3
5 D Line 3
4 Linebackers 3
4.5 Secondary 3
4.5 Spec Teams 3.5
4.5 Coaching 2

There’ll no doubt be a Lone Star flavor in the air when TCU meets Houston in Reliant Stadium in a game between former Southwest Conference rivals and two of the better non-BCS conference teams over the last couple of seasons.

There’ll also be an air of uncertainty surrounding the Houston program, which lost the architect of its recent success, head coach Art Briles, to Baylor.  Joining Briles in Waco will be co-offensive coordinators Philip Montgomery and Randy Clements, leaving the Cougars with massive voids on a unit that can ill-afford to be out of synch against a nasty Horned Frog D.  While AD Dave Maggard has brought in Kevin Sumlin to take over, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Chris Thurmond will be on the sidelines on an interim basis to handle the main workload for the bowl.

Houston’s designs of repeating as Conference USA champs crashed and burned in a hideous, 56-7 loss to Tulsa on Nov. 10.  That the D would disappear was no surprise, but seven points against a weak Hurricane defense was hard to explain when everything was on the line.  All can be forgiven with a win here.

The Cougars utilize a two-quarterback system, featuring dual-threat Case Keenum and strong-armed Blake Joseph, and harbor some of the fastest skill position players in the country.  RB Anthony Alridge and WR Donnie Avery, a couple of legitimate 4.2 sprinters, are gamebreakers that will challenge the always stingy TCU defense throughout, while showing off for the NFL scouts.   

While Houston may have missed the mark during the regular season, but TCU didn’t even come close to expectations.  Pegged as a heavy favorite in the Mountain West and a possible contender for a BCS bowl berth, the Horned Frogs struggled badly in close games, barely copping a ninth bowl invitation over the last 10 years.             

As if breaking in a freshman quarterback to replace steady veteran Jeff Ballard wasn’t trying enough, TCU spent long chunks of the regular season without two of the league’s premier players, RB Aaron Brown and DE Tommy Blake.  Injuries limited Brown to just 106 carries, the lowest production of his career, which also hampered Dalton’s development under center.  He is not expected to participate in the team’s bowl game. 

Blake, however, will be suited up after returning from a tough saga that had him MIA most of the season as he sorted through personal problems.  When he’s at his peak, there are few scarier edge rushers in the country, turning a solid Horned Frog defense into a unit that can be among the best in college football when all the parts are humming.     

What happens when a high-octane offense meets a brick wall of a defense?  Texas Bowl director doesn’t have the answer.  He’s just thrilled to have a couple of in-state teams on the docket to attract the interest of local fans.

Players to watch: Although Blake will be one of the main storylines of the game, he’s not the only NFL-ready defensive end playing for TCU.  Senior Chase Ortiz will be capping an outstanding career that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, except by the next-level types.  The star of the defense during the regular season, he led the team with 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks, despite seeing plenty of double teams.  With Blake focused on finishing an odd year on a high note, the Horned Frogs will once again have bookends on the defensive line that are capable of disrupting the Houston gameplan. 

The Cougars’ answer to a TCU defense that ranks 16th nationally in scoring and total defense is Alridge and Avery, a couple of future pros that can change the momentum of a game with just a hint of space to run through.  Alridge is No. 7 in the country in rushing, jetting for a career-high 1,568 yards and 14 touchdowns, adding 41 catches for 424 yards and five more scores.  Not only did Avery lead the offense with 81 catches for 1,336 yards and seven touchdowns, but also averaged 28 yards on kickoff returns.  Jason Phillips and Robert Henson are a couple of the Mountain West’s better linebackers, but if they get caught too often in one-on-one situations with Alridge, the Frogs will be in big trouble.                   

TCU will win if... RB Chris Turner picks up where he left off in November when he ran for 434 yards and five scores.  Without a reliable passing game or any receivers that can take advantage of a suspect Houston pass defense, the Horned Frogs must be able to lean on a running attack that rolled toward the end of the season.  With Brown likely to be in street clothes the onus falls on Turner, and to a lesser extent, Ryan Christian.  Healthy again after missing all or part of six games, Turner gave a glimpse of his upside in the regular season finale with San Diego State, rushing for a career-high 226 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries.  At 6-1 and 226 pounds, he’s a powerful runner that can wear down the Cougar defense in the second half.             

Houston will win if...it’s balanced on offense.  While the Cougars conjure up images of Andre Ware and David Klingler, this team is at its best when it’s mixing in the run with the pass.  Achieving balance will be especially important against a TCU defense that feasts on opponents that become predictable in their play-calling.  In fact, when the Horned Frogs have held teams under 100 yards rushing in 2007, they’re 5-0 by an average score of 33-11.  To win, Houston must have Alridge snapping off long runs, Avery and Jeron Harvey stretching the secondary, and both Keenum and Joseph directing scoring drives.  

What will happen: Who’s really going to be calling plays for Houston?  The Cougars lost a lot when Briles, Montgomery, and Clements bolted for the Big 12, giving Gary Patterson and TCU a considerable edge in preparation.  In a competitive game, the Horned Frogs will prevail, getting more than 100 yards on the ground from Turner and an inspired effort from a defense that’s far more formidable now that Blake has had time to get his feet wet.

TCU -3.5 ... CFN Prediction: TCU 31 ... Houston 26

2007 Texas Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More