The SportsRatings 2010 college football preview ranks all 120 Division I-A teams. These rankings predict how good the teams will be in 2009 before taking schedule into account, then the preview explores how well they should do given their schedule.
Projected odds of winning each scheduled game are given for every team. Two projected records are presented: one based simply on which games a team is favored to win (straight up), and also an aggregate projection that allows for the uncertainty across a season (cumulative). The expectation for the team's season lies somewhere within the range of the two values. Schedule listings are adapted from James Howell's site.
This installment covers teams #1 and #2. To see the full list, click here.
| 1. TCU Horned Frogs (Mountain West #1) Polls: AP #6 USA/Coaches #7
2009 Results: Record: 12-1 Bowl: Lost to Boise State 17-10 (Fiesta) Poll finish: AP #6; USA #6
2009 SportsRatings Power Ratings: Strength: #4 Success: #7 Overall: #5
The TCU Horned Frogs take the #1 spot in our pre-season rankings, but it was touch and go all August as the numbers changed. In the end it was due to TCU's lack of surprises coming out of fall camp: no major injuries or player defections or ineligibilities or NCAA investigations that have other programs' players dropping like flies. Boise State had a few minor setbacks, and TCU had none.
Offense (9 RS) '09 Adj. Scoring Offense: #11 '10 Projected Scoring Offense: #5
An upgraded passing game and still-powerful running game makes the TCU offense one of the nation's best.
• Passing Game '09 Adj. Pass Ranking: #45 '10 Projected Pass Ranking: #19
Andy Dalton was simply one of the best quarterbacks in Division I-A football last year, throwing for 2,756 yards and 23 touchdowns with just 8 interceptions while completing 62% of his attempts. Oh, and leading his team to a 12-0 finish in the regular season. Now a senior, Dalton wants to make it 13-0 this year. TCU's four top receivers—Jeremy Kerley, Jimmy Young, Antoine Hicks, and Bart Johnson—are back and combined for nearly 2,000 equitably-distributed yards. Two more had over 150 receiving yards and starting tight end Evan Frosch is back, too, for his senior year. The offensive line will be even better this year; if it's possible for them to reduce the 12 sacks they gave up last year (#19 in nation adjusted), they will. Dalton will have a great senior year and the Frogs hope he stays healthy again as he threw 99% of last year's attempts.
• Ground Game '09 Adj. Rush Ranking: #7 '10 Projected Rush Ranking: #7
Although Joseph Turner, the Frogs' leading rusher with 754 yards (11 TDs), is gone the running game won't miss a beat. Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley had over 600 yards each (12 TDs combined) and they averaged 6.4 yards per carry to Turner's 5.1. And QB Dalton netted 512 with 3 touchdowns. The TCU offense is a juggernaut on the ground, and the offensive line deserves a lot of credit. This year's model is an upgrade, too. Though Marshall Newhouse is gone, seniors Jake Kirkpatrick, Josh Vernon, Marcus Cannon, and junior Kyle Dooley are all back. Behind this powerful O-line the Horned Frogs' two star sophomores and their senior leader will continue to eat up yardage.
Defense (7 RS) '09 Adj. Scoring Defense: #5 '10 Projected Scoring Defense: #5
Seven starters—six of them seniors—return to the TCU defense.
• '09 Stats: Adj. Rush Def: #8 Adj. Pass Def: #6 Per-Attempt Pass Def: #9 Sacks: #35
The defensive line loses Jerry Hughes who had 11.5 sacks, almost insuring that the pass rush will be weaker. But Wayne Daniels (5.5 sacks) is back with fellow seniors Cory Grant and Kelly Griffin so the line may be stronger overall and the Frogs will have another top-notch rushing defense. At linebacker one of the two in the TCU 4-2-5, #2 tackler Tank Carder (10 pass breakups), returns while #1 tackler Daryl Washington (109 tackles) is gone. The 5-man secondary boasts three returning starters—Tyler Luttrell, Alex Ibiloye, and Tejay Johnson, all seniors—but Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders depart. The overall effect on the defense is mixed. The Frogs lose their best player in each sector but 13 of the top 16 tacklers return. Improved or not, TCU will again have one of the best defenses in the nation.
Kicking Game: Punter Anton Kelton had just a 37.5 yard average but a decent 34.8 net; he's back, as is Ross Evans who hit 15 of 18 field goals.
Return Game: Jeremy Kerley returns both punts and kickoffs for the Frogs, and last year had 2 punt-return touchdowns to go with his 14.4 yard average (26.6 on kickoffs). Corner Greg McCoy was the other kick returner and he averaged a stellar 35.9 yards on 10 kickoff returns, one of which he took to the house. Both are back.
Coaching/Recruiting '10 Recruiting Rank: #66
Gary Patterson has had four 11-win seasons in the last decade but last year's was the first 12-win season. TCU is no recruiting powerhouse, even for the Mountain West where they regularly finish behind at least BYU and Utah. This year's class has two solid offensive recruits, running back Ethan Grant from the Ft. Lauderdale area and running back/wide receiver/"athlete" Curtis Carter.
2009 Recap TCU kicked off the '09 campaign with an unimpressive 30-14 win at Virginia, followed by a 56-21 mauling of Texas State that didn't make the defense appear too threatening. Clemson was to be their big test and they passed—barely—on the road 14-10. After beating SMU and edging Air Force just 20-17 the Frogs were 5-0 and had beaten a few good teams but didn't look BCS-worthy. That happened two weeks later when they clubbed BYU 38-7 in Provo, and later blasted Utah 55-28. Over their final seven regular season games they averaged 47 points, but then scored just 10 in losing to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. For the 2nd year in a row they played poorly against the Broncos and fell by 7.
TCU 2010 schedule & forecast
|11/13||Sat||vs.||*San Diego State||94%||W|
Projection Straight up: 12-0 Cumulative: 10-2
2010 Outlook TCU can and should go 12-0 again; the question is, where does that take them?
With a team that's better than last year's but a schedule that's probably easier, the Horned Frogs really don't have a path to a national championship that otherwise could be theirs. They open with Oregon State, one of their few chances to impress. Tennessee Tech won't do it, and if Baylor's going to be really good no one will know it by week three. SMU is gaining respect but is hardly an elite team.
Then the Mountain West schedule starts and the conference is generally weaker. While Air Force and Wyoming are on the rise the conference's marquee programs, BYU and Utah, will have weaker teams this year. If Boise State were already in the league as is planned for 2011, things might be different. But for now all TCU can do is try to win by a monstrous amount each week and hope every other contenter loses lots of games.
They are heavy favorites in every game, even Oregon State who is their toughest challenge. The cumulative projection adds up all the difficulty and rounds it into two losses, but I don't see a game where the Frogs should have trouble. If last year's team can go undefeated this year's should do so, too unless Andy Dalton is knocked out for the year.
So we are predicting another BCS bowl for the Horned Frogs, but again, no BCS title game unless 2010 resembles 2007 in terms of undefeated and 1-loss teams. It's still possible to win games so overwhelmingly that schedule doesn't factor in voters' minds as much, and TCU has established themselves as a great team in the last few years. But every team, even the best, have an off-game here and there, and just one of those against a cupcake team is all it will take to put doubt back in the voters minds. The computers won't care at all—TCU has no chance at all to win them over.
| 2. Boise State Broncos (WAC #1) Polls: AP #3 USA/Coaches #5
2009 Results: Record: 14-0 Bowl: Beat TCU 17-10 (Fiesta) Poll finish: AP #4; USA #4
2009 SportsRatings Power Ratings: Strength: #8 Success: #2 Overall: #3
Boise State finished #8 last year in the Strength Power Rating and returns 20 starters on offense and defense. They beat TCU last year. So how did they—just barely—finish #2 behind the Horned Frogs, pre-season? Well, when everything is computed in our system concerning last year's returning players, a bonus is added for new faces. On that count, Boise has very little in new blood and TCU just inched past them.
Offense (10 RS) '09 Adj. Scoring Offense: #8 '10 Projected Scoring Offense: #1
Boise State could have the top offense in the nation in 2010.
• Passing Game '09 Adj. Pass Ranking: #30 '10 Projected Pass Ranking: #5
Kellen Moore had such an outstanding sophomore year it's hard to imagine what he could do for an encore. He could certainly raise his already-sound completion rate (64%), and he may very well throw for more than 3,536 yards. But how can he top his 39 to 3 touchdown to interception ratio? (That's 13:1 when expressed as a "true" ratio.) If it's possible at all, though, he has the supporting cast to do it as all of his receivers are back including seven who had over 100 receiving yards. Titus Young led the way with 1,041 yards and 10 TDs while Austin Pettis had 855 and 14 TDs. Tight end Kyle Efaw and Tyler Shoemaker combined for another 789. The offensive line is in a similar bind. Can they really give up fewer than last year's 5 sacks? (Though that was by far the lowest in the FBS, Boise faced poor pass rushes and ranked #5 when adjusted) Again, if it's possible they'll do it as four starters return to the line. Boise State and Moore will have one of the best passing attacks in the nation this year.
• Ground Game '09 Adj. Rush Ranking: #49 '10 Projected Rush Ranking: #28
The Broncos haven't been known as much for their running game since Ian Johnson proposed on national TV in 2007. But last year they had a 1,000 yard rusher in Jeremy Avery (6 TDs) and another who scored 15 touchdowns (Doug Martin, 765 yards). D.J. Harper added 284 in just a few games of action and three others had over 100 and literally everybody is back. Add in a top-caliber offensive line with four starters back and you have the recipe for massive yardage. Senior Will Lawrence and juniors Thomas Byrd, Nate Potter, and Garrett Pendergast—who shared right tackle with sophomore Michael Ames, who is also back—return to the line and more than make up for the loss of Kevin Sapien. Boise State's already-strong rushing game will be even more powerful, and any of Avery, Martin (the starter for the fall), or Harper might be the leader.
Defense (10 RS) '09 Adj. Scoring Defense: #25 '10 Projected Scoring Defense: #7
Boise's defense could make the transition from respected to feared.
• '09 Stats: Adj. Rush Def: #41 Adj. Pass Def: #13 Per-Attempt Pass Def: #23 Sacks: #107
The name Boise State hasn't been synonymous with tough defense. Moreso in the Dan Hawkins era but even recently the typical Bronco team has had outrageous offensive stats the kept them just ahead of their opponents' point tallies. Last year's defense was the real deal, though, ranking 25th in scoring defense with solid rushing and very good pass defense. Boise's rushing D ranking will undoubtedly climb as the entire front six in the 4-2-5 is back. On the D-line Ryan Winterswyk (9 sacks) and Billy Winn (6 sacks) will help bolster the Broncos' meager sack rating as they re-pair with Chase Baker and Shea McClellin. Aaron Tevis and Daron Murphy repeat at linebacker. Winston Venable returns at nickelback and Brandyn Thompson (6 interceptions), Jeron Johnson (#1 tackler), and George Iloka all return to the secondary. Only corner Kyle Wilson is gone from last year's starting D, and the 2nd string has 10 players back, too. This defense is experienced and deep and will be one of the best in the nation in 2010.
Kicking Game: Kyle Brotzman again did double duty for the Broncos, kicking 18 of 25 field goals successfully while averaging a very sound 43.9 yards per punt. He's back for this season.
Return Game: Corner Kyle Wilson, on of the few significant players gone from last year's squad, returned punts last year with a 10.4 average but teammate Chris Potter also returned punts last year (12.9 average) and star receiver Titus Young will return both punts and kickoffs this season. Last year Young returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 26.9 yards per return.
Coaching/Recruiting '10 Recruiting Rank: #119
Here's why Boise State's stellar ranking last year and near-100% return of personnel doesn't quite give them the #1 ranking. Every team has a set of new players, either true freshman or redshirts (or JUCOs, whatever) that will see the field for the first time. Most of them have little effect in their first year, but many of them contribute, and some make major contributions. So the better a team's recruiting, the more chance of discovering a true talent that you didn't have last year. Boise State has far less chance of that than most teams as their recruiting class this year is tiny and mostly non-descript, and has been dwindling. From an original class of just 10, three players (Troy Ware, Tyler Horn, and Holden Huff) grayshirted meaning they are technically 2011 recruits. Daren Lee opted to go on a Mormon mission before joining the team. And Matt Miller is taking a medical redshirt, leaving five scholarship players that could add to the Broncos' bottom line (as long as they don't redshirt, too). There are new faces coming in from the much bigger 2009 class but for the most part what you saw last year with Boise is what you get. It's nearly enough to put the Broncos #1 by our system but not quite.
2009 Recap Boise State faced a "win or go home" opener as far as a BCS berth was concerned. Beat Oregon and the team had a clear path to an undefeated season. They stifled the Duck offense all game en route to a 19-8 win and didn't look back. Though they were less than dominant at times—Fresno State scored 34, Louisiana Tech 35, and Nevada 33, and they beat Tulsa just 28-21 and UC Davis 34-16—the Broncos beat everyone and ranked in the top ten in the Strength Power Rating (contrast with Hawaii at 12-0 in 2007, ranking #48). Other than Oregon, though, they beat just four teams with winning records before they topped TCU 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl to finish a perfect 14-0—and set up this year's potential national championship run.
Boise State 2010 schedule & forecast
|10/2||Sat||@||*New Mexico State||99%||W|
|10/16||Sat||@||*San Jose State||99%||W|
Projection Straight up: 12-0 Cumulative: 10-2
2010 Outlook This year's make or break opener has even higher stakes; the national title may be on the line. Again, if the Broncos pass this test the path in front of them is clear to be undefeated. That might not get them to the BCS title game, but if they lose to Virginia Tech they have no chance.
The rest of the schedule isn't worth much discussion. Wyoming and Oregon State are bowl winners from last year but will mainly serve as a comparison with TCU, which both of those teams play. New Mexico State, Toledo, and San Jose State are three gimmes in a row. Idaho, Fresno State, and Nevada may put up a bit of a fight but in general the road ahead is clear. I don't buy the 10-2 cumulative projection; the only game the Broncos might lose is the opener.
Much like Oregon last year Virginia Tech features a running quarterback who can throw well, and a great running back duo. This year the Broncos have to travel—over 2,000 miles and crossing two time zones—to meet the Hokies in Landover, Maryland. This is not a neutral field game, meaning #6 Virginia Tech could be favored to win. We see it as neck-and-neck. By our team ratings, Boise State should still be a 1-point favorite.
BUT the Broncos will have a few key players out. The offensive line is somewhat scrambled, with Garrett Pendergast not in playing shape yet after recovering from several surgeries. Backup safety Jason Robinson is suspended for the first three games. These aren't huge losses but it's enough to tilt a close game to Virginia Tech—if they didn't have personnel problems of their own. Most significantly their top returning tackler from last year, Barquell Rivers, will miss the game along with linebacker Alonzo Tweedy and receiver Xavier Boyce. This tilts the game—barely—back to Boise State.
Of course this numbers mean nothing as to what really happens on the field. The game is far too close to call. What makes me believe that Boise State will win it is that they HAVE to. This year might be their only shot at a national title and if they don't beat Virginia Tech it's gone after game one. And if they do win they have a good chance of being in the BCS title game; TCU doesn't have a prayer with their schedule, and every other candidate has a slew of pitfalls to cross. This could be Boise State's year, and we'll know a lot more after September 6th.