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9/14/05 8:20 PM
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Edited: 14-Sep-05
Member Since: 06/08/2002
Posts: 4056

Game of the day: Utah at TCU   
Jeff Mason

Game of the day: Utah Utes at TCU Horned Frogs

The line: The Utes are currently 3 1/2-point favorites. Utah won the last meeting 32-18 as a 4-point underdog. The Utes lead the all-time series 2-0.

The total: The total is set at 46 1/2.

Utes see smallest spread in two seasons

Thursday's game will mark the first time in almost two years Utah has been favored by less than a touchdown. Utah beat Southern Miss 17-0 as a 2 ½-point fave to end the 2003 season.

During this stretch, the Utes are 10-3-1 against the spread and 14-0 straight up. Utah has won 18 consecutive games dating back to the 2003 season.

However, this does not appear to be the Alex Smith/Urban Meyer Utes of last year. Utah is 0-1-1 against the spread this season, despite winning its first two games.

This comes as Utah is changing to a pro-style offense – the type preferred by offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. Without enough quality tight ends or fullbacks for his system, Ludwig has settled for a balance of his offense and last year's spread option packages.

Frogs `D` looking to rebound

If the Utes can get the offensive juggernaut rolling, this could be a classic showdown of offense versus defense.

When on, the Horned Frogs sport one of the most feared defenses among the mid majors, allowing 10 points and just 225 total yards against Oklahoma two weeks ago.

"Their defense is more of a high-risk defense," said Utah wide receiver John Madsen. "They like to play a lot of man-on-man, a lot of times they play `cover zero,` which is no (safeties) deep. And when you have people that do that, you have to take advantage. You don`t want to just pass for 3-yard out routes. You want to go over the top and hurt them."

The risk didn't pay off against SMU last week. TCU allowed 275 yards, including 175 on the ground, in a 21-10 loss as 13 ½-point favorites.

From what we can Ganther...

If the Frogs can't stop the run like they did against the Sooners, they could be in for a long day.

Especially with Quinton Ganther going for the Utes.

"Quinton Ganther is great," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "He`s like a shorter Adrian Peterson. He runs over somebody every game. He`s had a least two pancakes each game. You have to gang-tackle him."

In two games this year, the senior running back has run for 231 yards and a touchdown. He also has four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Against Utah State, he also had 133 rushing yards and a touchdown negated by penalties.

Will the real TCU please stand up?

The question becomes which TCU team shows up on Thursday – the team that beat Oklahoma 17-10 as 25-point underdog, or the team that lost to SMU.

Two very different performances have left the public unsure of how the Horned Frogs will perform. Line moves indicate bettors feel TCU is more contender than pretender. The line has moved from 4 to 2 ½, and now appears to have settled around 3 ½-points at most sportsbooks.

"TCU, in my estimation, is going to be one of the top contenders in the league," said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. "(This is) a very important game for us."

The consensus is that this is a team somewhere in the middle.

"I know what we`re capable of at each end of the field," said Patterson. "We didn`t play with a lot of effort at SMU. I told our kids going in it would be their Super Bowl. Focus and purpose is what hurt us."

After mailing it in against a team that is consensually inferior, expect the Frogs to get up for their first ever Mountain West game.

"What a way to start (in the league) going against a team with a winning streak of 18 games," said Patterson. "I`m excited about it. It`s exciting to play someone new to see how you match up."


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