Football: Frogs hold distinct edge against UNLV

At 5-5, the Frogs’ bowl hopes remain uncertain, but a 2-8 opponent could make things a little clearer Saturday.As TCU welcomes UNLV to Amon Carter Stadium on Saturday, improved play from the quarterback position and not allowing a game-breaking play on defense will be pivotal if the Frogs want win No. 6.

Here are the probable starters for Saturday’s matchup between TCU and UNLV.

QUARTERBACK

TCU: Andy Dalton, redshirt freshman

UNLV: Travis Dixon, freshman

Advantage: Even

Until the 94-yard drive late in the game, Dalton was contained by BYU’s vaunted pass rush. With that being said, the Katy native showed for the first time he could create big gains with his feet. Though Dixon is a consistent threat with his athleticism; his arm is less than ideal having thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns this year. If the TCU defense gets up big and forces Dixon to make plays, it will be a good day for the Frogs.

RUNNING BACK

TCU: Joseph Turner, sophomore

UNLV: Frank Summers, junior

Advantage: Even

As the health status of Aaron Brown remains questionable, Turner needs to bounce back from a 32-yard performance against BYU. All signs point to a good day for Turner as his physical running style faces a soft UNLV rush defense that gives up nearly 180 yards a game on the ground. Summers is coming off a monster game against San Diego State, running wild for 187 yards and 7.2 yards a carry. Just don’t think for a minute that the Frogs won’t be ready for the 240-pound back.

WIDE RECEIVERS and TIGHT END

TCU: Ervin Dickerson, Marcus Brock, Donald Massey, Derek Moore, Quinton Cunigan (TE)

UNLV: Ryan Wolfe, Casey Flair, Aaron Straiten, Rodelin Anthony, Chris Butler (TE)

Advantage: Even

Good to see the offensive staff getting Moore involved in the passing game. His experience and sheer will paid off against BYU. It’s also nice to see the young guys such as Bart Johnson, Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young get some time, and quite frankly, the younger guys give the offense a couple of playmakers in the passing game – something the unit lacks. Wolfe is the most consistent of the bunch for the Rebels, but keep an eye out for Anthony. At 6 foot 5 inches, Anthony remains a threat to have a big day despite so-so numbers.

OFFENSIVE LINE

TCU: Matty Lindner, Blake Schlueter, Giles Montgomery, Marshall Newhouse, Nic Richmond

UNLV: Joe Hawley, Tim Goins, Mike McKiski, Richie Plunkett, Johan Asiata

Advantage: TCU

The guys up front come into Saturday’s game after a head-scratching performance in Provo, Utah. They looked great in stretches, especially the 94-yard drive, but were shaky against the pass rush in all of the game, culminating in two sacks in the last Frogs offensive series. Things should get back to normal against a pedestrian pass rush in UNLV. McKiski and Asiata are definitely trucks on the right side of the line, but the group might have trouble against a TCU defensive line that will be playing with a bit of a chip on its shoulder following Thursday’s loss.

DEFENSIVE LINE

TCU: Tommy Blake, Chase Ortiz, Cody Moore, Kelly Griffin

UNLV: Jeremy Geathers, Thor Pili, Jacob Hales, Malo Taumua

Advantage: TCU

How much fun was it to see No. 97 get his second sack of the season Thursday? Other than Blake and Griffin, the line got handled by the Cougars. BYU did a great job keying in on Ortiz, who was almost nonexistent Thursday, but don’t expect one of the team’s most consistent cogs to do the same Saturday. For UNLV, this group lacks long periods of solid play, but Taumua and Geathers show flashes of what they can do. They are going to need more than flashes Saturday.

LINEBACKERS

TCU: Jason Phillips, David Hawthorne

UNLV: Beau Bell, Bradley Niles, Jason Beauchamp

Advantage: TCU

Although the group had another solid day – especially Daryl Washington and his seven-tackle performance – it lacked a big play that could have swung the BYU loss into the win column. That is not saying Thursday’s loss is put in this group, because it is definitely not. People just come to expect big plays from this unit and that didn’t happen against the Cougars, that’s all. At 103 tackles, Bell is undoubtedly the standout on a 2-8 team. Kind of feel bad for the guy.

SECONDARY

TCU: Brian Bonner, David Roach, Stephen Hodge, Nick Sanders, Rafael Priest

UNLV: Tony Cade, Daryl Forte, Mil’Von James, Geoffrey Howard

Advantage: TCU

The big play has been a friend and a foe for this unit all season, and Thursday was the epitome of that. Hodge’s third-quarter fumble recovery and Bonner’s second-quarter interception that brought the Frogs deep in BYU territory were all great except that the team could only get three points combined from those plays. This is more on the offense, but giving up a 66-yard play that would later result in a touchdown makes it sting a little more. Forte is an up-and-coming sophomore at safety, but the Rebels lack punch from its experienced starters.

SPECIAL TEAMS

TCU: Chris Manfredini, Derek Wash, Aaron Brown, Brian Bonner

UNLV: Sergio Aguayo, Brian Pacheco, Mil’Von James, Casey Flair

Advantage: TCU

Manfredini has been cash money the past two games and has now hit his last seven field-goal attempts during a three-game stretch. The 108 total yards from his three field goals Thursday amounted to his best statistical game of the season. It is nice to know that even when he’s not at 100 percent, Brown is still capable of producing 42-yard kickoff returns. Aguayo might have a stronger leg than Manfredini, but his team has not been doing him any favors as his last five attempts have been from 43 to 56 yards.

HEAD COACH

TCU: Gary Patterson, seventh season (59-25, 36-19 in conference)

UNLV: Mike Sanford, third season (6-27, 3-19 in conference)

Advantage: TCU

Good news and bad news for Patterson’s team. The bad news is the Frogs went 0-3 in Thursday games. The good news is that there are not any more for the season. For now, Patterson’s team needs to do what it has done best this season: Beat up on below .500 teams. TCU is 4-0 against opponents with a losing record this year and faces two of the three worst teams in the conference to wrap up the regular season. Sanford cannot wait to make adjustments against the Frogs, especially on the road. If he hesitates too much in altering his plan throughout the course of the game, the Frogs will be eligible for the bowl by late Saturday night.