Posted on December 27, 2017, by Travis Pulver

At one point during the 2017 college football season, it looked like TCU and Stanford both had a legitimate chance at making the College Football Playoffs. Instead, these two top 15 teams will meet in the Valero Alamo Bowl Thursday night in San Antonio, Texas.

Stanford’s CFB Playoff case looked bleak early on with losses to USC and San Diego State. But a five-game winning streak got them back in the conversation until a third loss (to Washington State) took them out for good.

Via @TCU_DieHards

TCU’s took a shot when they lost to Iowa State. Their loss to Oklahoma nearly put a nail in the coffin, but it wasn’t until they faced Oklahoma the second time, in the Big 12 Championship Game, that they were out of the picture.

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But since both finished with respectable records, they were due one of the better bowl games, like the Alamo Bowl. For Stanford, it will be their first time playing in San Antonio during Bowl Season. TCU turned in one of the better bowl game performances in recent history two years ago when they beat Oregon, 47-41, in 3OT.

TCU would love to remain undefeated in the Alamo Bowl. But Stanford would love to finish the season with ten wins. So—who’s going to win?

The Debate

For Stanford, the game plan is going to be simple and predicated completely off of what one player—Bryce Love – is able to do. If he can gash the TCU defense like he did defenses in the Pac-12 this season, the Cardinal will be in good shape. Love’s success will take pressure off Stanford’s young quarterback, K.J. Costello.

Since taking over as the starting quarterback, Costello has been efficient and good enough. But the last thing the Cardinal want is for him to need to win the game for them. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes (two interceptions) but he doesn’t complete a lot of passes either (career completion percentage of 59.2; has appeared in ten games).

But TCU happens to have one of the best-run defenses in the country (No. 4; 99.8 yards/game allowed). So, it will not be easy for Love to find room to run. But if he does, he might give Costello enough breathing room against TCU’s so-so pass defense (No. 72; 228.7 yards/game allowed) to do some damage.

The better question may be whether Stanford has the defense it will need to stop TCU’s offense. However, ever since TCU lost Darius Anderson, the Horned Frogs have not had much of a running game. It’s been quarterback Kenny Hill and senior running back Kyle Hicks. Hicks was a 1000+ yard rusher last season, so he is a capable runner. But Anderson was the more dynamic runner between the two.

For the bulk of the season, TCU has been fairly balanced on offense. Ideally, they’d like to do the same against Stanford. Maybe, since the Cardinal defense is not that great (No. 74 overall; No. 71 against the run and No. 70 against the pass) they still can be.

Via @TheFarmOnly

The Prediction

There wasn’t a common factor in each one of Stanford’s losses. But there were common factors in three of the four. They couldn’t stop the run in three of them (both USC games and San Diego State) and they couldn’t stop the pass (both USC games and Washington State). Bryce Love ran well against three of them, but was dealing with an ankle injury in the other.

Love will be healthy and ready to end the season on a high note, but it will not be easy to find room to run against TCU’s defense. If he struggles, Stanford’s offense is going to struggle as well. So, even if the Cardinal defense has some success against TCU’s offense, Kenny Hill will not need much out of his guys to win.

TCU is favored by three. Look for them to win by seven.

 

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