Today is the first day of the bowl season involving multiple games featuring ranked teams. Today there are three games involving multiple ranked teams including the Camping World Bowl between (22)Virginia Tech and (19) Oklahoma State, The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl featuring (18) Washington State and (16) Michigan State, and then the Valero Alamo Bowl.
One of, if not the most intriguing bowl game prior to the January 1st bowls features (13) Stanford and (15) TCU in the Valero Alamo Bowl tonight at 9:00 Eastern. As of the time I am writing this TCU is currently a 3 point favorite which I think is very appropriate and I would have been shocked to see the line at more than 3 or 4 either way. These are two of the most balanced teams in the nation and as they both lost their conference championship games and got robbed of a new years day bowl they will be eager to prove themselves. Now the Alamo bowl is historically a very good bowl game, and I understand why they have it earlier than the other big games but there is something about playing in the January day bowls that teams like and strive for.
As the spread shows this game is basically a toss up, I think they probably gave TCU the edge since it is in San Antonio which according to the google maps app on my phone is about 4 1/2 hours from TCU's campus if you drive or approximately 65 minutes if you want to fly. With Stanford being from California obviously I would imagine the crowd will probably be split 60/40 or 70/30 in favor of TCU. I could be wrong however I haven't done too much research on how well Stanford fans travel but that seems accurate based on geographic locations. As I mentioned, I could see this game going either way and below I will outline reasons for each team.
First off I'll start with the TCU Horned Frogs. TCU will win this game because they have a stronger defense. As I mentioned, these teams are very balanced offensively and defensively. TCU comes in averaging 1.2 points more per game and 23.7 yards per game more than Stanford which is basically a push. The difference is the defense, TCU only gives up 17.6 ppg compared to 21.5 ppg for the Cardinal. This might not seem like a huge difference but TCU is in the Big12 where offenses are known for averaging 40+ points per game. TCU also gives up about 70 yards less per game than Stanford. TCU will also win this game if they can establish the run game. Stanford has struggled at times stopping the run and everyone knows that TCU can move the ball through the air. Stanford may leave the box at 6 or 7 defenders throughout the game which could allow TCU to run the ball and set up the big pass plays.
Now why Stanford will win the game. Stanford has arguably the best running back in the country in Bryce Love. TCU being in the Big 12 does not see talented running backs very often. TCU has a good pass defense but since they are facing a guy like Bryce Love I would not be surprised to see them creep more guys in the box to try to stop the run. Stanford is not known for an electric passing game but it is good enough to where if TCU isn't careful the Cardinal could break open a few big plays through the air. Bryce Love is good enough to flat out beat TCU on his own if the Horned Frogs aren't at their best but I think the passing game needs to be there tonight for the Cardinal to at least keep the defense honest. TCU could also come out this game sluggish which the Cardinal could take advantage of. For a large part of the season TCU was considered a CFB playoff contender and after the beat-down they took in the Big12 championship game I could see a slow start or lack of motivation from the Horned Frogs. You never can tell with bowl games how motivated teams are to play in that game and while I do think TCU will come to play, I think Stanford could take advantage and try to jump out to an early lead and then control the game from there.
I do think this game will live up to the hype and with two of the best teams in the nation not playing in the New Years 6 bowls I expect this game to be as close as the experts are thinking. TCU at (-3) is very appropriate and I think I would probably put my money on TCU with that spread. Ultimately I think the Horned Frogs will win this by 4 or 5 points but I could see this one go either way. Tweet at me your prediction and we will see how things turn out, I am gonna take TCU 27-23.