From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: A pair of Top 25 teams clash in the Lone Star State this weekend, as the 24th-ranked Oregon State Beavers battle the sixth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
The Beavers made a serious run at the Pac-10 title in 2009, but came up just short when they were edged, 37-33, by rival Oregon in their regular-season finale. The loss denied the program its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1964, and the Beavers instead went on to suffer a 44-20 loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. It was certainly a disappointing ending for Mike Riley's squad, which finished a promising campaign with a respectable 8-5 ledger. Plenty of talent returns on both sides of the ball in 2010, so expect the Beavers to take another crack at reaching the Rose Bowl.
TCU meanwhile, enters the 2010 season with lofty expectations and its highest ranking ever following a remarkable '09 showing. Under the guidance of head coach Gary Patterson, the Frogs captured the Mountain West Conference title in '09 and completed a perfect (12-0) regular-season for the first time since the 1938 national championship team. TCU did end up losing to Boise State, 17-10, in the Fiesta Bowl, but regardless, it was a season to remember for the program. A plethora of starters from last year's club are welcomed back, giving TCU another opportunity to compete for a BCS Bowl game in '10.
This is the first-ever meeting between TCU and OSU on the gridiron.
In order for the Beavers to build on last year's run, they will need quarterback Ryan Katz to play above his experience. The sophomore quarterback will make his first collegiate start this weekend, and coach Riley feels pretty confident in his young gunslinger's ability.
"Ability-wise, he has a wonderful arm. He can throw all the passes," said coach Riley. "He is pretty much unstoppable, so I don't think he'll be intimidated by anything."
Katz has the weapons, including the Rodgers brothers, to help him succeed immediately. James Rodgers, the older of the two brothers pulled in 91 catches for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns last season, and will be the go-to target once again in '10.
As for the younger Rodgers, Jacquizz is coming off another tremendous campaign, rolling up 1,440 yards and 21 scores on the ground. The 5-7 junior also grabbed 78 passes, and he enters the '10 season as one of the top tailbacks in the nation.
Defensively, the Beavers have been solid over the years and the same figures to be true in '10. OSU though, would like to bring more pressure to opposing quarterbacks after registering just 17 sacks last year, and the return of Stephen Paea gives the unit a chance to improve in that category. The talented tackle posted 8.5 TFLs and 3.0 sacks last season and has the skill set to cause havoc in the middle.
"He (Stephen) is a tremendously hard worker to go with about as much explosiveness as I've seen out of a big player," stated Riley. "He's one of the best players at that position that I've ever coached."
Departures and injury left the linebacking corps depleted, with Dwight Robinson (55 stops) being the only legitimate starter ready for the opener.
Three starters return to the secondary, which was inexperienced and gave up 23 passing touchdowns last season. The group is expected to be vastly improved in '10, and leading the unit is safety Lance Mitchell, who notched 72 tackles and a team-high three interceptions last season.
TCU has one of the top leaders around guiding its offense in quarterback Andy Dalton, who enters 2010 as the nation's leader in victories with 29. The dual- threat gunslinger took his game to a new level last season, rushing for 512 yards and three scores, while passing for 2,756 yards and 23 touchdowns against just eight picks.
"Last season didn't end how we wanted it to," Dalton stated when talking about his team's drive and determination this time around. "That in itself is motivation for us."
With the return of the team's top three receivers from '09, Dalton will have no shortage of targets. Jeremy Kerley (532 yards), Jimmy Young (517 yards) and Bart Johnson (401 yards) are all welcomed back and Dalton did a nice job spreading the wealth, as no player caught more than 44 passes.
The ground attack, which averaged 239.5 ypg to rank fifth in the nation, also returns plenty of options. Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley combined for more than 1,300 yards a year ago and they figure to receive an even bigger workload now that leading rusher Joseph Turner has departed. Mix in four returning starters on the offensive line and there is no doubt this ground game will continue to flourish.
The Frogs ranked first in the nation in overall defense last season, allowing just 239.7 ypg, and that kind of success has been the norm under Patterson, who uses a 4-2-5 set.
TCU surrendered a measly 80.2 ypg on the ground last season and the return of tackles Kelly Griffin (31 stops) and Cory Grant (25 tackles) will surely keep opposing clubs from having success running the ball once again. End Wayne Daniels is also welcomed back and he is a solid pass rusher that finished with nine TFLs and 5.5 sacks a year ago.
At linebacker, Tank Carder is welcomed back and the junior is a star in the making. Last season, Carder showed his versatility by logging 89 tackles, 10 TFLs and 10 PBUs and he still has plenty to give this stout defense.
The secondary returns a wealth of experience as well, with safeties Tejay Johnson and Alex Ibiloye combining for 129 tackles last season.
TCU is loaded on both sides of the ball and should give a solid OSU a tough time this weekend. Expect the Frogs to run successfully, while their defense causes havoc for the Beavers' inexperienced quarterback.