2017 Valero Alamo Bowl Preview
This game stands apart as one of the more interesting bowl games of the entire 2017 bowl season. It matches strength versus strength, and creates a compelling contrast of styles that should make for a very unpredictable contest. The #12 Stanford Cardinal travel to San Antonio to take on the #13 TCU Horned Frogs in a game that could be an absolute classic.
What: Valero Alamo Bowl
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
When: 9:00 P.M. EST, Thursday, December 28th
Plenty of Starpower
Stanford boasts yet another Heisman runner-up in RB Bryce Love, who led all P5 Conference running backs with 1,973 yards on just 237 carries, for a ridiculous 8.3 yards per carry. K.J. Costello will start behind center, after doing much damage when serving as Stanford’s starting QB during most of the back half of the season. The Cardinal offense finally found its groove with the redshirt freshman pulling the trigger. With Love as a threat to hit a homerun from anywhere on the field, the long-passing game caught fire with Costello, who posted a very solid 140.6 passer rating in his 2017 game action.
TCU’s stout defense is led by All-American DE Mat Boesen. Boesen led the Big XII with 11 ½ sacks, which tied him for fourth nationally. Ben Banogu led the Horned Frogs with 15 ½ tackles for loss, and he tied with Boesen for the team lead with three fumbles forced on the season. On offense, Kenny “don’t call him Thrill” Hill triggers the offense from under center. Rushing leader Darius Anderson is reportedly out for the Alamo Bowl, which will increase the pressure on Hill and the passing game to deliver.
Each team played the role of bridesmaid this season, losing twice to the eventual conference champion during 2017. Stanford won eight of its final ten games in 2017, after a sputtering 1-2 start. TCU had just one loss, prior to losing to Oklahoma twice in the final four weeks of the season.
Strength Versus Strength
Stanford’s ground game was potent throughout the season, especially when 2017 Doak Walker Award winner Love was at full strength. In Stanford’s losses, however, opposing defenses were able to slow him down other than the occasional long sprint. TCU’s rush defense finished the 2017 season with the #4 ranked unit in the nation, surrendering just 99.85 yards per contest. If Love is not a major factor in the game, Stanford will struggle mightily in San Antonio.
Coaching Staff Continuity
The 2017 Alamo features two of the most celebrated head coaches in the nation in TCU’s Gary Patterson and Stanford’s David Shaw. Each man holds the record for most wins in the storied football history of his program, and each has won at least one P5 Conference championship and at least one Rose Bowl (!) in the past six seasons. Shaw has rebuffed overtures from premier CFB programs and NFL teams with head coaching vacancies in recent years, and Patterson is the second-longest tenured coach at his current school in all of FBS. In short, trust each coach to have his team ready to play, and to play well on Thursday evening.
Determining Factor: QB Play
Hill holds a dramatic edge in experience, as the fifth year senior will start his final collegiate game on Thursday, playing for his second high-profile FBS school. He backed up Heisman winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M as a true freshman, and started a few games in College Station after Manziel’s departure. He can be inconsistent, but has generally been solid for the Horned Frogs this season.
Alternately, Costello was pressed into action due to injury early in Stanford’s season, but did not claim the starting job until the final third of the 2017 campaign. He can be impulsive, but has done a decent job taking care of the football, and has proven to be a very adept thrower of the deep ball to Stanford’s big wide receivers and tight ends, even in pressure situations.
This promises to be a close clash between two evenly-matched teams with very different profiles. These teams have balanced strengths and have enjoyed strong seasons, even if each fell just short of its preseason aspirations. As with most games, this one will be decided by a few key, predictable factors: turnover margin, time of possession, and explosive plays. The difference will come down to execution at the QB position, and Costello will best the more experienced Hill in playing a clean game and passing accurately when called upon to do so. Stanford will eke out the close win.
Final Score Prediction: Stanford 30, TCU 27