Stanford vs TCU Free Pick 12-28-17

Credit: AP / The Score

The Valero Alamo Bowl consists of Stanford and TCU, programs having comparable frustrations of being good but not good enough in terms of the College Football Playoff.

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They have knocked on the door of the College Football Playoff in recent years but have been unable to get in. They also are coming off defeats in their respective conference championship games.

No. 13 Stanford (9-4) lost a close game to USC 31-28 in the Pac-12 championship game. The Cardinal lost twice to the Trojans this season.

No. 15 TCU (10-3) also lost a pair of games to Oklahoma, including the Big 12 title game 41-17.

TCU coach Gary Patterson is trying to put a positive spin on the Horned Frogs making their second Alamo Bowl appearance in three seasons. Following the 2015 season, TCU made a dramatic comeback against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl to win 47-41 in three overtimes.

The Horned Frogs rallied from a 31-0 halftime deficit by scoring on all nine of their possessions in the second half and overtime sessions.

“We’re excited,” Patterson said. “There’s no bad bowl game. So for us, a chance to stay in the state of Texas, come down to San Antonio, be a part of the Valero Alamo Bowl, it’s awesome. You couldn’t ask for any more.”

The quarterback matchup between Stanford’s K.J. Costello and TCU’s Kenny Hill brings with it some uncertainty. Both have been great at times and frustratingly inconsistent at other times.

Hill, who once backed up Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, will play the last college game of his career. He has completed 242 of 360 pass attempts for 2,838 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Since replacing Kelley Chryst, Costello has completed 109 of 184 pass attempts for 1,361 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Both face defenses that can apply a tremendous amount of pressure. Stanford has tallied 32 sacks this season while TCU has 41, which ranks No. 4 in the FBS. TCU’s Mat Boesen has 11.5 sacks to lead the Horned Frogs.

“They play physical,” Stanford coach David Shaw said of TCU’s defense. “When we turn the film on, you see it. Guys are running to the ball on defense, and they hustle. They go full speed.

“Offensively, they’re always going to have a dynamic quarterback. They’re always going to have a good runner. They’re always going to have different ways to attack you. (Not only) the screens, but also down the field. As well as being a physical running team. So they present a lot of issues for us.”

Boesen leads a defense that allows only 99 rushing yards a game, which is fourth-best in the nation. The Horned Frogs will be challenged by Heisman finalist Bryce Love, who enters the game with 1,973 yards and 8.3 yards per carry.

Love getting to 2,000 yards will be a source of pride for Stanford’s teammates, according to Shaw.

“As usual, it’s probably more important to the other guys than it is to Bryce. Bryce just shrugs his shoulders at all those things,” Shaw said. “Most rushes over 50 yards record, all that stuff, he kind of shrugs his shoulders, OK, that’s great. When is practice?

“Bryce is the same guy that he was last week, two weeks ago, three years ago when we recruited him: a positive young man that just wants to be part of the football team.”

Love has broken free for 50 yards or more in 10 of Stanford’s 12 games, including the second half of the season while he has battled a high ankle sprain.

Love won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back. The Pac-12 named Love its Offensive Player of the Year. Love also was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team.

TCU is playing closer to home than Stanford, but the Cardinal always take a business-like approach under Shaw. The location and matchup with the Horned Frogs should not be overwhelming for the Cardinal.

“Stanford is one of those teams that creates challenges,” Patterson said. “You heard the record of how they’ve done in bowl games (4-2 under Shaw, including two Rose Bowl wins). They’ve been in four (Pac-12) championship games. They won three of them.

“They know how to get ready for these kind of ballgames. That’s kind of the way TCU is.”