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Sonny Dykes says TCU wants to make J.J. McCarthy beat them

Will it come down to McCarthy beating TCU’s defense? That’s what Dykes wants.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

No. 2 Michigan will be squaring off against No. 3 TCU at the Fiesta Bowl in a little over a week. Both teams have now had time to study one another and get a firm grasp on the big picture.

TCU head coach Sonny Dykes appeared on The Herd with Colin Cowherd and was asked about Michigan’s offense. Cowherd said he was skeptical if TCU could match up in the trenches with Michigan. Cowherd asked Dykes if he was concerned Michigan plays bully ball effectively.

“Anybody that plays Michigan probably is a little bit concerned of that. They’ve got a really good offensive line, it’s a strength of their football team.”

Michigan’s offensive line is certainly a strength. The unit has now won the Joe Moore Award two years in a row, which goes to the best offensive line in the nation. Then there’s center Olu Oluwatimi, who won the Rimington Trophy for best center and the Outland Trophy for best interior offensive lineman.

Dykes mentioned he’s noticed Michigan sometimes uses three tight ends in run blocking and up to six or seven offensive linemen.

Michigan has the fifth-ranked rushing offense and Dykes gave credit to the line and their ability to wear another team down.

“They’re a football team that wants to run it, and they really do a nice job at staying patient with the run game. They can push people around.”

Dykes made it clear what TCU’s plan will be on defense — stop the run first and foremost. That’ll be a big challenge for the Horned Frogs, who rank 67th in rushing defense.

While Dykes said a couple of nice things about Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy and that he’s played well and made a bunch of big plays, the plan is to put the game into his hands.

“That’s gonna be the big challenge for us — stopping the run and make the quarterback beat us. He’s certainly capable of doing it, but we gotta stop the run because that stops their offense.”

That plan was already used to the extreme last month by Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, and it didn’t work out too well. The Buckeyes stacked the box and played zero coverage with multiple all-out blitzes. In the early going it helped neutralize Michigan’s run game, which had just ten yards rushing in the first half, but it didn’t stop McCarthy. The Michigan QB was the reason why the game was close at halftime (Michigan trailed 20-17). McCarthy connected with Cornelius Johnson for touchdowns of 69 and 75 yards in the first half. McCarthy would go on to throw for 263 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-23 win over OSU.

While the sentiment of Dykes’ comments may be true, stopping the run won’t necessarily stop Michigan’s offense. Limiting damage on the ground can help TCU’s chances of winning, but McCarthy can do more than enough to win games with his arm and his legs.

The TCU game plan laid out by Dykes can be considered a friendly challenge, one that Michigan’s offense will gladly accept on New Years' Eve in Phoenix.