GAME NOTES: Two of the four undefeated teams left at the FBS level meet in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Monday night, as the sixth-ranked Boise State Broncos battle the third-ranked TCU Horned Frogs from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The two teams faced each other in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, with TCU prevailing in a 17-16 final.
The Broncos are making their second appearance in a BCS game, the first considered one of the greatest college football games ever played when they outlasted Oklahoma in a triple-overtime thriller in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, 43-42.
Boise State, which is 5-4 all-time in bowl games, is coached by Chris Petersen, and he owns an incredible 48-4 record in four years at the helm.
Coach Petersen expressed his elation in being invited back to the Fiesta Bowl, "We had one of the most memorable times, certainly of our football careers, here a few years ago. I'm not necessarily just talking about the game, I'm talking about the whole week of the experiences and the festivities we had."
As nice as it is to return to the scene of arguably the biggest win in program history, Petersen is quick to point out that the majority of his players are experiencing this for the first time. "I think for our players, we have so few of them back, that their eyes are wide open. And that's a good thing. It's one of those experiences they will appreciate as the week goes on."
Both the Broncos and Horned Frogs won their respective conferences this year, with BSU claiming the crown in the Western Athletic Conference and TCU taking the Mountain West.
TCU is 12-0 for the first time in school history, and its No. 3 ranking is its highest since the 1956 team placed fourth. The Frogs' No. 4 ranking in the final 2009 BCS standings is the highest-ever by a team from a conference without an automatic BCS bid. The Horned Frogs own a 11-13-1 record in 25 previous bowl games.
Gary Patterson is 85-27 in charge of the TCU football program, and spoke recently about the road his team has traveled to get to this point. "Twelve years ago people said this couldn't be done. When we came to TCU, they were 1-10. We've worked ourselves up the ladder. We came here to try to give you a great ball game."
Patterson is confident his team will give a good showing and hopes that those around the country will sit up and take notice of what some of the smaller [profile] schools are capable of doing. "I've watched the Fiesta Bowl and when they were the representative of the national championship game and know that a lot of great teams have come before us. That's the way we want to be remembered. When we leave the state of Arizona, we want to be remembered that they were glad that TCU was there."
The all-time series between these two teams in knotted at 1-1, with both meetings taking place in bowl games. In addition to last year's Poinsettia Bowl, the first encounter took place in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl, TCU's home turf. Despite playing in enemy territory, the Broncos rode off with a 34-31 win.
Led by star QB Kellen Moore, Boise State has one of the most potent offenses in all of college football, averaging a national-best 44.2 ppg behind 460.5 total ypg. Moore, just a sophomore, has hit the mark on 64.8 percent of his passes this season for 3,325 yards with an eye-popping 39 TDs against only three INTs. His 39 scoring strikes are a school record, and his 167.35 passer rating had him ranked No. 1 in the nation at the end of the regular season. Receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis have been the primary beneficiaries of Moore's exploits, hauling in 71 and 62 passes, respectively, and combining for 1,819 yards and 24 TDs.
The BSU run game has done a nice job in keeping opposing defenses honest, churning out 194.5 ypg and accounting for 29 TDs. Jeremy Avery finished the regular season with 1,131 yards and six scores, while Doug Martin reached the end zone 14 times in averaging 6.4 ypc and totaling 723 yards.
Defensively, Boise State has gotten it done time and time again, yielding 17.7 ppg and only 299.6 total ypg. The effort against the pass has been particularly impressive with opponents coming up with just 172.8 ypg. The Broncos have allowed a total of 35 points in the first quarter of games this season, and have outscored the opposition by a whopping 334-92 margin in the first half.
BSU has been credited with 33 forced turnovers this season, 21 of which have been INTs. Jeron Johnson has four picks to match Brandon Thompson in that department, and he leads the team as well in total tackles with 88. Ryan Winterswyk is the club's top sack man with 8.5, coming in just ahead of Billy Winn who has six QB takedowns to his credit. The Broncos average nearly 7.5 TFLs per game.
TCU, which owns the nation's second-longest winning streak (14 games) behind only Texas (17 games), is fourth in the country in scoring (40.7 ppg), and the Horned Frogs utilize a formidable rushing attack that generates 256.5 ypg (fifth nationally) and has accounted for 35 TDs. The aerial assault generates 212.6 ypg and has resulted in 23 scores.
The Frogs had four guys rush for more than 500 yards this season, with Joseph Turner heading the group with 732 yards and 11 TDs. Three of the four averaged in excess of five yards per carry, a testament to not only their skill, but also that of the offensive line.
Andy Dalton is TCU's starting QB, and the 6-3 junior has thrown for 2,484 yards with 22 TDs against only five INTs. He also did some damage with his feet, rushing for 522 yards and hitting paydirt three times. Devoid of a star at the wide receiver position, Jeremy Kerley led the team with 38 grabs for 467 yards and two scores. Antoine Hicks has made the most of his 19 catches, taking six of them across the goal line.
From a defensive standpoint, few teams in the nation can match the Horned Frogs' intensity or ability to shut down the opposition. TCU is giving up just 12.4 ppg, and foes have found it nearly impossible to run the football, averaging a mere 80.5 ppg, and the Frogs have permitted just seven rushing scores all year. TCU has also done a tremendous job defending the pass, permitting a mere 152.8 ypg through the air with only 10 TDs. The opposition is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry and only 5.1 yards per pass attempt.
Linebacker Daryl Washington is the team's leading tackler with 99 stops, and he is tied for the club lead in INTs with Tejay Johnson with three apiece. Jerry Hughes is a force along the TCU defensive line, logging 11.5 sacks.
This will be one of the more competitive and entertaining games of the bowl season, with both teams trading blows throughout. It will be interesting to see if the Broncos can stand up to the Frogs' vaunted rushing attack. TCU is favored and for good reason, so let's give the Frogs the nod in what should be another thriller in the brief, but exciting series between these two.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: TCU 27, Boise State 24