The College Football Notebook

January 4, 2010 6:59 AM

Fiesta Bowl Preview

The Battle of the Midmajors goes down tonight in Tempe, as Boise State plays TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. The impression of these teams is that the Broncos are the pass-happy team, an image embedded in the public image by their festival of trick plays at this same venue in 2006 when they stunned Oklahoma in arguably the greatest college football game ever played. TCU is renowned as the team heavy on defense and the running game. While understandable, this perception doesn’t match up with the path these programs have followed in 2009.

Boise State has a fine stable of running backs, with Doug Martin and Jeremy Avery taking turns in the lead role. Kellen Moore is very good at quarterback, with Austin Pettis as his primary target, but make no mistake—this offense must get Martin and/or Avery rolling if they are to be effective tonight. Meanwhile, TCU has no games where they really pounded anybody on the ground. The perception of them as defense-oriented is quite accurate, and I expect Gary Patterson to showcase his usual aggressiveness tonight. But the offense centers on quarterback Andy Dalton and his ability to run an efficient, albeit not spectacular passing game.

TCU played the tougher schedule on the way here. The Mountain West has vastly outperformed the WAC, a judgment that will remain regardless of what happens tonight. The two leagues went head-to-head in the first game of the bowl season and the MWC’s Wyoming beat the WAC’s Fresno State. The WAC suffered further indignity when Nevada was leveled by SMU and only Idaho’s wild one-point win over Bowling Green saved them from being shutout in the minor games. Meanwhile, the Mountain West has been rolling. They swept two with the Pac-10 (BYU over Oregon State, Utah over Cal) and then tacked on a big win when Air Force hammered Houston. During the regular season, TCU also tested themselves outside the league, winning a tough 14-10 decision at Clemson.

Boise State has jumped out fast in virtually all of its games, but in three games, they let it become interesting in the second half. Fresno & Nevada rallied to make the Broncos sweat, as did Louisiana Tech. The Broncos were also nearly beaten on the road at Tulsa.

There seems to me little doubt that TCU is the better team. As far as readiness goes, that’s always a guessing game that all of us take our stabs it, but we can say this—there is no reason readily apparent to the outsider’s eye that would explain TCU not being at least equally motivated to win this game. And I think they will win this game by taking away Martin and Avery and forcing Moore to carry Boise on his shoulders. The Bronco quarterback will make some plays, but also forced into mistakes, as TCU gradually pulls away. Call it Horned Frogs, 38-17.

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