January 3, 2010

Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. TCU

MORE: Fiesta Bowl preview | Winning isn't anything new at Boise State | Bowl schedule

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

Boise State rush offense vs. TCU rush defense: Boise State may be known for throwing the ball, but the Broncos actually are ranked higher in rushing (20th) than passing (30th). RBs Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin have combined to rush for 1,853 yards and 20 touchdowns. But they could have a tough time finding holes against TCU, which ranks third in the nation in run defense. The Horned Frogs have allowed just 2.6 yards per carry and 80.5 rushing yards per game. LBs Daryl Washington and Tank Carder are active and aggressive.
Edge: TCU

FIESTA BOWL

Boise State (13-0)
vs. TCU (12-0)

WHEN: 8 p.m., Monday.
WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
TV: Fox (Sam Rosen will do play-by-play, with Tim Ryan as the analyst).
THE LINE: TCU by 7.5.
RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Boise State 5-0, TCU 6-0.
NCAA SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Boise State T-68th, TCU 39th.
BCS RANKINGS: Boise State 6th, TCU 4th.
OFFICIALS: A crew from the Big Ten.
COACHES: Boise State- Chris Petersen (1-2 in bowls); TCU- Gary Patterson (5-3 in bowls).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: This is the only bowl other than the national title game to match two unbeaten teams, and the winner can stake a claim as the best team in the nation. Plus, if you're a Big Six backer, you can "scout" these teams and see how you think they'd match up against one of the "big boys."
KEY STATS: Boise State leads the nation in scoring offense at 44.2 points per game and has scored at least 40 points in 10 games this season. TCU is sixth in the nation in scoring defense at 12.4 points per game and has given up as many as 20 points only twice all season. In fact, TCU hasn't allowed anyone to exceed 28 points. Each of TCU's past seven wins has been by at least 27 points.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The matchup between Boise State QB Kellen Moore and TCU's outstanding pass defense will garner most of the attention, but it also will be interesting to see how well TCU QB Andy Dalton protects the ball against Boise State's ball-hawking defense. Dalton ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown just five interceptions, but Boise State has picked off 21 passes. It's worth noting that two of Dalton's three interceptions have come in TCU's last three games, though he also threw six touchdown passes during that stretch.
Boise State pass offense vs. TCU pass defense: This might be the most interesting matchup you'll find in any bowl. Boise State's Kellen Moore leads the nation in passing efficiency, while TCU ranks second in the nation in pass efficiency defense. TCU has one of the nation's top pass rushers in DE Jerry Hughes, while Boise State has allowed the fewest sacks in the country. Moore has thrown 39 touchdown passes and only three interceptions this season, but he struggled in a 17-16 Poinsettia Bowl loss to TCU last season. Moore would have a much better chance of success in this game if WRs Austin Pettis and Tyler Shoemaker return from injuries that knocked them out for the latter part of the season. If they aren't at close to full strength, TCU's exceptional secondary could have a much easier time containing Boise State WR Titus Young. TCU has its own injury issues. CB Rafael Priest is expected to miss the game because of a sprained foot.
Edge: TCU

TCU rush offense vs. Boise State rush defense: TCU has boasted outstanding defenses during the Gary Patterson era, but this particular team is special because it also moves the ball so well, particularly on the ground. RBs Joseph Turner, Matthew Tucker and Edward Wesley and QB Andy Dalton have each run for more than 500 yards to help TCU rank fifth in the nation at 256.5 rushing yards per game. Boise State held Oregon's high-powered rushing attack to 31 yards on 17 carries in its season opener, but the Broncos have been vulnerable against the run on other occasions. Fresno State's Ryan Mathews rushed for 234 yards and Nevada's Vai Taua gained 160 yards against the Broncos.
Edge: TCU

TCU pass offense vs. Boise State pass defense: Dalton has shown vast improvement this season while throwing for 2,484 yards, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. TCU has six players with between 200 and 500 receiving yards, though Antoine Hicks is the big-play threat with six touchdowns on only 19 catches. Boise State ranks 12th in the nation in pass efficiency defense and has one of the nation's top cornerbacks in Kyle Wilson. Dalton will have to be careful, as Boise State has picked off 21 passes. TCU has protected Dalton well, and Boise State doesn't have much of a pass rush.
Edge: Boise State

Boise State special teams vs. TCU special teams: Boise State's Kyle Brotzman is 17-of-23 on field-goal attempts with a long of 52, but he's only 2-for-5 from beyond 40 yards. TCU's Ross Evans is 14-of-17 on field-goal attempts and 3-for-5 between 40 and 49 yards, with a long of 48. Boise State ranks 10th but TCU is just 101st in net punting. Boise State is 12th and TCU 22nd in kickoff return coverage. TCU's Jeremy Kerley ranks 11th in the nation in punt-return average and 20th in kick-return average. Wilson is a dangerous punt returner for Boise.
Edge: Boise State

Boise State coaching staff vs. TCU coaching staff: Boise State coach Chris Petersen's 48-4 record as coach speaks for itself, but TCU's Patterson has an impressive 85-27 mark in his nine-year tenure. Patterson's team won the head-to-head matchup with Boise State in last season's Poinsettia Bowl and faced the tougher schedule this season. That gives Patterson's crew the slightest advantage.
Edge: TCU

X-factor: Boise State allowed the fewest sacks (five) of any team in the nation, but the Broncos will play this game without starting RT Garrett Pendergast, who fractured an ankle during a bowl workout. TCU's ferocious pass rush already figured to assure that Moore didn't have as much time to throw as usual. Pendergast's injury could make the night even tougher for Moore.

Boise State will win if: The Broncos need to give Moore time to throw and must defend the run as well as they did against Oregon.

TCU will win if: The Frogs need their front seven on defense to play the way they have all season. This game likely will be determined by how much pressure the Frogs can apply on Moore.

EXPERT PICKS
Olin Buchanan: TCU 28, Boise State 17
Tom Dienhart: TCU 34, Boise State 24
David Fox: TCU 28, Boise State 24
Mike Huguenin: TCU 23, Boise State 13
Steve Megargee: TCU 20, Boise State 13

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.




 

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