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December 22, 2008

Boise St.-TCU Preview

ANTHONY GIORNALISTA,
STATS Senior Writer

(AP) -- Boise State used trick plays to upset Oklahoma in a BCS bowl two years ago. Though they were left out of a big-money game this season, the Broncos may be in need of some extra offensive ingenuity again.

The ninth-ranked Broncos, whose undefeated record wasn't good enough for a BCS spot, look to overcome the second-ranked defense in the nation when they face No. 11 TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl at San Diego on Dec. 23.

Boise State (12-0) has landed in the four-year-old Poinsettia in perhaps the marquee matchup of any of the non-BCS bowl games.

Despite winning their games by an average of 27.2 points, the Broncos were a longshot to nab one of the two at-large berths available in the BCS, especially with Utah from the Mountain West Conference ranked two spots higher. The Utes will face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl went with Ohio State instead of Boise State, even though the Broncos were ranked one spot higher in the final BCS standings.

But Boise State, coming off its sixth WAC championship, doesn't mind facing a team as highly regarded as TCU (10-2), which has only lost to No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 10 Utah.

"We wanted to go to the BCS, but I believe this is the best bowl game there is outside the BCS," Broncos receiver Vinny Perretta said. "We did everything we could do. I'm not going to sit here and complain about it."

The Broncos have faced just one ranked team this season, then-No. 17 Oregon on Sept. 20. They led the Ducks 34-13 before winning 37-32 in Eugene, their first road win over a BCS-conference team.

Boise State has the 12th-ranked offense in the nation, averaging 39.4 points a contest, but may find it tough to put up 30 points versus TCU.

In the Broncos' stunning Fiesta Bowl upset over the Sooners two years ago, they used a hook-and-lateral to score the tying touchdown and a Statue of Liberty play to score the decisive 2-point conversion to cap a 13-0 season and earn a No. 5 ranking in the final AP poll.

They may want to think about digging deep into their playbook for this contest, too.

The Horned Frogs boast the nation's second-ranked scoring defense, holding opponents to 10.9 points per game. Only No. 5 Southern California has allowed fewer points, giving up 7.8 a contest.

TCU has the top-ranked rushing defense, with opponents gaining 48.7 yards per game. That's 24.9 yards less than No. 3 Texas, which is second in that category at 73.6 yards per game.

"I totally think TCU is a BCS team and most of the people who know about TCU think the same," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "This is the best team we will have played all year. It will present a tremendous challenge to us without question."

Foremost, the Broncos will have to account for Frogs defensive end [db]Jerry Hughes/db], who leads the nation with 14 sacks and has 18 1/2 tackles for loss. He also has two interceptions, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Hughes helped lead TCU in a 44-10 win over Air Force on Nov. 22 in its regular-season finale. It was the eighth time the Frogs held an opponent to 10 points or fewer.

Boise State, though, has an offense that flourished late, averaging 49.0 points in its last five games, and it has plenty of playmakers. The Broncos set a season high in points against Fresno State on Nov. 28 in their final regular-season game, winning 61-10.

[db]Kellen Moore[/db], a second-team all-WAC selection, led the league with a 161.5 passer rating. The redshirt freshman completed 70.0 percent of his passes for 3,264 yards and 25 touchdowns against nine interceptions.

Moore is complemented by a rushing attack that averages 183.5 yards a contest. Ian Johnson[/b] and [db]Jeremy Avery share the load, combining for 1,416 yards and 16 TDs.

"Boise State is a BCS-caliber team, and I have a high admiration for Chris Petersen and his staff," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "They do an outstanding job in all phases of their team."

Still, the Broncos have been inconsistent on offense at times, and they will have little margin for error against the Frogs.

TCU also has a potent offense, which is often overshadowed by its stifling defense. The Frogs have five players with at least 399 yards rushing, and lead the nation in time of possession (34:50). It will be critical for TCU to try and control the clock, especially if Boise State finds a way to crack the Frogs' defense.

The Frogs ranked 13th in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 215.6 yards per game. But TCU's passing game also started heating up toward the end of the regular season, topping 300 yards in two of its last four games.

Andy Dalton has been mostly mistake-free, completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 2,045 yards and 11 TDs while getting picked off four times. He'll be facing a Boise State defense that has certainly held its own.

The Broncos are third in the nation in scoring defense at 12.3 points per game, a number inflated by 27 points on interception returns. They rank 15th against the run, giving up 104.9 yards a contest.

TCU and Boise State will be facing each other for the second time. The first meeting was also a matchup of Top 25 teams with the 18th-ranked Broncos beating the 19th-ranked Frogs 34-31 in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl.



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