I predicted the reaction when I heard the rumor and tried to understand the reasoning without entertaining any of the insidious angles.
Maybe the Fiesta coordinators were over a barrel in selecting TCU first and had to take Boise State because they had no other options? Maybe they thought it would be a good matchup? Something we would appreciate? An alternate-reality championship game?
But there's no explaining it, or even thinking about it, without welling up with anger inside. They just don't get it, do they? The point of having mid-majors in the BCS is to have them play the other conferences and see where they stack up.
And so there's no amount of invective, disdain, or disappointment directed at the BCS operators in the next month that can completely portray how disappointing a TCU-Boise State Fiesta Bowl will be for everyone involved.
What possible motivation could either of these teams have to play, and play well, in this game? What possible method of attack is appropriate?
A smack-down of their opponent gains them nothing except functionally destroying the perceived strength of the other's conference.
A close game makes it appear as though neither belonged in the BCS conversation in the first place.
A shootout makes it seem like their defenses either aren't BCS-caliber, or they're just not fundamentally sound.
A low-scoring, defensive struggle will raise questions about their "prolific" offenses and almost certainly hold no viewer's interest.
It's like fighting with your brother—you both come from the same place and have a lot more commonalities than differences.
And for the public—most of whom have largely been rooting for you from the beginning—watching you fight is just sad.
Indeed, these two teams are practically mirror images of each other. Historical mid-major conference champions, they both boast great defenses, particularly on the line, as well as prolific offenses helmed by quarterbacks on the fringe of the Heisman conversation. They're both searching for respect and attempting to shore up their national standing by taking on opponents against whom they supposedly have no chance.
How can they possibly do that if they play each other?
There are absolutely no positive stakes in this game, nothing that can be culled from winning or losing.
The winner will have no legitimacy in declaring their right to an alternative national championship—much less than Utah had last year in beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The loser, far from enjoying the notoriety of their BCS bid, will actually be set back in the long run. Their loss will reflect poorly on the strength of their conference, and they'll have to overcome hearing about how they "couldn't even win against the other mid-major" for years to come.
As many have pointed out, this matchup already occurred in last year's Poinsettia Bowl, to extremely lackluster viewership (it was, in its defense, played on Dec. 23rd). Undefeated No. 9 Boise State was "upset" by No. 11 TCU on the strength of the Horned Frogs' defense, which held Boise to only a field goal in the second half and 250 yards total while rallying from a 13-0 deficit.
Defense will likely win the day again, and TCU has Boise beaten on every punch. With a good run defense and a better pass rush, TCU's D is trending upwards. Only once have they surrendered more than 300 yards to a team, and that was 309 to Clemson, their most difficult opponent, in week five.
In their last five games, the TCU defense has been nothing short of suffocating.
Meanwhile, Boise has surrendered 500 yards twice—to Fresno State and Idaho—and nearly allowed Nevada to rally late. A loss would have cost them the WAC. The Broncos gave up alarming rushing totals to Fresno State and Louisiana Tech and escaped Tulsa on a turnover on downs after struggling to put away the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.
Were TCU to struggle on offense, you might say the game could be close, but the Horned Frogs are also fielding the country's fourth-highest rated passer and four rushers with at least 500 yards (including Dalton, who clocks in at 543 total). Boise's defense will be no match for the more battle-tested Frogs, particularly now that Austin Pettis, Boise's second-most prolific wide receiver, may miss the game with a lower leg fracture.
Boise State clearly has the most at stake. An upset of the Horned Frogs would not only add legitimacy to their "Any Team, Anywhere" slogan, but would also count as a W in the revenge column after suffering TCU as 2008's only loss.
But TCU is just too good in the fundamentals to allow anything unbecoming from the Boise offense. Their strength on defense is their pass coverage—they play a base 4-2-5, meaning there are five defensive backs in coverage—and should frustrate Kellen Moore all evening while Dalton makes a serious claim for the 2010 preseason Heisman watch lists.
George Orwell would have appreciated what the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS have done to the mid-major mythology and the possibility of the BCS Bust. Turning two allies against one another and then daring them to enjoy the death of their opponent is what fascist leadership is all about.
I'm glad old George would have enjoyed this game, because Lord knows he'll be the only one.
TCU 37, Boise State 13