Last week I got in contact with Mountain West Conference writer Jeremy and asked him if he would like to collaborate on a Poinsettia Bowl preview. He got back to me with these five questions about Boise State, and these were my responses. I then asked him some questions of my own, which you can find—along with his answers—here.
Hopefully this opens some good debate not only between the WAC and MWC, but also from college football fans across the nation.
Jeremy M: Something has to give—Boise State and TCU give up only 12 and 11 points respectively, while Boise State scores 39 and TCU scores 35 per game. How will Boise State keep that up?
Tucker Botkin: It’s true. These teams are so evenly matched that it is almost ridiculous. TCU boasts the number two defense in the nation, far better than anyone the Broncos have faced this year.
I would say that the difference on offense between TCU and Boise State is that the Broncos have been able to produce week in and week out. Their lowest score of the season was 20 points against Bowling Green. That was early in the season and the Broncos really came together in the second part of their schedule, never scoring less than 41 points in their last five games and ending with 61 against Fresno.
That said, the TCU defense is good. Really, really good. Jerry Hughes is a beast. The video I have seen of him is scary, and I look forward to seeing him live. The only real offense that the Frogs have faced this season, however, was that one down in Norman—unless you want to put a very overrated BYU team in that category. Sam Bradford threw for 411 yards on only 19 attempts in that game.
Now Kellen Moore is no Bradford, but he has shown us this year that he has that kind of potential. If the Broncos want to put points up, it will have to be through the air because no one is running past the Frog defense. Look for Moore to have a great game and establish himself as a premier quarterback.
JM: How will a Boise State offensive line who has given up only nine sacks all year stop or slow down defensive lineman Jerry Hughes, who was the MWC defensive player of the year, a second team AP All-American, and had 18.5 tackles for loss with 14 sacks?
TB: The offensive line, in my eyes, has been the biggest question mark for the Broncos all season. The Boise State coaching staff started a different combination of guys in each of the first four or five games, and the Broncos were hurt in the offseason by the early departure of Ryan Clady to the NFL. They will have to play their best game of the season if they are going to keep TCU at bay.
Boise State is very well coached both physically and psychologically. If the Broncos can get past the mental aspect of facing a defense like TCU’s, they will be in decent shape. Also, look for the Boise State backfield to do its job in protecting Moore. Ian Johnson has done a very good job with that all season, and it will be important for him to continue that Dec. 23.
JM: Who does TCU need to worry about more offensively? Is it the running backs with Ian Johnson and Jeremy Avery, or the passing game with quarterback Kellen Moore?
TB: Ian Johnson was the best running back in the nation in 2006. But if there is one thing that all men can agree on, it is that marriage changes people. Such has been the case since Johnson said “I do” to his cheerleader girlfriend.
While he still leads the team in rushing, Johnson has taken on a reduced role in the Bronco backfield with their new running back by committee style running game. Jeremy Avery has had a breakout year and has shown Bronco fans that they don’t have to lose sleep with the graduation of Ian Johnson.
But can anyone really run on the Frogs? 48.7 yards per game doesn’t lie. TCU needs to concern themselves with Moore and the Boise State receivers. As I said before, look for Moore to have the biggest game of his young career.
JM: What will Boise State do offensively to counteract the team speed of TCU's defense?
TB: To me, this is about coaching and preparing not only a good game plan, but also preparing your players to meet a team on the field. You would be hard pressed to find anyone that can do that better than Coach Petersen and his staff. They have reviewed hours and hours of tape, and I am sure that he has spoken with Bob Stoops about the "D." The Broncos will have a scheme ready, that’s for sure.
As far as the players go, they will have to execute the small stuff. I expect there to be plenty of play-action, and it is important that players carry out their fakes and make some big blocks in the secondary to keep the defense off guard. Kellen Moore sells the handoff as good as anyone I have seen all year.
JM: How big is this game for Boise State, as this is the second time they've gone undefeated in the regular season without getting a BCS bowl? Especially with the rivalry between the WAC and MWC—the two leagues are battling to be the best league from outside of the automatic BCS qualifying leagues.
TB: There is definitely some hostility here in Boise toward the BCS for taking Ohio State over the Broncos for the final BCS spot. It isn’t hard to see why they did that, but that does nothing to appease Bronco Nation on any of their numerous message boards.
The general attitude here is that we certainly have something to prove, not only to the BCS, but to the Mountain West Conference as well. The words of MWC commissioner Craig Thomas—“...Boise State would lose three games in our conference...”—ring as blasphemous in the ears of every Bronco fan.
Winning this game provides the Broncos with ultimate bragging rights—especially if the Utes lose handily in the Sugar Bowl—and will give Bronco Nation plenty of ammunition for the naysayers of the Mountain West. Not to mention, a win in San Diego—a prime recruiting area for the Broncos—would do leaps and bounds for the future of the program.
A blowout loss for the Broncos, and they and the WAC are indefinitely crippled and shunned.
Final Score: Boise State 31, TCU 17