As we enter the holiday season, the college bowl season is rolling right along. It was kicked off this past weekend with a few good games. However, business is about to pick up on Tuesday night when one of the great matches of the entire 2008/09 bowl season takes center stage.
Boise State takes on TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23, and anyone who tunes in should be in for a special treat. These programs represent two of the top programs in college football, which are flying just under the mainstream radar due to their lack of national exposure since they do not play in a BCS conference. But on Tuesday night, America will get an up close look at what have become two powerhouse programs.
The Texas Christian Horned Frogs may be the best team in the country that pretty much no one has seen play all season. TCU went 10-2 on the regular season; their only two losses came at the hands of a pair of teams playing in BCS games. Outside of Texas, TCU played Oklahoma tighter than anyone else all season. The Horned Frogs have the distinction of being only one of two teams to hold the Sooners to 35 points or less during a game.
TCU suffered their other loss at the hands of undefeated Utah, who knocked off the Horned Frogs 13-10. Ultimately this was a game the Horned Frogs should have won. Penalties and mistakes on offense spelled the demise for TCU. They played Utah on the road in a hostile environment, and as any football coach will tell you, you cannot play in those hostile environments and make mistakes and then expect to recover.
In boxing the old adage goes, “Styles make fights.” If that translates to football, then the Poinsettia Bowl should be a great game. TCU enters Tuesday’s game with the second-ranked defense in the country. They dominated the competition within their conference playing a suffocating and aggressive scheme.
What makes their defense so special is the actual formation the Horned Frogs line up in. Boise State is known for their screwy offensive plays and formations, and they will meet their match when they line up across the ball against TCU’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
TCU’s defensive formation poses a unique problem for opponents because it is a scheme that many of the players have never seen in their life, and they are not properly prepared for it. The 4-2-5 becomes a hybrid of a typical 4-3 and a Nickel package. This gives the Horned Frogs plenty of options out of their base set.
The key to their defense comes from the strength of their defensive line. DE Jerry Hughes has become the focus of many teams because of his ability to cause havoc in the backfield. In addition to that, the TCU D-line does a great job of freeing up space for their two linebackers, Robert Henson and Jason Phillips, to roam and make plays moving sideline to sideline.
TCU is also not afraid to bring the heat with one of the five backs who are roaming in the secondary. The unique looks the Horned Frogs sit in allow them to bring heat from different directions, and oftentimes they are able to confuse opposing linemen who cannot tell where the pressure is coming from during their pre-snap reads.
Boise State is coming off their second undefeated season in three years. That’s right, Boise State is legit, and you can believe they are pissed off about going 12-0 and being shut out of the BCS discussion. They all know they were the darlings of the BCS just a few years ago when they knocked off the Oklahoma Sooners, but they are ready prove to everyone that the Boise State Broncos are no one-trick pony.
While the 2007 Fiesta Bowl was not long ago, the faces leading Boise State this season are new, and for them the 2007 game may as well have been a lifetime ago. Boise State is led by their freshmen quarterback Kellen Moore, who has become a one-man wrecking crew at the position.
While nervous when Moore first took over the program at the beginning of the season, becoming the first freshman to start a game at quarterback, Moore has grown to become the leader of the Broncos' high-powered offense. His maturation has taken place so quickly that the Boise coaching staff is considering allowing the youngster to call his own plays in no huddle situations.
There is no doubt that Moore and his young offensive line will face their toughest test of the season on Tuesday night. It will be crucial for the freshman quarterback to keep his composure even when the TCU defense is flying around the field and seemingly in every place at once.
Boise State has had trouble establishing their run game this season. Despite having a slew of talented running backs, the young offensive line has struggled to open up holes on a regular basis. This could become an issue for the Broncos. While Kellen Moore is a very talented quarterback who has an amazing future ahead of him. Boise State does not want to drop him back 30-40 times against TCU’s defense and run the risk of him taking those shots and exposing his arm to that secondary.
Currently the spread stands with TCU as a three-point favorite. This is a very tough game to call, as both teams will be playing into the other's strength. However, I am a big believer that defense wins championships. I am also a big fan of experience, and that is something the TCU Horned Frogs have a lot of.
This is not the Boise State team from 2007. That was a team made up of upperclassmen who had been building toward that moment in the Fiesta Bowl for their entire colligate careers. This Boise State team is very talented and once again they dominated the WAC, but they have never faced anything like TCU. Boise State played and defeated a solid Oregon team; outside of that they have not played a team ranked in the top 60 in the nation.
Every coach who has played against TCU to this point called them the fastest team on defense they have ever seen. The speed and the pressure from the TCU defense will be too much for Boise State to handle, especially since they will not be able to establish their rushing attack. Expect TCU to cover the three-point spread and win the game.