After boasting the nation's top defense for three straight seasons, the TCU Horned Frogs slipped to No. 32 this season. But they've found other ways to win. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs started the season at 1-4 and bowling shoes didn't appear to be among their wardrobe options. But a remarkable turnaround and a stingy defense in the second half of the season brings them to San Diego for a showdown with the Horned Frogs, who have won both of their previous Poinsettia Bowl appearances -- topping Northern Illinois 37-7 in 2006 and Boise State 17-16 in 2008.
Who to watch: TCU quarterback Casey Pachall was under a bright spotlight this season, filling the shoes of Andy Dalton, one of Fort Worth's most favorite sons. He's answered the call, for the most part, delivering a 24-6 touchdown to interception ratio, 2,715 yards and a 67.8 completion percentage. He's seventh in the nation in passing efficiency and is still probably riding high after his signature win over Boise State, where he threw for 473 yards and five touchdowns.
What to watch: Someone's winning streak is going to come to an end. Both teams enter the game tied for fourth with the longest win streak in the nation at seven games. Only LSU (14), Arkansas State (9) and Northern Illinois (8) have won more. The marquee matchup is TCU's offense versus Louisiana Tech's defense. WAC defensive player of the year Adrien Cole headlines a defensive group which has been outstanding during the seven game win streak, allowing 14.9 points per game and forcing 22 turnovers. Then again, TCU boasts its own conference defensive player of the year in linebacker Tank Carder, who took home the honor for the second straight year.
Why to watch: If you're a Mountain West Conference fan, you'll probably like this one. MWC teams have won five straight Poinsettia Bowls. In fact, since the game started in 2005, Colorado State is the only MWC team to lose over that stretch. If you're a Louisiana Tech fan, the fact that you are in a bowl should be exciting enough. It's the first bowl appearance for Louisiana Tech since 2008 and just the sixth in school history. A victory would give the Bulldogs their first nine-win season since 1997 when they went 9-2, but didn't get into a bowl game.
Prediction: TCU 42, La. Tech 35: Recent history suggests TCU has the edge in this game. And even though it's a "down" year for the defense, it's still one of the top units in the nation. The offense can be explosive with a talented rotation of backs and TCU has a special teams edge with Greg McCoy that could make the difference.