NCF Nation: Fiesta Bowl first take
Jan. 4, 8 p.m., (FOX)
While both teams are happy to be playing in a BCS bowl, it’s fair to say that playing each other has resulted in an anticlimactic ending to two undefeated campaigns.
The Boise State-TCU game is a rematch of last year’s Poinsettia Bowl in which TCU won 17-16. That game was Boise State’s consolation prize after not being selected as an at-large team despite finishing the year with an undefeated record.
This year’s game between Boise State and TCU might also seem like a consolation prize since both programs hoped to topple an automatic qualifying team and continue to show the parity between the AQ and non-AQ schools.
Still, this is a good matchup between two teams with top offenses and defenses.
TCU is the only team in the country that ranks in the top four in total defense and total offense. The Horned Frogs have the best defense in the country, led by defensive end Jerry Hughes and linebacker Daryl Washington. The defense allows just 23.25 yards per game and is especially tough against the pass. The Horned Frogs offense averages 40.67 points per game and 469.08 yards per game, which both rank No. 4 in the country.
Boise State has the nation’s top scoring defense with 44.15 yards per game and its offensive line allows .38 sacks per game. The Broncos rank second in passing efficiency and are No. 2 in turnover margin.
Jan. 5, 8 p.m., FOX
Ohio State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: After being embarrassed in the last two BCS national title games, Ohio State gets a chance to repair its national reputation against a Texas team many feel should be heading to Miami rather than the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Until a surprising blowout loss to Florida in the 2007 BCS title game, Arizona had been very good to the Buckeyes, who won Fiesta Bowls in 2006, 2004 and 2003. To regain that desert dominance, Ohio State will need to play its best game in all three facets.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy has been virtually unstoppable this season, and an Ohio State defense that performed well following the USC debacle Sept. 13 must find a way to slow him down.
A secondary led by Malcolm Jenkins, arguably the nation's best cornerback, needs to limit short passes and force McCoy to take risks down the field. This is also a tremendous opportunity for Buckeyes senior linebacker James Laurinaitis, who could use a big-game performance in the national spotlight to solidify his legacy.
The run game has been Ohio State's calling card on offense, but quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells will be challenged by a Texas squad ranked second nationally in rush defense (73.6 ypg). Despite a strong November, Ohio State's offense can be over-reliant on big plays and needs to find ways to sustain drives.
Texas take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: After earning a share of the Big 12 South Division title, Texas believed it should have fared better than a berth in Tempe before the BCS controversy played out. But that snub should serve as inspiration for the Longhorns, who still harbor a slim chance at the AP media poll with an impressive victory and a lackluster BCS title game.
Texas' defense progress was its biggest story down the stretch, allowing a combined 16 points to its last two opponents, limiting seven opponents to 14 points or less, ranking second in rush defense and leading the nation in sacks. In the Big 12 -- or anywhere else -- that's pretty good production.
Colt McCoy has been the ringleader of an offense that has posted big numbers without a featured running back. McCoy has been the Longhorns' top rusher, throwing to a pair of wide receivers in Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby who rank among the top 20 nationally in receptions per game.
That offense will be challenged by a typically stout Ohio State defense that places in the top 10 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, turnover margin and pass defense. And the Longhorns probably still have nightmares about the way that James Laurinaitis ripped through them in an earlier game during a 2006 loss in Austin.
Texas beat the Buckeyes in Columbus in the previous season and the rubber match between the two proud programs should be a good one. But the Longhorns have the kind of across-the-board talent that teams like Penn State and USC utilized to beat the Buckeyes earlier this season.