Monday, January 4, 2010.
There are four scenarios tonight for Boise State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: a blowout win, a close win, a close loss, and a blowout loss. Really, any of them is possible. Let’s look at what each would bring the Broncos. Certainly a BSU rout of TCU is unlikely, but if that happened, the Broncos could make a legitimate case for the No. 2 spot in the final polls. A close Bronco win could get them to No. 3—and a certain Top 5 start in the 2010 rankings considering they’ll have 22 starters returning. A close win by TCU would have the Horned Frogs calling for a No. 2 final ranking, and it wouldn’t hurt Boise State much in the polls to end this season or begin the next.
A blowout loss to the Frogs would be the thing raises the questions about BSU’s true strength against its poorly-ranked schedule and would have the Broncos starting the 2010 rankings in the mid-teens—and a need to prove themselves all over again. Coach Chris Petersen, of course, says he’s not thinking about ramifications for next year. “It’s just about this one game.”
It looks like the deck is stacked against Boise State in this game. But Petersen and the Bronco staff know what needs to happen to compete with TCU. They’ll have a solid plan based on the capabilities of their players and whatever opportunities are presented by TCU’s offense and defense on tape. Then, the Broncos just gotta execute to perfection. I'm sure they’ll be reminded that at the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, each guy played the game of his life. The coaches have to convince them it can happen again.
Overshadowed by the magnitude of it all is the fact that it’s Kyle Wilson’s final game. Wilson will be the only player in tonight’s Fiesta Bowl who played in Boise State’s 2007 win over Oklahoma. And he played well that New Year’s night in Glendale. Teammate Jeron Johnson says he’ll miss Wilson’s spirit. “If someone were to ask me who the most competitive guy is on our team, I would have to say Kyle,” said Johnson. “He’ll make up a game just so he can win. Who can tie their shoes faster? He would want to do it.”
The Boise State offensive and defensive lines will have to raise the bar tonight—even higher than where it was lifted in the 19-8 season-opening domination of Oregon. On the offensive side, that means getting some semblance of a running game going. That will be difficult against TCU superstar defensive end Jerry Hughes. Matt Paradis, the former Council Lumberjack who was named BSU Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year, says four different Broncos have been trying to impersonate Hughes in practice. Unlike last season, Boise State offensive tackle Nate Potter probably won’t be lined up opposite Hughes very often, unless BSU moves the former Timberline star to the right side. That would be interesting. Hughes is a first-team All-American, just like 2008. Potter is now first-team All-WAC, unlike 2008.
Chris Petersen, like most coaches, isn’t much for stats. But he does have a favorite: pass efficiency. That’s why it’s hard for Pete not to heap praise on Kellen Moore, the national leader in that department. But it’s also hard for Pete not to admire—and worry about—TCU’s Andy Dalton tonight. The junior quarterback was a manager of the Horned Frog offense last season, and he managed the Frogs past the Broncos in the Poinsettia Bowl. Now Dalton is the creative director, having gone from 50th in the nation in pass efficiency in 2008 to fourth now.
Here are the numbers that magnify it. Dalton is just under nine yards per attempt this season, up from 7.3. And he’s getting TCU in the end zone. He threw just 11 touchdown passes in 2008, and he’s tossed 25 so far this season. In fact, Dalton’s performance in the passing game has risen to the point that he needs only 186 yards to become TCU’s career passing leader.
A key component of pass efficiency is completion percentage, and accuracy has always been a strength of Kellen Moore. But it’s fallen off somewhat during the second half of the season. Only twice has Moore been over 65 percent—against Louisiana Tech and Idaho—and not once has he gone over 70 percent, a place he had been visiting regularly. Though Kellen has a sizeable lead in pass efficiency over Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, his rating has slipped to 167, and that’s mainly because his completion percentage is now under 65. Moore will have to make his throws count tonight.
The most dangerous guy at University of Phoenix Stadium tonight might be TCU’s Jeremy Kerley. Boise State safety George Iloka has Kerley pretty much pegged. “He’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s wiggly,” said Iloka. “What more can you say?” You’d think Iloka was talking about Kerley’s exploits at wide receiver, where he caught 38 passes this season for 467 yards. But Iloka’s analysis is even more on the money on special teams, because that’s where Kerley could quickly put the Broncos in a field position hole tonight. He led the Mountain West in punt returns with a 14.3-yard average and two touchdowns—and in kickoff returns with an average runback of 26.9 yards.
This Day In Sports…January 4, 2006:
The night the BCS gets it right, as USC and Texas—ranked first and second all season long—meet in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. The Trojans led 38-26 with less than five minutes left before Longhorns quarterback Vince Young scored two touchdowns, the last one with 19 seconds left, to win the game. Young turned in probably the best pressure performance in college football history, rushing for 200 yards and throwing for 267 more. That kept USC from a national title three-peat and broke its 34-game winning streak.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)