Boise State Broncos vs. TCU Horned Frogs (-7.5, 55)
Many have discredited matching two non-BCS conference schools in a BCS bowl. Nevertheless, this year’s Fiesta Bowl pits two of just the four remaining undefeated FBS teams in a battle for possibly the runner-up spot in the final rankings.
The line opened with TCU as a 9-point favorite but the betting public immediately jumped on Boise State, dropping the number to seven-and-a-half, where it has held constant. The total opened at 54 and slowly increased to 55 over the last few weeks.
The wagers are about dead even picking either team against the spread, whereas the over and especially Boise State’s moneyline (+250) are overwhelming selections by the public.
Boise State wide receiver Austin Pettis, who leads the team with 14 touchdown receptions, suffered an ankle injury in late November and is a game-time decision, according to head coach Chris Peterson.
Texas Christian All-MWC cornerback Rafael Priest injured his ankle less than two weeks ago. It looked then there was little hope of him appearing in the Fiesta Bowl but, according to Priest, “it’s [now] looking pretty good” for him to play.
One argument is that TCU is a legitimate national-title contender, and certainly more so than Boise State, is the Horned Frogs have played a somewhat challenging schedule. Supporters point to TCU’s games against Air Force and BYU in conference and non-conference foes Virginia and Clemson, all four on the road.
This stance is somewhat of a misconception, especially when compared to BSU, as both teams have faced similar schedules of difficulty. They have played the same number of teams (six) with winning records and nearly the same number (BSU five/TCU six) of bowl teams.
Texas Christian is known for its dominant defense, however, the Horned Frogs offense is just as successful, especially when running the ball.
Quarterback Andy Dalton had a record-breaking season passing and is one of four Frogs to rush for at least 500 yards. TCU finished the regular season ranked fifth in the nation in rushing offense, seventh in yards per carry and sixth in rushing touchdowns.
Boise State has shown to be susceptible to the run. Although the Broncos held seven opponents to under 100 yards rushing, Fresno State rushed for 320 against them, Nevada for 242 and Idaho for 209.
Very special teams
Boise State has arguably the best overall special teams unit in college football. The Broncos are averaging almost 39 yards net punting, 11 yards per punt return and 27.3 yards on kick returns—fifth best in the nation. They have also blocked four kicks while having none of their own kicks blocked.
Besides leading BSU in receiving, junior wideout Titus Young has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Whether running the football (he averaged more than 10 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns) receiving or returning kicks, Young is one of the best big-play players in the WAC.
"We missed [having big plays] last year - especially the TCU game [in the Poinsettia Bowl], with the type of players they had on the field," teammate Jeron Johnson told reporters. "You can't guard [Young] 1-on-1."
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore is the FBS’ highest-rated passer but was fortunate to face some of the worst pass defenses in the nation, namely Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii and San Jose State. Only Oregon’s pass defense posed any threat to Moore.
Against TCU, Moore will face one of the best defenses against the pass in all of college football. Against a pass-happy schedule, led by Priest, Nick Sanders and receiver-turned-strong safety Tyler Luttrell, the Horned Frogs have allowed opponents to complete just 46 percent of their passes.
"[The Broncos] throw the ball all over the field," said Priest. “I look forward to covering Pettis or any other great receivers they have."
Boise State and TCU have faced one another twice in their histories. The Broncos won the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl 34-31 as 11-point favorites and the Frogs won last year’s Poinsettia Bowl 17-16 as 3-point favorites.
These teams are two of the best against the spread in the last several years. Boise State has won more than 63 percent of its games ATS since 1999. Texas Christian has won nearly 66 percent ATS since 2005.
The Horned Frogs are 11-13-1 all time in bowls, 6-4-2 ATS since 1984. The Broncos have a 5-4 bowl record, 6-3 ATS.