BCS Buster Bowl: TCU vs. Boise State

By ANDREW BAGNATO

AP College Football Writer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) No. 3 TCU and
No. 6 Boise State will meet in the Fiesta Bowl, marking the first time
a BCS game other than the championship game had a matchup of unbeaten
teams.

It’s also the first time two teams
from conferences without automatic bids to the BCS have played in the
five big-money bowls in the same season.

Mountain West champion TCU (12-0) earned an automatic bid to become a BCS buster for the first time in school history.

Western Athletic Conference champ
Boise State (13-0) became the first team from a non-automatic
qualifying conference to receive an at-large bid.

The Horned Frogs and Broncos played
in the Poinsettia Bowl last season. TCU won 17-16, to hand Boise State
its only loss of the season.

This time, the so-called little guys will move their tussle to the big stage.

They might want to roll back the roof
at Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 4, because the game
should provide plenty of offensive fireworks.

Boise State has the nation’s highest-scoring attack, averaging 44.1 points per game. TCU ranks fourth at 40.7 points per game.

For a few hours on Saturday night, it
looked as if the Horned Frogs might slip into the BCS title game. No. 3
Texas found itself in a protracted defensive struggle with No. 21
Nebraska in the Big 12 playoff, and a Longhorns loss may have cleared
the way for TCU to become the first school from a non-automatic
qualifying conference to play for the national title.

But Texas pulled out a 13-12 victory, and Cincinnati finished ahead of TCU in the final standings anyway.

The Horned Frogs, 12-0 for the first time, will settle for a trip to the desert for their BCS debut.

Their resume is solid. TCU opened
the regular season with a 30-14 victory at Virginia and two weeks later
the Frogs went into Death Valley and beat Clemson 14-10.

Later, the Frogs added resounding victories at Brigham Young (38-7) and over Utah (55-28).

With three running backs averaging
at least 50 yards per game, TCU chews up 265.5 rushing yards, fifth
nationally. Quarterback Andy Dalton ranks fourth nationally in passing
efficiency, with 22 TDs and only five interceptions in 279 pass
attempts.

Boise State players, parents and fans gathered in the new press box at Bronco Stadium to watch the bowl selection show.

The crowd erupted when the pairing
was announced. But moments later, the crowd reacted with much less
enthusiasm when TCU was announced as the Broncos’ foe. Bronco fans had
been hoping for a matchup with a Big Ten team like Iowa or Penn State.

The Broncos will make their second Fiesta Bowl appearance in four years. Most fans distinctly recall their first trip.

In January 2007, the eighth-ranked
Broncos used a passel of trick plays to stun 10th-ranked Oklahoma in a
game still regarded as one of the great bowls in college football
history. Afterward, tailback Ian Johnson proposed to his cheerleader
girlfriend, giving the Fiesta Bowl an indelible image of the
underdog-as-conqueror.

This time, the Broncos may bring an even stronger squad to Glendale.

Boise State kicked off the season with a resounding 19-8 victory over 16th-ranked Oregon, the eventual Pac-10 champion.

Then the Broncos rolled through a
schedule ranked 94th – out of 120 – by the NCAA. Boise State’s closest
game was a 28-21 victory at Tulsa, which lost to Oklahoma 45-0.

The Broncos are led by quarterback
Kellen Moore, the nation’s top-rated passer. Feasting on anemic WAC
defenses, Moore completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,053 yards
and 38 touchdowns, and he threw only three interceptions in 362 pass
attempts.

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Associated Press Writer Todd Dvorak in Boise contributed to this report.

Updated December 6, 2009