2007 Fiesta Bowl - Boise State vs. Oklahoma

Posted Dec 14, 2006

2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Boise State vs. Oklahoma

Boise State (12-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-2)

January 1st, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox

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Fiesta Bowl Player Profile: Oklahoma QB Paul Thompson, team bowl history and more

It's O.K. to admit it. This is the BCS game you're sort of secretly excited about.

Oh sure, you're fired up for the BCS Championship, the Rose Bowl is the national title-caliber game most of the sports world is dying to see, and the Sugar Bowl holds a sort of want-to-see-the-car-crash interest when it comes to how Notre Dame might do against the speedy LSU Tigers, but the 2007 Fiesta Bowl is something different.

It's not 2005 when Utah busted through and dominated a mediocre Pittsburgh, and this isn't George Mason rumbling through the NCAA basketball tournament on its way to the Final Four. Boise State deserves to be on the national stage against the big, bad, Big 12 champion if for no other reason than as a reward for years of not getting any national respect despite winning a whopping 85 games in eight years.

National Rankings
Boise State Oklahoma
Total Offense
11th  424.25 ypg 42nd  365.77 ypg
Total Defense
14th  273.75 ypg 17th  280.23 ypg
Scoring Offense
2nd  39.42 ppg 26th  29.38 ppg
Scoring Defense
18th  15.58 ppg 17th  15.31 ppg
Run Offense
6th  222.83 ypg 21st  177.38 ypg
Run Defense
7th  82.00 ypg 18th  97.85 ypg
Pass Offense
55th  201.42 ypg 70th  188.38 ypg
Pass Defense
48th  191.75 ypg 37th  182.38 ypg
Turnover Margin
12th  0.83 61st  0.00
Boise State
Sacramento W 45-0
Oregon St W 42-14
at Wyom. W 17-10
Hawaii W 41-34
at Utah W 36-3
La Tech
W 55-14
at NMSU W 40-24
at Idaho W 42-26
Fresno St W 45-21
at SJSU W 23-20
Utah State
W 49-10
at Nevada W 35-7
UAB W 24-17
Washington W 37-20
at Oregon :L 34-33
MTSU W 59-0
vs. Texas L 28-10
Iowa State
W 34-9
Colorado W 24-3
at Missouri W 26-10
at Tex A&M
W 17-16
Texas Tech W 34-24
at Baylor
W 36-10
at Okla St W 27-21
Big 12 Championship
Nebraska W 21-7
Position Ratings
relative to each other
BSU 5 highest
1 lowest
4 Quarterbacks 4
5 RBs 5
3.5 Receivers 3.5
4 O Line 5
4 D Line 4
4.5 Linebackers 4
3.5 Secondary 4.5
4 Spec Teams 4.5
4.5 Coaching 5

While Boise State is more than just the little engine that could, it represents all the little guys out there, all the non-BCS conference schools, that dream of playing in the spotlight against the best of the best. Oklahoma might not be Ohio State or Florida this year, but it's a red-hot, big name team that the Broncos must play well against to further the cause of college football equality. A 56-3 Sooner win wouldn't necessarily mean a WAC, Conference USA or Mountain West team won't get into the BCS again anytime soon, but it sure won't help.

The Broncos have gone into the bowl season unbeaten before with a 11-0 2004 season finished up with a fantastic 44-40 shootout loss to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl. For all the success and all the conference titles under former head coaches Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins, this year's team, under first year head man Chris Petersen, might be the best yet with a swarming, tough defense and the nation's number two scoring offense. Sure, you and ten friends could hang 24 on just about any WAC team, but Boise State annihilated Oregon State 42-14 and embarrassed Utah at Utah 36-3.

Boise State might be playing the Cinderella role, but Oklahoma is also wearing a bit of a glass slipper this year overcoming the loss of QB Rhett Bomar before the season began, a distracting, controversial loss at Oregon, a loss to archrival Texas, and the loss of all-world RB Adrian Peterson to a broken collarbone to win eight straight including the Big 12 championship over Nebraska.

This isn't the up-and-down-the-field Sooners that went to two straight national championship games. This is a tough, hard-nosed team playing with as much confidence as anyone in America helped by a an improved defense and an offensive line that went from a liability to a strength over the course of a few months. There's not a lot of flash or dash, and it's not a tight, mistake-free team, either. It's a group that finds ways to win helped by, arguably, the best coaching job Bob Stoops has come up with in his eight years.

Whoever wins will have earned its way to the Fiesta Bowl title and, to over-dramatize the game's importance, will have set the tone for the haves and the have-nots in college football. When all is said and done, this might turn out to be one of the most important games in BCS history.

Players to watch: Superman is back. With all apologies to Troy Smith, the best player in college football, Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, returns for what will likely be his one final showcase game before heading off the NFL. Ranked by some scouts as a sure-thing top five pick, and others, because of his injury issues and upright running style, somewhere around the ten to 15 range, Peterson is taking a multi-million dollar gamble to play one last time. It could pay off big time if he cranks out a huge game and shows everyone why he was so great in the first place. If nothing else, it'll be a shot to see one of the great running back talents of the last several years to show off his stuff again in a Sooner uniform.

If recent games are any indication, Peterson should go ballistic thanks the holes the offensive line have opened up for backups Allen Patrick and Chris Brown. Left tackle Chris Messner, left guard George Robinson, center Jon Cooper, right guard Brandon Walker, and right tackle Trent Williams have stepped up their play over the last several weeks allowing just 15 sacks on the year and paving the way for anyone who was running the ball. Messner is the lone senior, Williams is a freshman, and the rest are sophomores combining with 260-pound junior Joe Jon Finley to form what should be one of the most dominant lines in college football over the next few years.

The OU line might be tremendous, but the Boise State front five isn't exactly full of stiffs. The best offensive lineman in the game might be 6-6, 315-pound sophomore Ryan Clady, who'll have the job on the left side of handling the Sooner star pass rushers C.J. Ah You and Larry Birdine. On the national stage, this could be the game Clady shows the NFL scouts that he deserves early round scrutiny over the next few years.

With the return of Peterson, Boise State's Ian Johnson has become the forgotten man. All he did was finish second in the nation in rushing averaging 147 yards per game while tearing off 24 touchdowns despite missing a game with a lung injury. He made a national statement against Oregon State running for 240 yards and five touchdowns, and he carried the offense past Nevada to close things out with a three score day. He's fast, tough, and has another gear once he gets into the secondary. As good as veteran QB Jared Zabransky and the BSU passing game is, Johnson needs to have a huge day.

Boise State will win if... it quickly forgets it's playing Oklahoma. Boise State can play. This is not some fluke or some one-year wonder; this is a veteran team that's won championship after championship by answering every challenge and playing with near flawless execution mostly when everyone assumes it's going to get steamrolled. Fine, so the team isn't full of a who's who of NFL prospects like Oklahoma, but Korey Hall, Colt Brooks, Andrew Browning, and the rest of the defensive front seven are all good enough to hang tough against the pound Sooner running game, and the offense can certainly put up points if it gets into a groove. Boise State has to play its game getting the ground attack moving and not making any big mistakes offensively, and has to take advantage of every break from a Sooner offense that's been a bit too careless with the ball. Oregon State, Nevada and Utah aren't Oklahoma, but they can play, and Boise State beat those three like a drum. As long as the confidence is there, Boise State has a shot. A few early errors and memories of the disastrous 48-13 loss to Georgia in the 2005 opener will quickly resurface.

Oklahoma will win if... it gets up right off the bat. Momentum and confidence should mean everything in a game like this. The longer Boise State thinks it can hang around, the better it'll play in the second half. No team jumps all over errors, or puts the foot to the throat after getting an opening, like the Broncos do. OU isn't consistent enough offensively to rely on the passing game to get back in the game if the Broncos are winning by two scores late. However, this BSU secondary can be beaten as long as the OU offensive line does its job and keep the good BSU pass rush at bay. As long as QB Paul Thompson doesn't force anything, and as long as Peterson is cranking out four, five, eight yards a crack, and as long as the turnovers are kept to a minimum, Oklahoma should be able to win without too much of a problem.

What will happen: Any thoughts of Oklahoma being caught in a letdown or not putting up a top effort blew away the second Peterson announced he was ready to play. You think the Sooners are going to tank or take Boise State lightly when its mega-star is literally risking his livelihood to play with his friends and teammates? Boise State will have its moments, and it's not going to embarrass itself by any means, but the Sooners will do what they've done over the last several weeks and methodically win the battles on the lines and get enough key plays midway through the game to keep at an arm's length distance. Boise State's passing game won't be effective enough against the OU secondary to come back in the fourth quarter.

Line: Oklahoma -7.5 ... CFN Prediction:
Oklahoma 27 ... Boise State 17