2008 Poinsettia Preview - TCU vs. Boise State
Boise State's Kyle Wilson & TCU's Jason Phillips
Boise State's Kyle Wilson & TCU's Jason Phillips
Posted Dec 20, 2008

It's as good a matchup as any non-BCS game, and it's better than the Orange Bowl. Boise State and TCU are two teams who came very, very close to playing in the BCS, but instead they should play a whale of a battle in the 2008 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Check out the CFN Preview & Prediction

2008 San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

TCU (10-2) vs. Boise State (12-0)

Dec. 23, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

$750,000   Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA

- 2008 Poinsettia Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More
- 2007 CFN Poinsettia Bowl Preview | 2006 CFN Poinsettia Bowl Preview

By Pete Fiutak

There but for the grace of a late break in Salt Lake City and the whims of the pollsters, this could’ve been a BCS game. The bowl is, at the very least, in the discussion of the best non-BCS games and has higher ranked teams than the Orange Bowl (Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati)

National Rankings
Boise State TCU
Total Offense
13th  456.75 ypg 29th  417.08 ypg
Total Defense
16th  294.5 ypg 2nd  215.08 ypg
Scoring Offense
12th  39.42 ppg 19th  35 ppg
Scoring Defense
3rd  12.25 ppg 2nd  10.92  ppg
Run Offense
49th  162.67 ypg 13th  215.67 ypg
Run Defense
15th  104.92 ypg 1st  48.67 ypg
Pass Offense
12t  294.08 ypg 70th  201.42 ypg
Pass Defense
37th  189.58 ypg 9th  166.42 ypg
Turnover Margin
24th  0.58 9th  1.08
Boise State  
Idaho State W 49-7
Bo Green W 20-7
at Oregon W 37-32
La Tech W 38-3
at So Miss W 24-7
Hawaii W 27-7
 at SJSU W 33-16
at NMSU W 49-0
Utah State W 49-14
at Idaho W 45-10
at Nevada W 41-34
Fresno St W 61-10
at N Mexico W 26-3
S.F. Austin W 67-7
Stanford W 31-14
at SMU W 48-7
at Oklahoma L 35-10
San Diego St W 41-7
at Col St W 13-7
BYU W 32-7
Wyoming W 54-7
at UNLV W 44-14
at Utah L 13-10
Air Force W 44-10
Position Ratings
relative to each other
B 5 highest
1 lowest
4.5 Quarterbacks 4.5
5 RBs 5
4 Receivers 3.5
4 O Line 4
5 D Line 5
4 Linebackers 5
4.5 Secondary 5
4 Spec Teams 4
5 Coaching 5

Boise State has gone unbeaten in three of the last five regular seasons, has won ten games or more in seven of the last nine seasons, and has won 108 games in the last ten seasons. Of course, there was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma in one of the biggest statements ever made by a non-BCS program. With its résumé of victories and consistency of excellence over a decade, you’d think the team would get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to getting the nod for a BCS game. 

But noooooooooooo.
Boise State is ranked ninth in the final BCS rankings while Utah is seventh, meaning the Utes got the automatic bid. Utah beat TCU and blew away BYU, but its best win over a BCS team was against Oregon State. The Broncos beat Oregon in Oregon, and the Ducks later blew away the Beavers. Ohio State was ranked tenth in the final BCS standings, but it still leaped over the Broncos on the way to face Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. Thanks, Hawaii.       
It might not seem fair, but Hawaii’s embarrassment in the 2008 Sugar Bowl against Georgia hurt the national perception of the WAC and didn’t have anyone doing cartwheels over having two non-BCS teams playing in the big money games. Boise State might be ranked higher than Ohio State, but the two OSU losses came at USC and to Penn State. Would Boise State have won either of those two games? Probably not, and then there’s the issue with the rest of the schedule.
There are a slew of wins over teams that finished the regular season with winning records, but outside of the win over Oregon, the second best victory was against Nevada … whoopee. Even so, Boise State could only play who’s on the schedule, and considering no one, no one, wants anything to do with this team when it comes down to putting together a non-conference slate, it’s a problem for the program.
TCU didn’t have the same scheduling issues, getting its shot at the big time with an early season game at Oklahoma. While the defensive front was able to get to future Heisman-winner Sam Bradford better than anyone else, it was still a 35-10 loss. It might have been a 25-point blowout, but the 35 points allowed tied Texas for the best job anyone did this year against the mighty Sooners. Even with the loss, TCU likely would’ve finished ahead of Boise State, and would’ve gotten the automatic BCS bid, had it been able to hold on against Utah.

The Horned Frogs had all the respect and all the national attention after blasting BYU 32-7, but they suffered a missed field goal late in the fourth quarter against Utah and the defense couldn’t hold on in the 13-10 loss that propelled the Utes to the BCS. Even so, TCU still has a special defense and is putting together a special season that could be capped off with a top-ten finish, which is what it’ll get with a win.

Boise State has a defense of its own, leading the WAC in several categories. With an efficient offense, a defense that only allowed more than 16 points twice, and among the best special teams in America, this team has it all. Now it’s looking to prove it on a national scale with the potential of a top-five finish with a victory.

The Mountain West is 2-1 in the short history of the Poinsettia Bowl with TCU winning the 2006 game against Northern Illinois, 37-7. Last year’s Utah exciting win over Navy was the first ever decent Poinsettia Bowl, but it’ll be a shock if this year’s matchup doesn’t turn out to be something special. The two defenses are too good to let either offense run away with the game in a must-see battle that’ll end up shaping up the rankings. Even so, it’s a shame that this isn’t being played on in early January on a bigger stage.
Players to watch: TCU junior DE Jerry Hughes was a former high school running back, and he has used that athleticism to become one of the nation’s premier pass rushers. He was a decent backup last season working behind Chase Ortiz, and this season he blew up with 14 sacks, best in the country, and 18.5 tackles for loss. He single-handedly abused BYU four sacks as part of a five game run of 11 sacks. Extremely quick and explosive, even if he’s not coming up with big plays on the stat sheet, he’s occupying the attention of at least two blockers on every play.
Boise State has several defensive stars, but the best of the bunch is junior corner Kyle Wilson, the WAC’s premier shut-down defender who can also hit a little bit. He not only tied for the WAC lead in interceptions with five, but he also was a top open field tackler. It’s not like TCU is going to throw the ball all over the field, but QB Andy Dalton will have to lock in on where Wilson is.
Offensively, Ian Johnson might be the name-brand star who gets the publicity, but Boise State’s attack revolves around QB Kellen Moore, who survived a tough off-season battle for the job and showed why the coaching staff made the right choice. He was one of the nation’s most efficient passers throwing for 3,264 yards and 25 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Three of those picks came in one game, and he didn’t throw more than one interception in any other game. However, he’s been used to having all the time he needs to throw. He won’t get that against TCU, and considering he’s not a runner, he’ll have to make very quick, very sharp decisions in the face of the Horned Frog pass rush. 
TCU sophomore QB Andy Dalton isn’t flashy and he’s not a big-time bomber, but he does what’s needed for the offense. He keeps the chains moving, he doesn’t make big mistakes, and he lets the defense get the job done. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass over the first five games, missed two games in the middle of the year, and then came back roaring throwing 11 touchdowns passes and just two interceptions, both in the loss to Utah, in the final five games, and he showed against Air Force and Wyoming that he can throw a little bit going over the 300-yard mark in each game.

TCU will win if... get to Moore, get to Moore, get to Moore. Even with star LB Robert Henson not expected to play, TCU and the nation’s No. 1 run defense should be able to keep Boise State’s great ground game in check. The Broncos like to pound the ball, but TCU’s defensive back seven won’t allow many short runs become big ones. The key will be to throw Moore off his game by generating pressure from the start. That’s easier said than done considering Boise State doesn’t allow sacks, and Moore gets the ball out of his hands in a hurry, but the Horned Frogs are great at keeping plays in front of them. The sacks don’t have to be there, but Hughes and company have to hit Moore early.
Boise State will win if
... keep the TCU running game in check and take advantage of any mistakes. The Horned Frogs commit lots and lots of penalties with ten or more in six games and 109 on the season. They also put the ball on the turf, but they’ve been great at recovering their errors. Boise State is good at forcing mistakes and it has to swarm around the ball and hope to come up with at least three turnovers. There aren’t going to be many long drives on the TCU defense, if any, so when the chances are there to capitalize on a short field, the Broncos have to capitalize. Defensively, Boise State led the WAC, and was 16th in the nation, against the run. TCU had problems with its running game against Oklahoma and Utah and lost both games. Colorado State gave the Horned Frogs a hard time by keeping their ground game to 141 yards. If TCU is running well, controlling the clock, and keeping the chains moving, the defense will do the rest.
What will happen: It won’t be a shootout by any stretch. These two teams are tough, efficient, and great at stepping on an opponent’s throat when the chances are there. TCU will get that shot. The defensive front won’t dominate, but it’ll do just enough to get to Moore and will shut down the Bronco running game. On the other side, Boise State will keep TCU’s ground game in check, but Dalton will be a bit more effective than Moore. It’ll be a good one.

Line: TCU -2.5 ... CFN Prediction: TCU 17 … Boise State 13 

- 2008 Poinsettia Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More