Home > Uncategorized > Fiesta Bowl: What Have We Learned? (Bonus article!)

Fiesta Bowl: What Have We Learned? (Bonus article!)

It goes without saying how disappointing it was when the BCS decided to match up Boise State and Texas Christian in the Fiesta Bowl.  More unusual than most years, we had not one but two teams from lackluster (read:  bad) conferences ending up with undefeated regular seasons.  As a result, both ended up in the top six in the BCS standings.  As is typical, right or wrong, neither team was given a chance to play for the national championship.  So which one would get to play Florida, a team that fell just short of another chance for the national title, and prove that they belonged with the big boys?  Which one would play Iowa or Cincinnati, two highly-ranked yet enigmatic teams, in order to prove they were a step above?  The answer:  neither.  Boise State and TCU ended up against each other in the Fiesta Bowl, a decision that you could argue made no one happy including the teams involved.

But what’s done is done.  As college football fans we’re left with the task of determining what Boise State’s 17-10 win said about either team, if anything.  This also meant as college football fans we’d have to actually watch a game with teams we don’t care about (we usually defy this logic and simply comment on teams we know nothing about).

So what have we learned?  Not a whole lot if you ask me.  The game was surprisingly defensive.  For two teams that have high-powered offenses there weren’t a lot of fireworks.  We were told to prepare for Boise State’s run and gun mentality on offense and TCU’s blazing speed on both sides of the ball.  Instead we had one team that seemed very ordinary under the bright lights of a BCS bowl atmosphere and another that made two key plays that allowed them to edge out a victory.  Of course this happens to every team at least once a year, but if what you see is what you get this certainly wasn’t the unstoppable force against the immovable object both schools would have claimed it to be before kickoff.

In my estimation it is literally impossible to make one definitive statement about either team after watching them compete against each other.  The closest things I can think of are that Boise State actually does have a good defense and maybe a better coaching staff…..or do they?  We’re still comparing two teams that played each other, yet haven’t played many other viable opponents.  So let’s take a look at the regular season schedule of both teams and see how they shake out.  Maybe then we can better determine what the Fiesta Bowl meant for college football.

Boise State Broncos

The Broncos kicked off their season with a win that was certainly solid:  A 19-8 home victory against then #16 Oregon.  The Ducks ended up having a very successful year, winning the Pac-10 only to lose to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.  This is definitely an above average win for Boise State, although if you recall just about everyone predicting the Buckeyes to get trounced in Pasadena then you have to admit the Pac-10 was pretty weak this year what with USC not being anything close to their normal selves.  Still, it’s a good win for any team to call their best win of the season.  The problem is with the rest of the schedule.  The toughest Boise State opponent for their last TWELVE games of the regular season is…….drum roll……Fresno State?  Tulsa?  It’s hard to choose due to possibly the easiest schedule I’ve ever seen for a legitimate Division I team.  If you don’t believe me check it out for yourself.

College football fans always complain about other teams’ schedules but the reality is this:  It’s rare that any program you’ve heard of plays more than two blockbuster matchups a year.  However with that being said, most of those teams have other opponents like Stanford, Michigan State, Arkansas, etc. where they’re still decidedly the favorite yet there’s still a very good chance of an upset or at least some indicators as to whether or not a team is over/under rated.

The most overused statement in college football fandom is “X Team has a weak schedule.”  This is one case where it’s absolutely true.  A shot at the national championship?  Broncos fans and alumni have to be joking.  Ohio State also beat Oregon, how about vaulting them into the big game?  Sure, they stumbled against Purdue but Purdue would be the second best team in the WAC conference just by default.  In other words Boise State’s schedule doesn’t do them any favors and in a time where “weak schedule” is spoken about entirely too many teams it absolutely applies here.

Texas Christian Horned Frogs

TCU’s schedule is by far the more competitive of the two, by how much is the question.  The ranked opponents they’ve beaten include BYU and Utah.  Not the worst undefeated season you’ll ever see but maybe we should examine these two opponents, which would be the closest you’ll find to “signature wins” for TCU.

Before we do so let’s get the rest of the schedule out of the way for the sake of being thorough.  The only other noteworthy win on the schedule would be Clemson, who certainly fit in the mid-range of opponents mentioned earlier.  Are they a great team?  Absolutely not, but they have a supremely dangerous running back who has won games for them.  There’s an X factor there, and this should at least be noted as a solid, capable football team beaten by TCU.

The rest of the schedule is fodder but that means nothing in that the bottom half of most other CFB teams’ schedule look no different:  Southern Methodist, Air Force, Wyoming, etc.  Nothing you wouldn’t see anywhere else around the country.

So let’s breakdown the ranked teams and see how relevant these wins really were.  BYU started the year by beating a heavily overrated Oklahoma team.  Sam Bradford was injured in that game and that had a lot to do with the downturn their season took.  A solid win, but not the win you would expect when you first see the opponent’s name.  The Cougars played Utah in a game that went into overtime, and overall it looked like two evenly matched teams duking it out. Their win against Oregon State was a trouncing against a team with big upset potential all year long, but all it does is cancel out the inexcusable loss to Florida State (54-28).

Moving on to Utah, they lost to Oregon but played hard and only lost by a touchdown.  Other than a win against California weren’t any notable wins.  There schedule almost seems to mirror that of Boise State’s ironically.  Not much to say here except I’m not very impressed.

The Final Analysis

So again what have we learned?  Well from the regular season we learned that Boise State had one very good win on their schedule but might as well have been playing D-II opponents the rest of the year.  From the same regular season we learned that TCU did not have any kind of signature win however they did beat two opponents in the bottom of the Top 25 and their schedule as a whole was just a touch more meaty.

How about the Fiesta Bowl in particular?  What does that game say?  Well to me it says that neither team proved much of anything.  Boise State played well on defense to everyone’s surprise but it took a big defensive play and a key fake punt for them to put up any kind of total on the scoreboard.  TCU didn’t show much of that speed everyone talked about and only managed 10 points and committed 3 turnovers.  In short neither team stepped up and let us know they were for real.  Just using the eyeball test it’s an easy call if you watched the game (you did, didn’t you?).

I would wager to say it may have been different if TCU had won.  Think about it:  Boise State doesn’t convert their fake punt or the drive stalls and TCU scores and eventually wins 17-10.  I’m not taking anything away from Boise State because they did convert that fake punt and they did score, but hear me out.  If the scenario above did play out, we could look at the schedules and say two things:

1.  TCU had a so-so undefeated season, but were undefeated nonetheless.  They played what at least amounts to a comparable opponent and bested them.  TCU is now on the map and who knows?  Maybe they could give a team like Florida, Texas, or Alabama run for their money.  We’ll just never know.

2.  Boise State, weak schedule and all, did beat Oregon after all.  Ohio State did the same so they should at least be in the same conversation.  To add to that, they held their own defensively against a team that scored a combined 93 points against two ranked opponents during the regular season.

From that perspective I think respect would only continue to mount for both teams.  TCU would be looked at in the same class as Boise State, instead of being the team everyone assumes had their day in the sun for one season, only to revert back to their mediocre selves.  Boise State would be looked at as the team that takes on all comers and always ends up on top, especially with their previous win against a great Oklahoma team.  It would be even more evidence that they should be taken seriously.

This is all in theory of course.  The reality is these two teams should have never played each other in a bowl this year especially since they played each other in the Poinsettia Bowl last year (if you can believe that).  My take is just one of many, but no matter how you view these teams after Monday’s outcome I can’t help but believe the overarching them is “nothing venture, nothing gained.”

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Dan
    January 6, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I didn’t watch the game but i think it was idiotic to have these teams play other major conference BCS teams. It was made worse when to no suprise Cincy got pounded by Florida. Like you said if you put one of them against Florida you probably get the same result but at least we would all officially know that now. Then if the other played Iowa, Cincy, or GT at least you would have a clue if they are even in the ball park with these teams and deserve a BCS. Instead it will continue to be an annoyance and we have no official clue if they belong or not.

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