With the Fiesta Bowl only two weeks away, it's time to kick our coverage into high gear, starting with perhaps the most important question for Bronco fans: Are you afraid of TCU?
After the jump, Drew and I choose sides and debate the topic into the ground. Where do you stand with the Horned Frogs? Are you worried heading into the Fiesta Bowl? Are you confident? Weigh in with your choice in the poll and in the comments, and read along to see the reasons behind each school of thought.
Drew and I tackled this topic the best way we knew how: Email exchange. I took the side of "confident;" Drew took the side of "terrified." The following is our back-and-forth.
Are you afraid of TCU?
Kevan: Things I am afraid of: deep water, homeless people, midgets, failure, letting down the people closest to me, robot singularity, toaster ovens, and unintentional double entendres. Things I am not afraid of: Disney original programming and TCU.
Surprised? You shouldn't be. Lizzie McGuire was adorable, and TCU is beatable. The Horned Frogs deserve Broncos fans' respect, but they do not deserve Bronco fans' sleepless nights of sweat-drenched worry, emotional eating, and soft weeping to the sound of John Tesh Christmas playing from the white noise radio machine on their night stand. This Horned Frog team is tough. No doubt about it. But they are also beatable.
Bronco fans need look no further than TCU's game against Air Force for proof that the Horned Frog iron giant has a self-destruct button. Against the Falcons, TCU turned the ball over three times, gave up 229 yards rushing, failed to reach the end zone in the second half, and won by three. Experts blame the weather for the underwhelming result, which is a little like blaming George Washington for the decline of the dollar. Other people blame the tough road environment of a conference foe. Others blame Andy Dalton because they just love to ginger hate.
Fact is, TCU played a very losable game against Air Force. And they did the same two weeks prior against Clemson, a team that was struggling at the time. A three-point win over the Falcons, and a four-point win over the Tigers will be written off by most people as early season struggles, but the prudent Bronco fan knows better. If you believe the Broncos of September 3 versus Oregon can show up in the Fiesta Bowl, then what's stopping you from daydreaming about facing the Horned Frogs of October 10 versus Air Force?
Hakuna Matata, Bronco fans. TCU is good, but they are far from invincible.
Drew, what say you?
Drew: First off, props to you, Kevan for admitting your hobophobia...it takes a big man to own his fears and shortcomings. I believe it takes an even bigger man to admit fear of another non-BCS football team...so here goes.
TCU frightens me in a big way. It isn't really their ginger QB or their All-American DE Jerry Hughes that has me more than a little concerned. No...what has me more scared than Oprah without her makeup on is the fact that TCU dominated Boise State in last year's bowl game...and they're better this year.
Most outsiders will remember last year's Poinsettia Bowl as a 1-point barn-burner that was only won late in the game by TCU...helped by a missed FG and late INT thrown by Kellen Moore. More obsessive compulsive types will remember the game as one that was won handily on both sides of the ball by TCU. The Broncos mustered only 250 yards of offense in that game and gave up 472 to TCU - 275 of which came on the ground. Looking back, it's amazing that Boise State only lost by one point.
Frog QB Andy Dalton is better than last year and the team ranks in the top-5 nationally in rushing yards per game and scoring offense. And I hate to say it, but the Broncos are by most accounts not as good this year on D. Put the gawdy turnover numbers and 13-0 record aside, and I think most would agree that the Bronco D has shown flashes but has been more inconsistent this year than last. Did I mention that TCU has arguably the nation's best D this year? Don't forget last year's squad held the Broncos to a mere 28 yards rushing.
Now, don't get me wrong...the Frogs aren't unbeatable...and I think the Broncos will represent the best offense and defense TCU has faced this year...but gadfries, the Broncos have to play better than they did against Oregon to leave Glendale with another trophy. If you think me a coward...so be it. At least I'm not scared of bums.
Kevan: 2009 TCU is better than 2008 TCU. I'll give you that. But thankfully, the Fiesta Bowl is being played in 2010, a full Dilbert desk calendar away from 2009.
Bronco fans need look no further than last year's Fiesta Bowl for antacid-type relief. Ohio State was supposed to get blown out by Texas, but blowing was the last thing to happen in that game (did I just do the double entendre thing?). The Buckeyes hung close to the bitter end, and I narrowly escaped with my 33 Bowl Pick 'Em confidence points in tact.
Point is: You never know what will happen in bowl season ... unless you're a fan of a Bob Stoops team.
You want to know another reason why I'm not scared to death of TCU? My Second Life friend, Coach Pete. He will come up with a gameplan to get the most out of this matchup. The last time he had extra time to plan for an opponent turned out to be the Broncos' best effort of the season against Oregon. Give Coach Pete a month, and he can gameplan against just about anything. TCU? Counter plays and single coverage. Trade deficit? Minimum-working age lowered to 11. Cancer? Beets.
The extra time between now and January 4 can only help the Broncos as they heal, study, and prepare for their toughest game of the year. Is the matchup in their favor? Maybe not on December 14, but check back in three weeks, and I guarantee you things will be closer.
Drew: Uh...Kevan? Have you watched any Texas games this year? Putting aside they're the "No. 2" team in the nation this year (No. 2 also refers to Colt McCoy's play in the Big 12 title game), I don't know if I'd use them in any type of example of what can and cannot be accomplished. TCU is better than Texas...and I don't even think that is much of a stretch.
Let me list a few other reasons that TCU scares me this year (the year that matters most). The injury bug that Boise State kept at bay for years with a giant citronella candle has finally landed, and is slowly sucking the heart and soul out of our team. Richie Brockel, DJ Harper, Matt Kaiserman, Tyler Shoemaker...the list (unfortunately) goes on and on - but I haven't even mentioned the biggest loss: Austin Pettis. Pettis, quite simply, keeps our offense going and provides a huge safety net for Kellen Moore. Another thing that Pettis provides besides corner-fade TD grabs is the ability to spring our other star wideout Titus Young. In the 1 3/4 games that the Broncos have played sans Pettis, the passing game simply did not click. Titus Young is a playmaker and a valuable deep threat, but Kellen's long ball can be spotty and Titus is coverable. Now, having Shoemaker back will slow the blood-letting...and Kirby Moore is coming around...but we need Austin Pettis. We need him like Chris Ault needs Centrum Silver.
Oh, here's another! Boise State's defense has been incredibly inconsistent this year. After the Oregon and Miami games, I thought the Broncos might be able to stop a freight train. Then Fresno State happened, or more accurately, Ryan Mathews happened. This shook my faith in Boise State's defense to the core. Boise State, unlike last year's squad, had rediscovered their ability to give up big plays. Fresno State, Tulsa, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, Utah State, and even Idaho all got at least one biggie against the semi-vaunted BSU "D," and that is all it will take when you're playing as talented a squad as the Horned Frogs. If Boise State can't get the offense moving (Doug, we're counting on you) and they allow TCU to put consistent drives together, Boise State might get embarrassed. I don't like embarrassment...I witnessed the 2005 season.
Kevan: As a matter of fact, I did not watch any Texas games this year. On a dare, I have watched nothing but the .mtn since August. I now wish for death.
The loss of Austin Pettis is big, but it is not life-altering since Kellen Moore is still QB, Bryan Harsin is still OC, and I bought a lock of Dan Hawkins' hair from David Augusto that Augusto promises me will heal Pettis in time for the Fiesta. The Broncos have enough skill and scheme left on offense to give Boise State fans hope. I'm not predicting offensive fireworks, but there's no need to fear the Broncos laying a box of Pop-its, either.
The Bronco defense reverting to the 2007 Hawaii Bowl version lurks as a possibility, but so does the possibility that BSU can coalesce into a stew of all the dominating parts of the defense that we have seen this year. A dash of early Fresno, large parts of Tulsa - mmmm. Tastes like Fiesta Bowl champion swag. Can the Bronco defense pull it off? I'm confident that the extra prep time, the Kyle Wilson made-for-TV-movie movie ending, and the gravity of a BCS bowl will inspire an impressive effort.
Before letting you rebut, I'd like to point out the inaccuracy in one of the founding principles of this TCU fearmongering: Strength of schedule. The Horned Frogs have built their reputation on the Mountain West Conference and two road wins over BCS-conference schools. And now we have to deal with FanPosts like this:
I fully agree that TCU is one of the best teams in the Nation this year. It is a shame that they have to prove how good they are against an "overrated" Boise State team, that doesn't even deserve to be in the BCS. With that I would like to say GO FROGS! Beat them Broncos!
Jeff Sagarin, who must be important because he has his own poll, ranks the schedules of Boise State and TCU thusly:
- TCU: No. 82
- Boise State: No. 98
Fear not, Bronco Nation. The Horned Frogs went undefeated against a WAC-caliber schedule plus hype. Boise State's highest quality win was Oregon; TCU's was Clemson. Each team's next toughest games were against conference foes, which leads me to the obvious question: Does a team that beat BYU and Utah scare you?
It does not scare me. We have already been over what scares me. Overrated MWC teams do not make the list (unless they are coached by a toaster oven). TCU's margin of victory has been impressive, but its schedule is nothing to start a Bleacher Report account over. It's also nothing to fear.
Drew: Ok, ok. I agree that Boise State would've beaten BYU and Utah and owns the more impressive OOC win of the two teams (against top ten Oregon). My fear (call it trepidation if you'd like) mainly stems from so many unknowns. We know TCU has a tough-as-nails defense...we don't know if we'll see Boise State's top-flight D (or even if we'll revert back to the hellish snap problems of earlier in the season). We don't know if we'll have Pettis back. We don't know if Jerry Hughes will be held in check by the Bronco line or if he'll go all Ndamakong Suh on us.
I think Boise State and TCU are fairly evenly matched on paper, but we simply cannot afford to play like we have at times this season...TCU may have a similar schedule to ours, but we can't skate by them playing like we did against UC Davis, Tulsa, Louisiana Tech, or even Fresno or Nevada for that matter. Boise State must bring the defense from the Ducks game and the offense from the Idaho game. Anything less may spell D-I-S-S-A-S-T-E-R. Wait...did I spell that right?
Kevan: You were close. D-I-S-S-A-S-T-A-R. No wait. Ah, I don't know.
For the record, my list of games the Broncos played this year that would have been good enough to beat TCU: Oregon, Bowling Green, Tulsa, Hawaii, Idaho, Utah State, and Nevada. That's seven out of 13, which is more than 50 percent, which I can round up to equal 100 percent, meaning Boise State has played well enough in every single game this year to beat TCU. Fact.
A lot of this debate seems to come back to the eternal struggle between cautious realism and predictive optimism. For all you optimists in the room, let's eat family style from this fact: Boise State has not lost by more than two touchdowns since the 2005 season. Anyone whose fear of the Fiesta Bowl is based on the possibility of a Bronco blowout needs to rest easy. When Boise State doesn't win, it keeps games close, and so long as the game is close, there is always the chance to pull out the win. No worries.
Drew: Alright, Kevan-here's the deal. The last few bowl games where we didn't have the proper fear (read: respect) for our opponents we got beaten. I remember that the 2007 ECU team had no business being on the field with us and then Chris Johnson blew past our secondary time and again like they were standing still. Last year's consolation prize bowl game against TCU was supposed to be no contest too, and we all know how that one turned out. I'm content to fear the crap out of TCU this year and expect the worst...then maybe I will be pleasantly surprised on January 5th instead of being talked off a ledge. See, Kevan? There's a method to my madness and I'm soakin' the sheets with a purpose this time around.
If the Broncos come into the Fiesta Bowl overconfident, I'm blaming you.
Kevan: Blame away. I was named "Most likely to take the fall for something he didn't do" by my high school class, so being a scapegoat comes naturally.
Bottm line for me is that I find too many rays of hope in this matchup to be overly concerned about the Horned Frogs. Boise State has the advantage of a month's preparation, TCU is overrated based on MWC reputation and some early season close calls, and the Broncos have given me no reason over the past five years to doubt them (Taylor Tharp excluded). Bronco fans have nothing to fear about the Horned Frogs. Yes, they are good. No, they are not omnipotent.
I have to go now. I think I see a bum.
Where do you stand with this debate? Are you afraid of TCU? Do you see some signs of hope? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments, and don't forget to vote in the poll.