Monday, January 01, 2007

BOWL PREVIEW: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Apologize in advance that this is rushed...

One of the criticisms people often have of college football's postseason is that a Cinderella story could never happen. The Fiesta Bowl proves them wrong.

It's not that Cinderella doesn't get a chance to go to the ball in the BCS. It's just that college football doesn't allow a team that it almost certainly not the best team in the country to play for the championship.

On the other hand, it does have a chance to play in one of the biggest games of the year, that being the Fiesta Bowl.

And the Fiesta Bowl actually kind of has two underdogs this year. The other? Oklahoma, whom a lot of people -- self included -- counted out of the hunt for anything other than a bowl named after an obscure corporation after the loss of Rhett Bomar.

Bowl: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Location: Glendale, Arizona
When: Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Purported reason for existence: To pair two BCS teams against each other.
Real reason for existence: To test the retractable roof on the new Cardinals Stadium, since everyone knew the Cardinals wouldn't play in January and they didn't want it to fall in the middle of the NC game. Jared Zabransky is expendable; Troy Smith isn't.
Teams: Boise State vs. Oklahoma
Interest level: David vs. Goliath. If it's an upset, great. If not, though, it could get ugly.
Key player for Boise State (on offense): RB Ian Johnson, who ran for 1,613 yards and 24 TDs. In 11 of the team's 12 games. Not bad, that Johnson kid.
Key player for Boise State (on defense): DT Andrew Browning has rung up 10 TFL, 8 sacks and a blocked kick.
Key player for Oklahoma (on offense): QB Paul Thompson, who threw for 2,434 yards and 20 TDs against 8 INTs during a season when he was widely expected to implode on the field. Instead he guided the team even after Adrian Peterson went down. Peterson returns, but Thompson might have to compensate if the running back is rusty.
Key player for Oklahoma (on defense): Rufus Alexander stacked up 101 tackles, 10.5 of those for losses. He also had two sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and two recoveries.
Coaching matchup: First-year Boise State coach Chris "So, Hawkins was the genius?" Petersen against Bob "I hate car washes" Stoops. Stoops has been there before; judging from some performances, though, that's not necessarily a good thing.
Winner: Oklahoma. But the game will be a lot closer than most people think.

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