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2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Breakdown

The Match-up

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The early lines have installed Oklahoma as an 8-9 point favorite in the 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but much of that is based on program reputation. One of the storied programs in NCAA history, the Sooners have been to 3 of the last 7 BCS National Championship Games, winning one in 2000. Boise State, on the other hand, is a small conference school without much national visibility.

What that means is nobody really knows what to expect, not even the teams playing. Boise State's schedule is filled with other small conference teams while Oklahoma played and defeated 5 teams that are headed to a bowl game. However, the Broncos blew out Oregon State 42-14 early in the season, a team that narrowly defeated the USC Trojans.

Boise State has one of the most explosive and balanced offensive attacks in the NCAA, but it is safe to say they haven't faced a defense as talented as Oklahoma's. After a sluggish start, the Sooners' defense has turned into one of the best in the country, particularly against the run and in getting turnovers. How Jared Zabransky and Ian Johnston respond to that challenge will go a long way in determining the outcome.

On the other side of the ball, Boise State's defense has absolutely shut down runners in 2006. But once again, it's safe to say they've never faced a running back of Adrian Peterson's caliber, a singular talent expected to be running against NFL defenses next year. Thompson has been steady and largely mistake-free, with a playmaker at his disposal in the 6'4" Malcolm Kelly.

One can measure statistics all day and get no closer to an answer in who will win this game because of the great disparity in competition level. Most know what to expect from Oklahoma, a tough defensive effort and a grinding offense, but people can only guess how Boise State will respond on such a big stage.

No doubt the Broncos will be fired up. This is their opportunity to make one of college football's most profound statements of 2006, not just for themselves but for all of the small conference teams throughout the NCAA. Their emotion will be high, and the Sooners absolutely cannot overlook that unless they wish to be shocked in Glendale.

In games such as these, it is not uncommon to see a team like Boise State jump out to an early advantage. After all, they arguable have more to prove than a team like Oklahoma, who has already answered the 2006 critics with a tremendous finish. But if that initial wave of emotion passes, talent often wins out. Few, even the die-hard Boise State faithful, can deny that Oklahoma has more talent across the board.

The Broncos will keep Oklahoma's defense on its toes with an efficient passing game among many receivers and an explosive running game with Ian Johnston. Oklahoma will look to give Peterson all the carries he can handle in what figures to be his farewell party with the Sooners. Boise State knows Peterson's chasing an Oklahoma record, though, and they will force Thompson to try to win the game from the pocket by gameplanning against the run and the rollout pass.
 

Prediction

Very few around the nation will give Boise State much of a chance in this one. "Just don't embarrass yourselves, and you've made great strides," some will say. "You simply don't belong in the BCS," others will contend. But those people are short-changing a Boise State team that is not used to losing.

I expect Boise State to play poised and relaxed. Even against a defense as talented at taking the ball away as Oklahoma's, I don't see the Broncos turning the ball over often. Focus has not been greater for the Broncos players than it will be on New Year's night.

In my humble opinion, though, the Broncos will slowly wear down against the Sooners. It is difficult to sustain the great emotion of what sits on their shoulders, and Oklahoma is 2nd to very few in the nation in speed and conditioning. A close game early will open toward the end as Oklahoma shows Boise State far more than they got from their last big conference foe.

Peterson will break a big run or two and will top Oklahoma's storied rushing record, and the Sooners will be very complimentary of a tough and talented Boise State team.

Oklahoma 33, Boise State 17

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