The Sweep

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Coach Chris Petersen isn't afraid to call trick plays. :: AP

Few coaches in the country are as resourceful on offense as Boise State's Chris Petersen. This is a man who -- as every Oklahoma fan well knows -- isn't afraid to call a hook-and-ladder or statue-of-liberty play with a game on the line. And based on that and almost nothing else, I think the Broncos will prevail against TCU tonight in the greatest matchup the Poinsettia Bowl has ever known.

Boise State's offense is often described as gimmicky, but I don't think that's accurate. If anything, the Broncos have usually relied on a fairly balanced attack, one that emphasizes the run as well as the pass, and have souped it up with lots of exotic formations and substitution packages, as well as the occasional trick play. They present defenses with a raft of different looks and personnel groupings, then open their playbook wide and let it rip. When Colorado coach Dan Hawkins was still there, he once told me Boise State "wasn't big enough to just line up against most teams. We have to scheme a little bit."

Petersen was the offensive coordinator under Hawkins, and so was his head coach's chief schemer. I'm curious to see what he comes up with to challenge the TCU defense, which is one of the fastest and most schematically sound outfits in the country.

Leaving aside the Horned Frogs' defeat at Oklahoma early in the season (a game in which they held the Sooners to a season-low 35 points -- the same number OU scored in its loss to Texas), they haven't given up more than two touchdowns in a game all year. That includes their 13-10 loss to Utah back on Nov. 6. TCU's defense dominated that game until the final minutes, when Utes quarterback Brian Johnson engineered a game-winning 80-yard scoring drive.

After the game, Johnson told me the difference at the end was the hurry-up nature of Utah's two-minute offense. He noted the Utes had tacked on a field goal in the waning seconds of the first half after a similar drive and said, "They turned all night to the sideline to get their defensive calls. When we sped up the tempo, they didn't have time for that and got misaligned on a few plays."

Could that pearl of wisdom be the key to victory for the Broncos? It certainly won't be the only factor, but I'm willing to bet Petersen and his offensive staff have studied the tape of that game very closely. If the Frogs' defense is as dominant tonight as it is capable of being, then it wouldn't surprise me to see Boise State go to some form of two-minute offense.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Enjoy the game. Have a great Christmas (if that's your thing) and a happy Holiday.

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