TCU (10-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4); Wednesday, December 21, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch: You like points? TCU brings a top 10 scoring offense to San Diego to go against the nascent Air Raid being pieced together in Ruston by points-first partisans Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin. The Horned Frogs are averaging more than 40 points a game, and the Bulldogs, who famously kept pace with Houston in a September game, wrapped up their season with a 44-0 blanking of New Mexico State. In the purple corner: Andy Dalton replacement part-turned-reliable passing threat Casey Pachall, flanked by a pair of top 100 returners in Ed Wesley and Waymon James. And in red and blue: Quarterback Colby Cameron, himself a successful replacement part for early starter Nick Isham, all-conference receiver Quinton Patton and a top 50 runner in Tennessee transplant Lennon Creer. [UPDATE: Creer has been ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game and will not travel with the team to San Diego.]
Keep an eye on: Coach Dykes, for one, who’s rumored to be in the mix for the now-vacant Houston gig. On the field, don’t sleep on the remote special-teams battle between Ray Guy Award-winning LaTech punter Ryan Allen and TCU’s Wesley, as well as the post-kickoff antics of TCU defensive back Greg McCoy, shiniest cog of the nation’s top-ranked return game. And note carefully the continuity of the Frogs’ production on offense, with the recent unfortunate departure of offensive coordinator Justin Fuente for an equally unfortunate head-coaching opportunity in Memphis.
Did you know: Horned Frog lore holds that “When angered or frightened, horned frogs can squirt a fine, four-foot stream of blood from their eyes,” but TCU’s actual plush Horned Frog mascot has never been caught in the act.
Final analysis: While LaTech has to be extremely pleased to be in this situation, and deservedly so, TCU is mad. Mad, and wielding an array of attractive options on offense and a defense of a caliber the Bulldogs haven’t faced since their Week 1 loss to the Golden Eagles. A shootout loss to Baylor and an overtime faceplant against SMU cost TCU a run at a BCS bowl, by a combined margin of nine points; in a year where both Boise State and Houston fell out of TCU’s way late, a seven-game win streak to close out the season and a conference title weren’t enough to vault the Frogs to an at-large bid, thanks to the vagaries of the BCS system. There’s always a danger they could come out flat, but the likelier danger is that they throw and run until Pachall’s arm and both of Wesley’s and James’ legs fall off. If you prick Gary Patterson, does he not squirt blood from his eyes?
The pick: TCU 41, Louisiana Tech 28.