We have entered the stretch run. Only 4 games remain in the 2009-10 college football season. In this preview, we'll tackle 3 of them. Look for the BCS National Championship Preview on Wednesday night.
TCU vs Boise State
The 2 best mid-major teams from 2009 duke it out in a rematch of last year's Poinsettia Bowl. One season after dominating the Mountain West, but falling in a close game to Utah, the TCU Horned Frogs once again dominated their conference brethren, in addition to defeating a pair of ACC teams in the non-conference portion of their schedule. Had things broken a little differently, the Horned Frogs could very well have become the first non-BCS team to play for the mythical national title. As it stands, the Horned Frogs will have to settle for a potential number 2 ranking at the end of the season. The Horned Frogs boasted both the best offense and best defense in the Mountain West. They were challenged only twice in a pair of road games at Clemson in the non-conference and at Air Force that they won by a combined 7 points. Boise State is also undefeated (their 3rd undefeated regular season in 4 years under coach Chris Petersen), and while they dominated the WAC, this is arguably Boise's worst defense in Petersen's tenure. While it was still the best in the WAC, the Broncos allowed 3 conference opponents to score more than 30 points and 5 to score more than 20. In 2007 and 2008, only 4 WAC opponents scored more than 30 and 5 scored more than 20 against the Boise defense. The Broncos did of course famously crush Oregon in the non-conference portion of their schedule, but they also struggled to win on the road against a bowl-less 5-7 Tulsa team. TCU seems to have by far the superior team, and the Horned Frogs are likely the best mid-major team in the BCS era. Of course, Boise State is well coached and will likely have a great game plan and a few tricks up their sleeve. A Boise win would not be a total shocker, but the smart money is on the Horned Frogs.
Georgia Tech vs Iowa
Georgia Tech -5
Before their late-season losses to Northwestern and Ohio State, the Hawkeyes were the spitting image of Ohio State circa 2002. The Hawkeyes won close game after close game thanks to their superb defense, some blocked kicks, and timely if erratic play from quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Though they failed in their lofty goal of an undefeated season and Big 10 title, the Hawkeyes still have a shot at ending their season on a high note and earning some much needed respect for the Big 10. The other top defensive teams in the conference (Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) have all performed well in the bowl season. Ohio State held Oregon to its 2nd lowest yardage and point totals in their Rose Bowl upset. Penn State held LSU to its 2nd lowest yardage and 3rd lowest point total in their Capital One Bowl win. Wisconsin held Miami to its 2nd lowest point and yardage totals in their Champs Sports Bowl upset. Iowa boasted the 2nd best defense in all the Big 10, just a notch below Ohio State. The Georgia Tech offense was very good, but hardly elite in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets finished 4th in the league in both offense and defense on their way to victory in the ACC Championship Game. The ACC's champions have not fared well in BCS bowl games, going just 2-9 since the BCS was formed in 1998. Iowa's defense is legit, and the Hawkeyes should probably be favored. Don't be shocked if Iowa pulls the outright upset on Tuesday night.
Central Michigan vs Troy
Central Michigan -3
How bad does the MAC need this one? Since Central Michigan won the Motor City Bowl over MTSU on December 26, 2006, the MAC has lost 14 consecutive bowl games. Some have been close (Bowling Green losing on a last second 2 point conversion to Idaho in this year's Humanitarian Bowl), and some have been the antithesis of close (Bowling Green losing by 56 to Tulsa in the 2007 GMAC Bowl), but all have been losses. Can the Chippewas end that streak? They are certainly the best candidate to do so. The Chips boasted the number one offense and number two defense in the MAC as they rolled to an undefeated conference season. They also managed to upset Michigan State outside the conference and hung tough with Arizona. Troy also finished unbeaten in their conference, cruising to at least a share of their 4 straight Sun Belt title. The Trojans finished with the top-ranked offense in the Sun Belt and the 4th best defense. Central Michigan will probably end the MAC's run of futility in what should be an entertaining game, but I wouldn't bet on it.