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Throwdown on The Blue: the Boise State Broncos vs. the TCU Horned Frogs

One of the most anticipated football games in the Mountain West Conference if not all of college ball gets underway next Saturday on the Blue Turf at Bronco Stadium.  That is when #5 Boise State (8-0, 3-0) takes on #24 TCU (7-2, 4-0), who is ranked 1st place in the Mountain West Conference. The game will be one of the toughest challenges of the season for both teams in what some are calling Not-A-Rivalry Rivalry.

Boise State is coming off a road victory last weekend over UNLV, 48-21 and TCU is visiting the Broncos after a road victory of their own at Laramie, where they took down a good up Wyoming, 31-20.

This will be the fourth meeting between the two teams and the Broncos lead the series 2-1, with all three of the previous games decided by a touchdown or less. In the first meeting in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl the #18 Broncos took on the #19 ranked Horned Frogs and won, 34-31. The second game came in 2008 when the #9 ranked Boise State lost to #11 TCU in the San Diego County Poinsettia Bowl, 17-16.  The last meeting was in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl in Phoexix when #6 ranked Boise State and #4 TCU were paired up again by the BCS. Boise State once again came out on top by a score of 17-10.

The game this weekend gets underway at 1:30 PM MTN and will be televised on Versus.

Boise State is coming off the win in Las Vegas where the Broncos struggled in the first half. "We have to come out with a better game," Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said after that game as he looked ahead to Saturday's matchup with TCU.

That's because the Horned Frogs rushed for a season-high 390 yards and four touchdowns last weekend. While it was a less than polished TCU team that turned the ball over 5 times, they still put up an impressive 611 yards of total offense. The win also extended the Horned Frogs win streak record in the Mountain West Conference to 21 games, and they intend on taking that to 22 at the expense of the Broncos.

Coach Petersen knows what to expect. TCU is ranked No. 2 in the Mountain West Conference and No. 16 in the nation in rushing yards for good reason. Those numbers come behind TCU’s infamous three-headed monster . That monster consists of RB's Waymon James, 5-8 203 lbs, Ed Wesley, 5-9 200 lbs, and Matthew Tucker, 6-1 218 lbs. They dominated Wyoming last week putting up 391 rushing yards and four touchdowns. So far this season James has carried the ball 77 times for 650 yards, giving him an average of 8.4 yards a run. Throw in 4 TD's while you are figuring and that is not too shabby after 9 games. Tucker has carried 97 times for 527 yards but has also punched in 9 TD's, while Wesley has carried 78 times for 517 yards and 3 TD's.

Simply put, TCU's head coach Gary Patterson has another good offensive squad while starting over in the first year of a post-Dalton era. There is no question that the Horned Frogs are starting to get it figured out with sophomore QB Casey Pachall, 6-4 208 lbs, at the helm. Pachall is showing he is more than capable of taking over the quarterback spot. He has 161 completions on 235 attempts for 1,940 yards this year, including 19 TDs and only 5 INTs. He has a bunch of good receivers giving him a hand with those stats. One of those is WR Josh Boyce, 6-1 203 lbs, who has 46 catches for 704 yards, giving him an average of 15.3 yards per reception on top of 6 TD's. WR Skye Dawson, 5-10 175 lbs, is another favorite Pachall target, and has 33 catches for 362 yards and 4 TD's this year.

Boise State will have to be up to their game to stop them and there is not a Bronco in the lineup who is not taking TCU as a deadly threat . Defensively, DT Billy Winn, 6-4 295 lbs, who was out for much of last weeks game should be back. DE Shea McClellin, 6-3 258 lbs, will be there for sure, anchoring down the line. He will be looking to slow down the TCU running game and keeping the pressure on Pachall. McClellin had 8 tackles and a sack last week giving him 35 tackles and 5 sacks through 8 games. Downfield, Frog receivers might have it hard as well with safety George Iloka, 6-3 216 lbs, expected to be in their grill all night. Iloka had 5 tackles last week, and 4 were solo. You can also expect to see a new kid on the block: true freshman CB Lee Hightower, 6-1 170 lbs. He's played in the last three games and last week played well against the Rebels by recording 4 tackles.

TCU has finished ranked No. 1 in total defense in the past three straight seasons, and while still among the toughest in the nation, it is not as dominate as it used to be. Boise State is hoping it stays that way through this week so that QB Kellen Moore can punch holes in it. Last week Moore became the all-time leader in wins among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks last Saturday in Vegas. He now has 46-2 in career victories, passing former Texas Colt McCoy for the #1 spot on the all-time list. The record was previously held by Georgia's David Greene and Tennessee's Peyton Manning.

When Moore tosses the ball one of his targets will be senior WR Tyler Shoemaker, 6-1 213 lbs. Shoe has 11 touchdown catches in eight games and only needs four more to break the school record and he has five games remaining. WR Matt Miller, 6-3 215 lbs, is another fan favorite who is getting his share of catches. So far this season he is averaging 11.2 yards on each completion.

As for Boise State injuries, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said last week's injuries to RB Doug Martin, 5-9 215 lbs, DT Billy Winn and QB Grant Hedrick, 6-1 191 lbs, are not considered serious, but they are all three listed as day-to-day and are questionable to be in the mix Saturday. If he's up for the game, expect Martin to be sharing the running duties with RB DJ Harper, 5-9 210 lbs.

The game at Boise will be the first and only time the two teams will meet as MWC foes as TCU will join the Big 12 in 2012. Both are looking to lay claim to the Mountain West Conference title, and the Broncos are also looking to keep their BCS chances alive. TCU, on the other hand, has an ax to grind after having their schedule shuffled to play Boise State on The Blue instead of down in Texas once again in front of their Lone Star folks.

That's why you can look for a slug-fest in a game almost too close to call.

My predictions: Boise State 37, TCU 34.