The 2011 Poinsettia Bowl matches a pair of outright champions from non-automatic BCS qualifier conferences as perennial Mountain West champ TCU takes on unexpected WAC titleholder Louisiana Tech. Both teams are riding 7-game winning streaks.
"We are excited to pit two conference champions against one another in this year’s bowl game," said Wasker.
TCU captured its third straight undefeated MWC title in its final year in the conference as it moves to the Big East - no, wait - Big 12 next season. Louisiana Tech last won the WAC in 2001, but did so this year under second-year head coach Sonny Dykes.
TCU came within two BCS spots in the rankings of capturing a second straight BCS bowl bid. The Horned Frogs were the highest-ranked champions of a non-automatic qualifier conference but only finished 18th in the final BCS Standings. The defending Rose Bowl champions needed to be ranked at least 16th to gain automatic entry.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson said, "Bowl games are a great reward for our players. We are looking forward to making the trip to San Diego."
The last 8 Mountain West champions have gone through their respective conference schedules unscathed and there haven't been co-champions of the league since its first year of existence in 1999 when BYU, Colorado State and Utah shared the crown.
The WAC title was somewhat up for grabs after Boise State's defection to the Mountain West, which didn't work out too well for the Broncos. Boise State is relegated to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas for the second straight season, thanks to a 1-point home loss to TCU on a missed field goal. The situation was eerily similar to its 2010 demise at Nevada.
TCU finished the regular season 10-2 overall and 7-0 in the Mountain West.
This year’s game will mark the Horned Frogs third appearance in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. They defeated Northern Illinois 37-7 in 2006 and beat then undefeated Boise State 17-16 in 2008.
TCU ranks among the national leaders in total offense with its average of 443.9 yards per game. The Horned Frogs have scored at least 27 points in each game this season while reaching the 31-point mark in 11 of 12 contests.
Sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall, who ranks in seventh nationally in passing efficiency, is on pace for several TCU single-season passing records. He has completed 67.8 percent of his attempts with 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Fellow sophomore Josh Boyce has 56 receptions for 932 yards, leaving him just 68 yards shy of becoming just the second 1,000-yard receiver in TCU history. Waymon James (824 yards), Matthew Tucker (684 yards) and Ed Wesley (649 yards) lead a potent TCU ground attack.
2011 Rose Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player Tank Carder headlines TCU's defense. Carder has 66 tackles, including 4 1/2 for loss. He has returned both his interceptions for touchdowns. Sophomore defensive end Stansly Maponga tops the Horned Frogs in tackles for loss (12), sacks (8 1/2), forced fumbles (5) and fumble recoveries (2). Linebacker Kenny Cain is TCU's leading tackler with 67 stops. TCU has led the nation in total defense five times in the last 11 seasons.
"We have a lot of respect for Louisiana Tech and coach Sonny Dykes," said Patterson. "They're conference champions and have had an outstanding season with some very impressive wins. They've gone on the road and beat an SEC team. They are very skilled on both sides of the ball."
Louisiana Tech, 8-4 overall and 6-1 in the WAC, won 27-7 at Mississippi on November 12 and lost by just 6 points at Mississippi State in overtime, 26-20.
The Bulldogs received, and accepted, the Poinsettia Bowl bid following a 44-0 victory over New Mexico State on November 26th that clinched at least a share of the WAC title. It became an outright title when Nevada lost at Utah State later that same day.
Louisiana Tech's 7-game winning streak is its longest such streak since 1974 when the Bulldogs won 10 straight games.
The Bulldog offense is ranked 3rd in the WAC in rushing and 6th in passing. When the season opened, 17-year old freshman Nick Isham was the quarterback. Isham had seven starts before being replaced by junior Colby Cameron in the 3rd quarter of the game against Utah State and the Bulldogs haven't lost since. Cameron has completed over 56% of his throws for 1,385 yards with 11 TD's and just 2 INT's.
The rushing attack is led by Lennon Creer (838 yards, 9 TD's) and Hunter Lee (586 yards, 4 TD's), both of whom have had three 100-yard games. Quinton Patton is the leading receiver in yards (1,135) and TD's (10).
Louisiana Tech topped the WAC in run defense and ranked 3rd overall. Defensive end Christian Lacey is tied for 17th in the nation with 8-1/2 sacks and LB Adrien Cole has a 72 solo tackles to rank 6th. The Bulldogs rank 3rd nationally with 20 interceptions.
Punter Ray Allen won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter. He averaged 46.31 yards while placing 36 of his 78 kicks inside the 20-yard line.
The Bulldogs will be making their sixth bowl appearance (2-2-1) and first since 2008. The Horned Frogs will be playing in their 28th bowl game (12-14-1) and 7th in-a-row.
The Poinsettia Bowl Bowl is played at the 70,561-seat Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego which also serves as the home of the NFL's San Diego Chargers, college football's San Diego State Aztecs and the Holiday Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for Dec. 21, at 8p.m. EST with national network television coverage on ESPN.
The Congrove Computer Rankings project TCU as a 10.20-point winner in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.