It seems as if it has been MONTHS since I was standing on the sideline at chilly Arrowhead Stadium watching the Oklahoma Sooners win the Big 12 Title over long-time conference rival Nebraska. Monday night's kickoff in Glendale, Arizona can't get here quick enough for me.
I need to hear some "Boomer Sooner", to see No. 28 run one more time in an OU uniform, watch the head man wearing the visor out-strategize the opposition, see an offensive line made up of a "litter" of 300-plus pound "pups" rise up and hunt, and see a relentless defense with blistering team speed tackle surely and with a purpose.
Another thing I hope to see at the Fiesta Bowl is for Paul Thompson to have his personal game of a lifetime, which essentially means to continue facilitating Kevin Wilson's Sooner offense efficiently just as we have seen over this tumultuous season. Plus, no turnovers are requested.
But I have to admit that this game has me concerned.
Boise State is one of only two undefeated teams in Division-1 football and has scored their way to a 12-0 record in 2006. Boise State won its 12 games this season by an average score of 39-16. The Broncos have a great, innovative offense with veteran quarterback Jared Zabransky, who completed 66 percent of his passes this season. Boise has running back Ian Johnson, who scored more T.D.'s (24) than any back in Division-1 football and gained 1,613 yards rushing this season. That's not a bad offensive combination.
It might just be me with too much free time on my hands, but at times it seems as if the OU linebackers have issues covering backs out of the backfield, and Boise State is definitely a team that can throw to their backs. The Broncos will try anything and everything to move the ball on the Sooners, keep AD and company seated, and make the Fiesta Bowl a short game in the Broncos' favor.
The biggest fear I have of Boise State is that they have the intangible that is hard to quantify and to defend….HOPE.
The Fiesta Bowl is so huge in the state of Idaho that perhaps in our own world of football arrogance we have overlooked its historic magnitude for an entire State. Sure, we hear sound bytes about it on SportsCenter and we hear the local OKC sports talkers mention BSU's magical season culminating in this BCS Bowl Game, but the impact this football game is having on the entire state of Idaho is amazing. Potato production has taken a back seat to the men who play on the blue turf on Saturday afternoons. Hope springs eternal in the state of Idaho for their beloved Broncos in the biggest college football game in their history. It's like a whole state of "Rudy's".
Boise State is not a mistake prone team. BSU is likely not going to beat itself. The Broncos have lost only nine fumbles and have thrown just eight interceptions in 12 games this season. However, the Broncos have not played against a defense with the team speed and overall skills of the Sooners.
As 2006 progressed, Brent Venables' crew grew up before our very eyes, especially when it comes to basic tackling and the maturation of the hugely athletic secondary. On the proverbial gridiron, hitting people in the mouth on a regular basis never hurts anything either and the intense Venables has his crew playing smart and aggressively.
OU ‘s defense recognizing BSU's offensive formations is a key in this game as the potential of a receiver running free strikes me as a possibility, even though I thought the same thing about the Texas Tech game. Look for Boise State to try and utilize misdirection to combat the team speed of the Sooners. The Sooners should control the line of scrimmage Monday night on both sides of the football, and particularly on the defensive side.
I expect to see the Sooners provide Adrian Peterson with every opportunity to break Billy Sims' career rushing record, and with that said the play-action passes should be a viable option for OU on Monday night. Boise State's pass defense ranks 48th in the nation if you are keeping score at home.
With the threat of AD, AP, and Chris Brown running the ball down their throats, the Broncos might be more vulnerable to the pass than most teams, which means Kevin Sumlin's outstanding young receiving corps could have big days. BSU doesn't have a DB that can handle Kelly, Iglesias, or Johnson in a one-on-one environment, and that will be what the Broncos will employ as their defensive emphasis must be on stopping OU's running game.
General James S. Patton's offensive line, with true freshman stallion Trent Williams back in the starting lineup after an ankle injury in the Big 12 Title Game, has been a gam- changing asset all year and these young and athletic carnivores have kept getting better and better. The Sooner practices have been physical and intense leading into January 1. No one is telling blue turf jokes. Serious business is being conducted in Arizona with more than the occasional Slobber-Knocker.
If the Sooner offensive line dominates for four quarters and turnovers don't bite us in the "Mack Brown", Oklahoma wins the Fiesta Bowl by double digits. Allowing Boise State to retain their "hope" and take the Sooners deep into the four quarter is a scenario I don't like to visualize.
Let's not forget one important intangible element of this game. The Fiesta Bowl is the biggest game for any team from the state of Idaho in any sport…EVER.
Is the Fiesta Bowl the biggest sporting event in Oklahoma Football history?
Monday night it had better be.
Editor's note: Check out Jim Ross' personal website at www.jrsbarbq.com and look for "J.R.'s Family BBQ" to open in the spring of 2007 in Norman.
Ross: Are we there yet?
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