Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
TCU take by college football blogger Kevin Gemmell: After dropping the season opener to Baylor, and then falling to SMU four games later in overtime, people were starting to wonder if TCU could really overcome the loss of quarterback Andy Dalton. But the Horned Frogs went on a tear after the SMU loss, winning seven straight, including a thrilling 36-35 win at Boise State.
Quarterback Casey Pachall has been excellent, tossing 24 touchdowns to six interceptions while completing nearly 68 percent of his passes. TCU has a deep backfield, headlined by Waymon James (98-786-4), Matthew Tucker (109-629-10) and Ed Wesley (96-615-4). The three-headed rushing attack has the Horned Frogs averaging 210 yards per game -- ranked 20th nationally. That high-powered offense averages better than 41 points per game.
The defense isn't as stout as its been the past couple of seasons, though Stansly Maponga has been solid in the pass rush, generating six solo sacks and assisting on five others.
Not to be overlooked, TCU has the No. 1 kick return team in the nation -- boasting an average of 28.57 yards per kick and three kick returns for touchdowns.
Louisiana Tech take by college football Matt Fortuna: The Bulldogs entered 2011 with just four returning starters on each side of the ball, were picked to finish fourth in the Western Athletic Conference and had no real answer at quarterback. Despite close losses against eventually ranked opponents Southern Miss and Houston, their only win in their first five games was by six points against Central Arkansas, an FCS school.
They then won their final seven games to finish 8-4, won their first WAC title since 2001 and earned a berth in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
The seven-game winning streak was Louisiana Tech's first since 1973-74. It featured three turnover-free games and six defensive touchdowns for the Bulldogs. It included a blowout win at an SEC school (Ole Miss) and a 44-0 shutout against Nevada to close the regular season.
The defense did not allow a 100-yard rusher in 10 of 12 games. It recorded a conference-best 20 interceptions and ranked 11th in the nation in turnover margin. The Bulldogs even got help from their punter, Ryan Allen, a Ray Guy Award semifinalist who was largely responsible for the nation's No. 8 punting unit.