Stay Classy, San Diego: Poinsettia Bowl Open Thread

The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl battle royale between our California Golden Bears and the Texas Longhorns is still one week away. I can feel the anticipation and excitement oozing from this blog already. But before the Bears and Horns take the field in San Diego, we have another bowl game to be staged on that same field...TODAY!

You know about this one, Cal fans -- it is the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The last time our Bears went bowling, they went down to defeat to the erstwhile Mountain West Conference member Utah Utes in this very same bowl game. Tonight, the Poinsettia Bowl features an intriguing matchup between the MWC champion TCU Horned Frogs and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, champions of the Western Athletic Conference.

This is your open thread for the Poinsettia Bowl. Talk about all the hot Frog-on-Bulldog action here. Learn a little more about the combatants after the jump.

San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

TCU Horned Frogs (10-2 overall, 7-0 MWC) vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-4 overall, 6-1 WAC)

The wise former Cal quarterback Mike Pawlawski once said, "Never thumb your nose at a conference champion." So if we heed the words of Mr. Pawlawski, the Poinsettia Bowl is not a bowl to thumb your nose at. The game features a matchup of two conference champions: TCU won the Mountain West with an undefeated record in conference play while Louisiana Tech was only once beaten in the WAC.

At this time last year, TCU was getting ready for another southern California bowl game named after a flower -- the Rose something or other. While TCU may not be headed to a BCS bowl this year, its 10-2 record (including a win on the blue turf at Boise State) and MWC championship are not a bad follow-up to last year's historic season. And TCU's run this year shouldn't come as much of a surprise because they still have plenty of weapons:

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.

As for Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs ride a seven-game winning streak into this game. After starting the season 1-4, including a loss to Hawaii in the conference opener, the Bulldogs did not lose again and captured the WAC title by one game over Utah State and Nevada. Sonny Dykes is Louisiana Tech's head coach and, not surprisingly, his Bulldog offense might be familiar to Cal fans from Dykes' days as Arizona offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2009.

A fast-paced attack that continuously keeps opponents on its heels, Louisiana Tech's offense has the ability to drive down the field behind a powerful rushing attack led by Doak Walker Award candidate Lennon Creer or strike quickly with the big play ability of Quinton Patton. Led by two-time Manning Award Star of the Week Colby Cameron, Tech's balanced offense has multiple weapons in its arsenal to strike with.

Tech's stingy, opportunistic defense has forced opposing teams to make mistakes and then capitalized on them. This "GATA" squad has scored five touchdowns this year off the miscues of others and held every opponent below their rushing average each game.

A Ray Guy Award Finalist, Ryan Allen has consistently been one of the nation's top punters this year with an NCAA best 36 punts inside the 20-yard line and 17 punts inside the 10-yard line this season entering today's game. Allen, ranking fourth in the nation with over 46 yards per punt, has been a steady force in flipping the field and pinning opposing teams deep in their own territory throughout the year.

Enjoy the game.

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