Proximity a factor in Boise State choice

Boise State receiver Austin Pettis (87) catches a pass for a first down in front of TCU cornerback Rafael Priest (1) in the first quarter of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, Calif. in December 2008. TCU defeated Boise State, 17-16. Photo by Ron Jenkins, Fort Worth Star-Telegram via MCT

Boise State receiver Austin Pettis (87) catches a pass for a first down in front of TCU cornerback Rafael Priest (1) in the first quarter of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, Calif. in December 2008. TCU defeated Boise State, 17-16. Photo by Ron Jenkins, Fort Worth Star-Telegram via MCT

The BCS No. 4 Horned Frogs will play in their first BCS bowl in team history on Jan. 4 against fellow unbeaten and BCS-buster No. 6 Boise State. TCU beat the Broncos 17-16 in last year’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Tony Alba, director of media relations for the Fiesta Bowl, said the bowl chose TCU with the second selection in the BCS.

“We felt it was very difficult to overlook and bypass a very highly-ranked, very exciting team that was undefeated,” Alba said.

For the second choice the Fiesta Bowl had a difficult decision to make between Boise State and No. 3 Cincinnati, Alba said.

“It really came down to a matter of proximity,” he said. “Boise State is about a thousand miles closer to us than Cincinnati. Based on that and giving the largest number of fans the best opportunity to travel with team, we decided that selection made the most sense to us.”

Boise fans traveled well when they played in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007, he said.

Alba said there has been some backlash with the selections.

“We’ve heard some fans with the two competing institutions saying we deserve better,” he said. “To me that is a disservice to the two schools. I’m not sure I understand and follow their thinking.”

Alba said that the Fiesta Bowl is excited to have this matchup despite some of the backlash.

“TCU and Boise State have proven themselves. They’ve proven themselves on the field and all year long,” he said. ” I think once people get over whatever misdirected anger they have, I think they’ll realize they’re right where they belong playing one of the best teams in the country.”

Alba said he thinks most of the negative reaction is coming from the perception that Boise and TCU want to play the big boys.

“You are the big guys. You’re undefeated and you’re in the top 6 in the country,” he said. “When you’re making a criticism about this matchup you’re criticizing yourselves. This is the first time in the history of the BCS you have two undefeated teams outside of the National Championship.”

Boise State played in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007 where they pulled off an upset of Oklahoma in a 43-42 overtime win.

Boise State led for most of the game but the Sooners came back and took a 35-28 lead with 1:02 left. The Broncos scored a touchdown with 7 seconds remaining on a hook and lateral play to send the game into overtime.

Oklahoma scored first in overtime off a 25-yard Adrian Peterson run to take a 42-35 lead. Boise State scored on their possession off a wide receiver pass. Instead of kicking the extra point to send the game into a second overtime, Boise opted for a two-point conversion attempt and the win.

The Broncos ran a Statue of Liberty play where quarterback Jared Zabransky faked a pass to the right and handed the ball off with his back hand to running back Ian Johnson who went untouched into the end zone for the win. After the game Johnson proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on live TV.

Despite the crazy finish and the proposal, the game was one of the lowest-rated in Fiesta Bowl history with an 8.4 Nielsen rating.

The Fiesta Bowl started in 1971. The game was established after Arizona State and other Western Athletic Conference teams would have good seasons and not be invited to good bowl games, Alba said.

The Fiesta Bowl was also the first BCS bowl to pick a non-BCS conference team to play in the game. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, unbeaten Utah beat Pittsburgh 35-7. The game was also one of the lowest-rated for the Fiesta with a 7.4 Nielsen rating.

Before last year’s Poinsettia bowl, the last time TCU and Boise State played was in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl, with the Broncos winning 34-31.