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Posted: Wednesday December 21, 2005 4:33PM; Updated: Friday December 23, 2005 2:19PM
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Bowl Breakdown: Houston
No. 14 TCU (10-1) vs. Iowa State (7-4)
Dec. 31, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Reliant Stadium (69,500)
Houston

SI.com's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchup.

Breaking down TCU

Cory Rodgers earned All-America honors as a return specialist after averaging nearly 32 yards per kick return.
Cory Rodgers earned All-America honors as a return specialist after averaging nearly 32 yards per kick return.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Horned Frogs scored a season-opening upset of Oklahoma and swept through their new conference, the Mountain West, for their first outright league title since 1958. The tailback tandem of junior Robert Merrill and freshman Aaron Brown combined for 1,512 yards and 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Jeff Ballard proved an unflappable replacement for injured starter Tye Gunn.

Like all of coach Gary Patterson's great teams, TCU fielded an aggressive and opportunistic defense. Sophomores Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz headline a run-stuffing defensive line. Three of the four starting defensive backs earned all-conference honors. Meanwhile, Cory Rodgers is an All-America return specialist, and kicker Chris Manfredini made all 12 of his field-goal attempts.  

Breaking down Iowa State

After a rough start, Cyclones sophomore quarterback Bret Meyer was solid for the rest of the season. He gets great protection from his offensive line, led by center Scott Stephenson. Meyer's favorite target, wideout Todd Blythe, is a dangerous big-play threat. With veteran tailback Stevie Hicks battling injury, Iowa State struggled to run the ball, but Hicks should be healthy for this game.

Iowa State ranked in the top half of the Big 12 defensively. The Cyclones play a 3-4, and nose guard Nick Leaders is the heart and soul of the unit. Linebackers Tim Dobbins and Jason Berryman are big hitters, and senior safeties Nik Moser and Steve Paris do a good job preventing big plays. Iowa State intercepted 21 passes.  

Final Analysis

Iowa State's offense was fairly prolific the second half of the season, but TCU will be one of the toughest defenses the Cyclones have faced. The Horned Frogs should be able to shut down Iowa State's running game, putting the onus on their cornerbacks to prevent Blythe from beating them on the deep ball.

The pick: TCU 28, Iowa State 24.

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