SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — No. 3 TCU and No. 6 Boise State will meet in the Fiesta Bowl, marking the first time a BCS game other than the championship game had a matchup of unbeaten teams.
It's also the first time two teams from conferences without automatic bids to the BCS have played in the five big-money bowls in the same season.
Mountain West champion TCU (12-0) earned an automatic bid to become a BCS buster for the first time in school history.
Western Athletic Conference champ Boise State (13-0) became the first team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to receive an at-large bid.
The Horned Frogs and Broncos played in the Poinsettia Bowl last season. TCU won 17-16, to hand Boise State its only loss of the season.
This time, the so-called little guys will move their tussle to the big stage.
"I feel great," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "We got what we wanted. We're playing a great opponent. With tough opponents there is great opportunity."
They might want to roll back the roof at Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 4, because the game should provide plenty of offensive fireworks.
Boise State has the nation's highest-scoring attack, averaging 44.1 points per game. TCU ranks fourth at 40.7 points per game.
For a few hours on Saturday night, it looked as if the Horned Frogs might slip into the BCS title game. No. 3 Texas found itself in a protracted defensive struggle with No. 21 Nebraska in the Big 12 playoff, and a Longhorns loss may have cleared the way for TCU to become the first school from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play for the national title.
But Texas pulled out a 13-12 victory, and Cincinnati finished ahead of TCU in the final standings anyway.
The Horned Frogs, 12-0 for the first time, will settle for a trip to the desert for their BCS debut.
Their resume is solid. TCU opened the regular season with a 30-14 victory at Virginia and two weeks later the Frogs went into Death Valley and beat Clemson 14-10.
Later, the Frogs added resounding victories at Brigham Young (38-7) and over Utah (55-28).
With three running backs averaging at least 50 yards per game, TCU chews up 265.5 rushing yards, fifth nationally. Quarterback Andy Dalton ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency, with 22 TDs and only five interceptions in 279 pass attempts.
Boise State players, parents and fans gathered in the new press box at Bronco Stadium to watch the bowl selection show.
The crowd erupted when the pairing was announced. But moments later, the crowd reacted with much less enthusiasm when TCU was announced as the Broncos' foe. Bronco fans had been hoping for a matchup with a Big Ten team like Iowa or Penn State.
Petersen said he wasn't disappointed to face the Frogs.
"I just think there is so much respect out there for TCU," Petersen said. "People say they should be playing in the national championship game. Maybe they should. I think that just adds to the excitement for us."
The Broncos will make their second Fiesta Bowl appearance in four years. Most fans distinctly recall their first trip.
In January 2007, the eighth-ranked Broncos used a passel of trick plays to stun 10th-ranked Oklahoma in a game still regarded as one of the great bowls in college football history. Afterward, tailback Ian Johnson proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend, giving the Fiesta Bowl an indelible image of the underdog-as-conqueror.
This time, the Broncos may bring an even stronger squad to Glendale.
Boise State kicked off the season with a resounding 19-8 victory over 16th-ranked Oregon, the eventual Pac-10 champion.
Then the Broncos rolled through a schedule ranked 94th — out of 120 — by the NCAA. Boise State's closest game was a 28-21 victory at Tulsa, which lost to Oklahoma 45-0.
The Broncos are led by quarterback Kellen Moore, the nation's top-rated passer. Feasting on anemic WAC defenses, Moore completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,053 yards and 38 touchdowns, and he threw only three interceptions in 362 pass attempts.