Along with a tough game between Colorado and Brigham Young, the Freedom Bowl will feature a contest of another sort - the battle of the nation's top two punters.
Colorado's Keith English and Brigham Young's Pat Thompson are separated by a quarter-yard-per-punt average. And Thursday's Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, Calif., is something neither is taking lightly."This is a personal battle between me and him and nobody else," said Thompson. "Awards are great. He got them and there's nothing I can say about that. I got a couple he didn't.
"It will be neat to play against him," Thompson continued. "We're too close to measure - the way different people do stats and where the ball is marked. What's a quarter of a yard?"
English, a fifth-year senior, led the nation in punting with a 45.04-yard average. Thompson, a four-year man, moved from 11th nationally with a 43.3-yard average to one slot behind English with a 44.78-yard average.
English was named the consensus All-America, and made The Associated Press first team in addition to Walter Camp. Thompson received first-team honors from Football Writers of America and Kodak.
"I feel no more pressure kicking against him than I did against anybody else," English said. "I never felt like this game was a personal thing. It's not me against him; it's CU against BYU.
"Games are rarely decided on which team punts best," he said. "If it comes down to it, I'd rather win the game than the punting battle."
Some skeptics say the averages for both punters are inflated because they play at high altitudes. Colorado, at Boulder, is one mile above sea level while BYU, at Provo, is at 4,500 feet.
The Buffs played one road game at elevation, against Colorado State at Fort Collins. The Cougars had high-elevation games at Wyoming in Laramie, Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Utah.
"Altitude will carry the ball farther," Thompson said. "But I don't think there is that much of a difference. I had a 46-yard average in Miami with a long punt of 59, and kicked a couple of 50-yarders in San Diego.
"The ball does have a tendency to carry more at altitude," he said. "At sea level, technique and consistency come in."