Washington vs. No. 19 Boise State
Saturday, December 22, 3:30 PM EST, ESPN
Sam Boyd Stadium (Las Vegas, NV)
Line: Boise State -5.5
Las Vegas is one of America’s playgrounds, and while this game technically takes place in Las Vegas, it is as far from the glitz and glamour of Mandalay Bay and the Hard Rock Hotel. Those properties have served as the host hotels for the teams this week, but on Saturday afternoon (a new game time), these teams will battle it out for only the second time ever—but it is the first of three matchups over the next three years.
The Huskies will open renovated Husky Stadium next August hosting the Broncos, and then return the trip to Boise in 2015. This could be the birth of a brand new rivalry, and what better place to kick it off than a neutral field contest in Sin City?
Sexiness: Anna Faris or Tera Patrick
As with most things regarding beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. And since this is a game in Las Vegas, well, feel free to double down on sexiness for this game. Anna Faris (UW Alum-Literature) and Tera Patrick (Boise State Alum-Nursing and Biology) represent their schools with pride, although no word on if either will be at the game on Saturday. Which is a shame.
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Aces: Washington is ranked 30th in total defense, allowing only 353.3 yards per game, and 37th in points allowed at 23.8. It’s not amazing, but it is not bad. The Huskies also force turnovers on defense, ranking sixth in the country with 32 turnovers gained.
Deuces: The Huskies offense has been inconsistent at best and bad at worst, ranking 101 out of 124 FBS squads in total offense. They are ranked 90th in points scored with 23.8 per game. So it seems that when you allow as many points as you score, you are probably going to be a .500 team. At 7-5, Washington is definitely around .500.
Wildcard: Bishop Sankey, running back. The Broncos defense has been very good this year, but they have surrendered some yards on the ground to running teams. Sankey has been pretty consistent this season, rushing for less than 80 yards in a game only three times all season. He also has tallied multiple touchdown games six times this season. If the Huskies want to have a chance against Boise State, Sankey has to figure prominently into the game plan.
Aces: Defense has led the way much of the season for Boise State, especially early on as the offense struggled to adjust to life after the departure of four year starting quarterback Kellen Moore. The Broncos have been stout against the pass in particular, allowing only 163.4 yards per game through the air. That is good for 12th in the nation. They also have four games in which they held their opponent to less than 100 yards passing. The Broncos have had three passing touchdowns scored on them all season.
Deuces: Much like Washington, the offense has been a bit of a letdown for the Broncos this season. They have not been as inconsistent as the Huskies, but Boise State’s offense was again dealing with the ghosts of past performances, as the scoring average for this team dropped two touchdowns from 44.7 last year to 30.4 this year. The Broncos have been held to under 21 points four times this year, and lost two of those games.
Wildcard: Complacency. The Huskies were at a bowl game last season, but it was in a different locale. This is the third straight Las Vegas Bowl for the Broncos (and their fourth game in three years at Sam Boyd Stadium). There is a chance that the Broncos, who finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West, might not be all that excited to be in the Las Vegas Valley again, especially given the cold snap that has come through Las Vegas this week. A factor to consider in bowl performance is who is actually excited to be in the game. Do the Broncos really want to be in Sin City the Saturday before Christmas?
So you don’t forget…: An interesting subplot to this game is that Washington’s defense coordinator, Justin Wilcox, made some of his hay serving as the defensive coordinator for Boise State from 2006-2009. In that time, he helped the Broncos win two Fiesta Bowls (against Oklahoma and TCU) and was part of the staff that went 49-4 in his four years in Boise. Wilcox left after the 2009 season and spent 2010 and 2011 coaching at Tennessee before Steve Sarkisian lured him back west for this season.
Crystal Ball: On a brisk, yet sunny Saturday afternoon in the Las Vegas Valley, a defense struggle will take place 10 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. The Broncos have the better defense and the less shaky quarterback. A sense of complacency will not set in, as Chris Petersen reminds his team that they are the better team at Sam Boyd Stadium that day. The Broncos win a low scoring affair 23-13, forcing Washington to turn the ball over 5 times on the day. Washington finishes the year 7-6, but feel somewhat better about this bowl loss than last year’s 67-56 fiasco against Baylor.