Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The “had loftier goals” bowl features two of the best non-AQ teams in the BCS era. Both have two BCS wins. Both have had undefeated seasons that have left them short of the national championship game. Utah heads to the Pac-12 next season, so this is the final time the two can be paired up as the best of the non-AQs. The Utes did cancel three upcoming games with Boise State because of their move up. In any event, both were ranked in the top 5 of the BCS standings as late as the last week of October. But Utah got exposed in a 47-7 loss to TCU, then followed that up with an embarrassing 28-3 loss to Notre Dame. The Utes will be without starting quarterback Jordan Wynn in this game, out following shoulder surgery. Terrance Cain will get the start.
As for Boise State, you already know about the 34-31 overtime heartbreak to Nevada in Reno, when Kyle Brotzman missed two chip shot field goals, including one that would have ended the game on the final play of regulation. Boise State never openly said it had designs on trying to break the glass ceiling and be the first non-AQ to make it in the BCS national title game, but the Broncos were oh so close, reaching as high as No. 3 in the BCS standings. Had they won that game, there is a good chance they would be playing in the Rose Bowl and not TCU. They overcame the disappointment with a win over Utah State in the season finale, and will be looking to do the same against the Utes.