Washington Huskies (7-5) vs. Boise State Broncos (10-2)
Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, Las Vegas (ESPN)
Washington take from HuskyNation's Mason Kelley: The roller-coaster ride that has been Steve Sarkisian’s fourth year as Washington’s coach started early.
In fall camp, the Huskies worked through injuries before entering an early-season gantlet that included games against ranked opponents in LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC.
Washington weathered the wave of injuries and high-powered opponents and had a 3-3 record after six games. But when the Huskies were blown out at Arizona, 52-17, on Oct. 20, their season was tipping in the wrong direction.
Then they regrouped, ripping off four straight wins. They got the campaign back on track, starting with a 20-17 upset of Oregon State at CenturyLink Field in late October. The program’s young players started to mature with game experience and the early-season losses were quickly forgotten.
But the uncertainty surrounding the progress of this program returned when Washington State rallied from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit to upend the Huskies in the Apple Cup.
Washington heads into the bowl game with plenty to prove. The Huskies’ defense has been rejuvenated under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, but the offense has been inconsistent and plagued by slow starts.
But, despite junior quarterback Keith Price’s periodic turnover trouble, and even though Washington has been hit with 106 penalties for 959 yards, the Huskies still have an opportunity to finish with their first eight-win season since 2001.
All things considered, Sarkisian has continued to make progress with a program that is heading to a bowl game for the third year in a row.
Boise State take from Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller: The margin for error with Boise State is always small. That means a 10-2 season feels like a down year for the Broncos.
The season started with a tight loss at Michigan State. The Spartans were perceived as a Big Ten front-runner in the preseason, but when they struggled to reach .500 in the Big Ten, the performance lost some luster for the Broncos as the season went on.
The Broncos mostly cruised to a 7-1 start, and their BCS bowl hopes remained alive. But they lost at home to San Diego State, 22-19, which ended that. That was Boise State's second regular-season loss in 73 home games.
The win over Nevada in the season finale gave the Broncos a share of the Mountain West Conference title and ensured their nation's-best seventh consecutive 10-win season.
Things didn't come as easy this year, however, without quarterback Kellen Moore. The Broncos ranked 80th in the nation in passing, and they leaned heavily on a defense that surrendered just 14.9 points per game.