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Wednesday, December 22, 2010
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Utah (10-2) vs. Boise State (11-1)

By Andrea Adelson

It is a clash of the two top BCS busters when Boise State and Utah play in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas tonight. Both schools had higher hopes than playing in Vegas -- in the first week of November, both were ranked in the top 5 of the BCS standings. But the Utes lost twice; Boise State lost in even more devastating fashion. A missed field goal against Nevada potentially made the difference between the Rose Bowl and the MAACO Bowl. But hey, the Broncos say they are happy to be in Vegas. Now here is a quick preview of the game:

WHO TO WATCH: Utah quarterback Terrance Cain. Sure, we could have listed Kellen Moore or Austin Pettis or Titus Young. But the story of the game could be how Cain performs as the starting quarterback in place of Jordan Wynn, who is out with a shoulder injury. Cain is 9-1 as a starter and more than capable of leading this team. He is more athletic than Wynn and could be a threat to run. But he also looked shaky in relief of Wynn against BYU in the regular-season finale, throwing two interceptions in eight pass attempts.

WHAT TO WATCH: Tempers. The two teams already tangled during one pregame welcoming dinner, and Utah receiver DeVonte Christopher referred to Boise State as "Girlse State" on Twitter. So we should watch early in the game for any chippy play. It seems both teams are feeling a bit disrespected going into this game: Utah because it is the underdog; Boise State because it had no shot at getting an at-large BCS berth despite being ranked in the top 10 with only one loss. Both teams are going to have to be in control of their emotions from the beginning.

WHY WATCH: It is the end of an era for Utah, which jumps from the land of the disrespected to the land of the automatic qualifiers next season when it joins the Pac-12. Pretty soon, Boise State is going to be the only top non-AQ team left standing after TCU heads for the Big East. But an even better reason to watch: Chris Petersen and Kyle Whittingham are two of the most underrated coaches in college football. Reason No. 3, in case you wanted it: This is one of four games outside the BCS matchups that feature two ranked teams.

PREDICTION: Boise State 38, Utah 20. Utah has won nine straight bowl games, but that streak ends against the Broncos, a team that is far more talented and experienced. Boise State gets the edge in virtually every category, but the biggest edge is having Moore.