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Thursday, December 22, 2011
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State (6-6) vs. Boise State (11-1)

By Ted Miller

The Pac-12 bowl season kicks off Thursday night in Vegas, as Arizona State tries against Boise State to save face after a late-season collapse.

Here's a quick preview of the matchup:

WHO TO WATCH: The quarterbacks. This is Kellen Moore's final game for Boise State after one of the best careers in college football history. To hear the skeptics who question his NFL potential, this might be the last start of his football career. He had another brilliant season, but -- not unlike his team -- fell off the national radar after a loss to TCU. A remarkably consistent performer, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't go out strong. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils offense flows through Brock Osweiler. He'll need to be at his best against a sound, statistically impressive defense.

WHAT TO WATCH: Both teams' fire. Arizona State lost its final four games and its coach, Dennis Erickson, was let go. Boise State was expecting a berth in a BCS bowl, not one before Christmas against a .500 team that fired its coach. The general expectations is a disciplined, businesslike Broncos team will do its usual thing while the Sun Devils won't be able to stay focused and intense after their ruined season. But it's possible the opposite will happen, right, with Boise State playing without interest and the Sun Devils trying to prove the pundits wrong?

WHY TO WATCH: Moore, for one. He's enough of a reason. And there has to be some curiosity about whether Arizona State will show up or not, not to mention whether linebacker Vontaze Burfict will play -- and, if so, how well and with how much discipline. Further, it's a Boise State matchup with an AQ-conference team. That always raises an eyebrow.

PREDICTION: Boise State 41, Arizona State 24. It's possible that the Sun Devils might try to win one for Erickson on his way out. Or that they might adopt an "us against the world" mentality and play with fire we haven't seen since October. But even at their best, the Sun Devils would be underdogs. Hard to imagine they'll be at their best after losing four in a row to end the regular season, blowing the South Division title and getting their coach fired.