Pac-12: Las Vegas Bowl 2012

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas keys

December, 22, 2012
Three things to watch in today's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas between Washington and Boise State:

1. Red zone production: Once you get there, you better get points. That's been an issue for Washington and quarterback Keith Price this season. After ranking second in FBS last year with an 80.8 red zone touchdown percentage, the Huskies have dropped to 66 percent. Last year Price was among the nation's leaders in red zone completion percentage and touchdowns with 74.1 and 25, respectively. This year he's only completing 57.6 percent in the red zone with 14 touchdowns. The Broncos have allowed just three receiving touchdowns all year and rank in the top 10 nationally in pass defense and pass-efficiency defense. They also rank seventh in red zone defense. Both teams are in the bottom half of the country in red zone offense.

2. Bring the heat: Boise State is one of the best teams in the country at protecting its quarterback. The Broncos rank seventh nationally, allowing less than a sack per game, which makes life a lot easier on quarterback Joe Southwick. The Huskies are middle of the road when it comes to creating pressure, averaging about two sacks per game. Washington's sophomore ends Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson both check in with 6.5 sacks on the year.

3. Run, then gun: Both teams boast 1,000-yard rushers this season: Bishop Sankey for Washington (1,234 yards 15 touchdowns) and D.J. Harper for Boise State (1,065 yards, 15 touchdowns). Both have similar compact frames and both possess home run potential. Look for each offense to get their guys established on the ground and then cut it loose to their marquee receivers. Price is actually at his best when he goes deep -- tossing six touchdowns with no interceptions on throws of 15 yards or more. He'll look to either Mackey Award finalist Austin Seferian-Jenkins or wide receiver Kasen Williams. Southwick's favorite target is Matt Miller, who has 60 catches and five touchdowns on the year.

Pregame: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

December, 22, 2012
Washington (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) vs. Boise State (10-2, 7-1 Mountain West)

Who to watch: After his "Hello, world" moment against Baylor in a 67-56 loss in the Valero Alamo Bowl last year, Washington quarterback Keith Price seems to have regressed this year. His completion percentage is down and he's thrown 18 touchdowns compared to 29 at this point last year. He has the same number of interceptions, 11. After some early struggles and inconsistencies, Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick seems to have finally settled into his role as "the guy after Kellen Moore." He's completing 66.7 percent of his throws with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In the last three games he's completed 70 percent of his throws with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

What to watch: How does the Boise State defense defend Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins? The Mackey Award finalist has game-changing size and speed. Maybe more to the point -- how does Washington use him? If Seferian-Jenkins gets 7-10 touches, it could be the difference in the game. But Boise State is stingy against the pass, having allowed an FBS-leading three touchdown passes in 337 attempts this season. The Broncos rank in the top 10 in pass defense and pass-efficiency defense.

Why to watch: Boise State has won its past three bowl games -- the last loss coming to TCU in the 2008 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. If the right Washington team shows up -- the one that knocked off Stanford and Oregon State -- this could be one of the more entertaining games of the bowl season. If the Huskies still have a hangover from their Apple Cup loss, Boise could cruise.

Prediction: Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has made a world of difference at Washington this season. He knows Chris Petersen and how he preps -- having served on his staff as defensive coordinator. Plus, Washington has played a far more vigorous schedule -- going 2-2 against top-10 teams. Boise State has seen just one Top 25 team and that was in the season-opening loss to Michigan State. Washington 24, Boise State 17.

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl predictions

December, 21, 2012
Washington takes on Boise State tomorrow in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. Kevin and Ted both correctly (albeit luckily) picked Arizona in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and remain locked at 67-25 for the season.


Ted Miller: I like the matchup of the Huskies' defense against the mediocre Boise State offense. I like that Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox coached under Chris Petersen and knows how he game-plans and thinks. I like the notion that the Huskies are angry about their last game, a woeful fourth-quarter collapse at Washington State. Therefore, I like the Huskies. Washington 24, Boise State 21.

Kevin Gemmell: And here I thought this would be the game that separated Ted and I, because I, too, like the underdogs this week. Washington has been through a brutal schedule. They've seen some of the best the country has to offer. Boise State has not. They lost their only game to a top 25 team, and the 7-6 win against BYU is far from signature. I look for big games from Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey. And like Ted, I think Justin Wilcox is the real game-changer. Washington 24, Boise State 17.

Video: Las Vegas Bowl preview

December, 21, 2012

Washington and Boise State will be relying on their defenses in the Las Vegas Bowl (Saturday, 3:30 ET, ESPN).

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl

December, 2, 2012
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.



Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25