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Boise State Football: Keys for Broncos in MAACO Bowl Matchup vs. Washington

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Boise State Football: Keys for Broncos in MAACO Bowl Matchup vs. Washington
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

Prolific passer Kellen Moore may be gone to the NFL, but things haven't changed in Boise. 

Boise State is headed back to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas (Dec. 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET) for the third consecutive year after another impressive regular-season finish under head coach Chris Petersen.

The No. 19-ranked Broncos have flown under the radar all season long, but still managed to finish 10-2 overall and tied atop the Mountain West Conference. They'll head to Vegas to try to make it three in a row at the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas by beating an unfamiliar opponent.

Here we break down the biggest keys for Boise State in its postseason showdown with Washington.

 

Turnover Margin

Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

Boise State has been excellent at creating turnovers this season, and boasts the nation's fourth-best turnover margin through 12 games. The Broncos have forced 33 turnovers this season, and have only given the ball away 15 times.

Boise State actually ranks third in takeaways this year, recording fewer than only Kent State and Oregon. 

The Broncos' MAACO Bowl opponent, Washington, sports the country's 33rd-best turnover margin and has given the ball away 25 times in 12 games this year. If Boise State can force multiple turnovers against the Huskies, it should have a larger margin for error and thus a much better shot to escape Vegas with the win.

 

D.J. Harper

Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

Boise State running back D.J. Harper will be the biggest key offensively for the Broncos against Washington this December. The senior back has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012—nearly doubling his output from a season ago.

Harper is averaging five yards per carry and will need to have his number called plenty in Vegas. 

After all, the Huskies only rank 67th defending the run this season, surrendering more than 164 yards on the ground per game. Washington has also given up 17 rushing touchdowns in just 12 games this year. 

At 5'9", 205 pounds, Harper isn't going to run over defenders. However, if Chris Petersen and the Boise State coaching staff stick to the run, he'll break off a few big runs against a tired Washington defense late in the game. 

 

Red-Zone Efficiency

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Boise State ranks 77th nationally in red-zone touchdown percentage (58.9), while Washington ranks 34th in that category (65.9). 

The Broncos offense will need to cash in on its opportunities once they enter the red zone against the Huskies. Settling for field goals isn't the end of the world, but the more touchdowns Boise State passes up, the smaller its chances of winning will become.

Washington ranks 20th in opponents' touchdown percentage in the red zone, allowing teams to score touchdowns just 50 percent of the time when they get inside the 20-yard line. Boise State is averaging 30.4 points per game this season, compared to 44.2 per game last season. Therefore, the Broncos' margin for error inside the red zone is minuscule.

If the Broncos utilize D.J. Harper, protect the ball and make the most of their red-zone opportunities against Washington, they'll come away with their third straight victory in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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