The Maaco Bowl Las Vegas is a familiar venue for Boise State fans and their team. This will be the third year in a row that the Boise State Broncos (10-2, 7-1 MWC) will be playing in the Sin City special.
In the previous two seasons, Boise State handled Utah and Arizona State in relatively easy fashion. However, this year, the game against Washington will probably be much closer.
This bowl game will feature two very good defenses that don't usually give up big totals. The Washington Huskies (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) give up only 23.8 points per game on average. The Broncos are even better at 14.9 points against the defense per contest.
It should be a close, defensive battle in Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday. Let's take a look at the game day information and preview the key players and how it all might turn out.
Boise State Offense*
QB: Joe Southwick, Grant Hedrick
RB: D.J. Harper, Jay Ajayi
FB: Dan Paul, Conner Peters
TE: Chandler Koch, Holden Huff
X: Matt Miller, Aaron Burks
Z: Chris Potter, Dallas Burroughs
H: Kirby Moore, Geraldo Boldewijn
LT: Charles Leno Jr., Faraji Wright
LG: Joe Kellogg, Spencer Gerke
C: Matt Paradis, Spencer Gerke
RG: Michael Ames, Jake Broyles
RT: Brenel Myers, Rees Odhiambo
E: Demarcus Lawrence, Beau Martin
T: Darren Koontz, Tyler Horn
N: Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Greg Grimes
SE: Sam Ukwuachu, Kharyree Marshall
LB: Tommy Smith, Blake Renaud
LB: J.C. Percy, Tyler Gray
S: Jeremy Ioane, Hazen Moss
S: Darian Thompson, Dillon Lukehart
N: Dextrell Simmons, Corey Bell
CB: Jamar Taylor, Ebo Makinde
CB: Jerrell Gavins, Donte Deayon
PK: Michael Frisina, Dan Goodale
KO: Trevor Harman, Dan Goodale
HD: Matt Miller, Joe Southwick
P: Trevor Harman, Dan Goodale
SNP: Chris Roberson, Kevin Keane
KR: D.J. Harper, Dallas Burroughs
PR: Chris Potter
*Latest roster versus Nevada listed
QB: Keith Price, Derrick Brown
TB: Bishop Sankey, Kendyl Taylor
FB: Jonathan Amosa, Cole Sager
WR: Jaydon Mickens, Kevin Smith
WR: DiAndre Campbell, Marvin Hall
WR: Kasen Williams, Cody Bruns
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Michael Hartvigson
LT: Micah Hatchie, Dexter Charles
LG: Dexter Charles, Siosifa Tufunga
C: Drew Schaefer, Siosifa Tufunga
RG: Mike Criste, Shane Brostek
RT: Ben Riva, James Atoe
DE: Andrew Hudson, Talia Crichton
NT: Danny Shelton, Sione Potoa'e
DE: Semisi Tokolahi, Josh Banks
R: Josh Shirley, Cory Littleton
LB: Travis Feeney, Princeton Fuimaono
LB: John Timu, Thomas Tutogi
NI: Shaq Thompson, Taz Stevenson
S: Justin Glenn, Will Shamburger
S: Sean Parker, Anthony Gobern
CB: Desmond Trufant, Gegory Ducre
CB: Marcus Peters, Tre Watson
PK: Travis Coons
P: Travis Coons
KR: Jaydon Mickens, Marvin Hall
PR: Cody Bruns, Marvin Hall
LS: Ryan Masel
HLD: Cody Bruns
*Most current depth chart listed
For the third season in a row, the Boise State Broncos will play in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl. In each of the last three seasons, the Broncos have missed a BCS game by one loss. This season was no different.
Had Boise State beat San Diego State on November 3, 2012, they would no doubt be playing in the Orange Bowl instead of the newest "BCS Buster" Northern Illinois.
However, it is a return to Vegas this season for Chris Petersen and his team, and they face their toughest opponent to date in the Sin City bowl game.
The Broncos went 10-2 in a "rebuilding" year, and they also captured their chunk of the Mountain West Conference Championship. They shared the title with Fresno State, a team they defeated 20-10, and San Diego State, a team they lost to 21-19.
The 2012 campaign started with another big game against a ranked opponent. Then, No. 13 Michigan State pulled out a fourth quarter win 17-13 to hand the Broncos their first opening game loss since 2005.
Boise State would rebound with seven straight wins against Miami Ohio, BYU, New Mexico, Southern Miss, Fresno State, UNLV and Wyoming. After the San Diego State game, the Broncos finished the season out with three straight victories over Hawaii, Colorado State and Nevada.
Overall, the season has been very successful for Boise State. After replacing 15 starters from last year's squad, the "rebuilding" seems to be well underway.
The Washington Huskies were also in a "rebuilding" mode themselves in 2012. They have been very successful in their efforts as well.
The Huskies are a young team, but they accomplished some very impressive things this season. For starters, they beat San Diego State in their opener. It is the only common opponent between them and Boise State.
Washington would then go on to be crushed by LSU 41-3 before rebounding to a dominating win over FCS Portland State.
It was on September 27 this season that the Huskies had their first big moment. The young Washington team beat then No. 8 Stanford 17-13. However, as big as that win was, the young team then fell three weeks in a row to Oregon, USC and Arizona.
They would rebound in a big way on October 27, when they beat then No. 7 Oregon State and then rolled to wins over Cal, Utah and Colorado.
It was in the last game of the year that the Huskies had their most painful moment. In the Apple Cup versus instate rival Washington State Cougars, the Huskies gave up a huge fourth quarter lead to lose to the lowly Cougars.
That game has to be motivation going into the bowl game, and you have to believe they will be ready to play in Vegas.
Overall, the young Washington team played just like a young team in 2012. They were up and down, but they had some moments of greatness. Which team will show up in the Maaco Bowl?
The first game of the 2013 season for these two teams will be these two teams. Not only do Boise State and Washington play in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas, but they will meet in the season opener next season in a newly remodeled Husky Stadium. The Maaco Bowl will be huge for both teams. Not only is it the key to a successful 2012, but it will set the tone for 2013.
Washington wants this game for many reasons. First, they are a young team with lots of potential. They have seven wins on the season, but eight would be incredible for this youth filled squad. Not only that, but a bowl game victory over a ranked opponent would help to make up for that Apple Cup debacle.
For Boise State, they want to finish 11-2 and cap off one of the most successful "rebuilding" years in school history. Not only that, but after winning a share of the MWC title, a bowl game victory would be great as the Broncos roll into a new conference in 2013.
Joe Southwick has been criticized this season for his mediocre performance at times. However, he improved as the year progressed, and probably more importantly, he gained more confidence.
The Maaco Bowl will be Joe Southwick's biggest game to date as starter for the Boise State Broncos. The Michigan State game was big, but fans didn't know what to expect in that contest, and Southwick has since rebounded. However, if Southwick has a dismal outing in Vegas, it could have a big impact on his status as the starter going into 2013.
He does have a few things going for him going into next season. He has a season as the starter and experience is hard to trump, and Southwick will also be a senior in 2013.
Coach Chris Petersen honors guys who stick with the system and are committed to the program. Usually a senior gets the nod over younger players. If Southwick does a great job against the Washington Huskies, it could help him going into the quarterback competition next season.
In this game, Southwick will need to do some key things. He will need to be accurate, make good decisions and play with the same kind of aggressiveness and confidence he has shown in the last few games.
If he does that, Boise State should be able to outscore the Huskies. The defense will certainly do their thing, and D.J. Harper and Jay Ajayi should have some success, but the key player in Las Vegas for Boise State will be quarterback Joe Southwick.
The Boise State defense is incredible. They will need another incredible performance in Las Vegas.
Running back Bishop Sankey is the real deal. He is strong, fast, tough and plays with heart and passion. He isn't easy to take down or trip up. On the season, Sankey has 259 carries for 1,234 yards and 15 touchdowns. Sankey also has 27 receptions for 175 yards.
Washington has a decent quarterback in Keith Price, but he should be contained and limited by the excellent secondary of the Boise State Broncos. Sankey however, won't be so easy to control.
If Sankey has a field day in Las Vegas, it could be a long day for Boise State. If however, the Broncos can limit him and turn the Washington Huskies into a one denominational offense, it bodes well for the Broncos.
Washington also has a tight end that could be a key to this game. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has caught 63 passes for 791 yards and six touchdowns this season. He is big, strong, talented and an incredible player.
If Boise State limits both of these players, the Vegas Bowl should go the Broncos way. Shut down one of them, and it will be a close game that Boise State should win. However, if Chris Petersen's team fails to shut down both of these guys, Washington may get over the Apple Cup with a Maaco Bowl win.
Three Keys to a Boise State Win
1. Limit Bishop Sankey
If Boise State is able to limit running back Bishop Sankey, they will force the Washington Huskies into a one dimensional offense. That doesn't bode well for the Huskies because they don't have a powerful passing attack, but they do have an excellent tight end who can make plays.
However, even if they do decide to throw, the secondary of the Boise State Broncos is excellent and should give Washington problems.
2. The Defense needs to do what it always does.
If the Broncos defense is able to play the way they have most of the season, they should bring home victory in Las Vegas.
A real key will be getting to the Huskies quarterback Keith Price. On the season, Price has been sacked 33 times and with players like Demarcus Lawrence, Sam Ukwuachu and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe coming at him, his future may be his past.
Also, Boise State is plus 18 in turnover margin, and that will need to continue versus Washington. If the Broncos can force a few turnovers, it should go a long way to secure a victory in the Maaco Bowl.
3. Control the game with a consistent offense.
If Joe Southwick can play with confidence and consistency it should help the Broncos chances in Vegas. Of course, handing the ball off to D.J. Harper and Jay Ajayi should help that process.
If the running backs can have success early, it should open up the offense a bit. However, Southwick doesn't have to do too much. He only needs to continue to hit those high percentage passes and an occasional down field strike.
Offensive coordinator Robert Prince has done a nice job recently of crafting a game plan that best suits his quarterback's strengths. That should continue in Las Vegas.
Three Keys to a Washington Win
1. Shut down Harper and Ajayi.
If Washington can limit D.J. Harper and Jay Ajayi, it may force Joe Southwick into a the unenviable position of trying to do too much. If that happens, it could force the Boise State Broncos to turn the ball over or be limited to several three-play drives that end in a punt.
If that happens, it could wear out the BSU defense and give the Washington Huskies success, especially late in the game.
2. The offensive line must step up.
The Huskies big guys up front must do their part. Keith Price has been sacked 33 times on the season and that is a real danger in Las Vegas.
Boise State has an excellent defense which has an excellent pass rush. The Broncos are also good at containment and stopping or slowing down a potent rushing attack.
If the Huskies want to have success in Las Vegas, it will start with their offensive line.
3. Big games from Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins.
If the Huskies can get a big game from their running back Bishop Sankey and their tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Broncos could have a long day.
Both of these players are amazing talents with the potential to blow a game wide open. Containing them and limiting what they both do will be huge for Boise State. If Washington can get these two involved in the game and successful early, it could spell an upset in the Maaco Bowl.
When comparing the Boise State Broncos and the Washington Huskies it is easy to see that they are both good teams that play good defense. However, the Broncos have a better defense than Washington. Not only that, but the offense of Boise State is a bit better than the Huskies.
On the season, the Broncos average 390 yards of offense per game. Washington averages 347.6 yards per contest. D.J. Harper and Jay Ajayi lead the Broncos to an average of 173.1 yards per game rushing as compared to Bishop Sankey and the Huskies who average 137.2 per.
Boise State also scored an average of 30.4 points this season, per game, and Washington finished the regular season with a 23.8 average.
Yes, Washington played better competition, but they have probably only played a couple of defenses as good or better than the Broncos. It should be a tough, hard fought, close game. But, in the end, it should go Boise State's way.
Look for Southwick to have a decent performance and for the Bronco running backs to get their fair share of yardage. Also look for that Boise State defense to dominate the Huskies offensive line and disrupt, disturb and sack Keith Price.
This one probably won't be the runaway the Broncos experienced last year in this same bowl, but they should win.
Final Score Prediction: Boise State 31, Washington 20