Another Las Vegas Bowl, another Boise State team that's flown under the radar and wound up playing in Sin City for the third consecutive season.
While Boise State (10-2) is ranked 19th in the nation, the Broncos (stop me if you've heard this before) didn't get quite the national attention that the team deserved. Sure, the departures of QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin and virtually the entire offensive line hurt, but the Broncos just keep winning games.
Don't get me wrong: Boise State's opponent in the Vegas Bowl on Saturday afternoon, the 7-5 Washington Huskies, is a formidable opponent that has the ability to win this game. The Huskies are more battle-tested than the Broncos, having played five teams ranked in the Top 25 during the season, but that experience isn't going to help Washington in this one.
How can I be so sure?
It's all about the defense.
Boise State's defense ranks sixth in scoring (14.9 points per game), 40th against the run (141.25 yards per game), fourth against the pass (163 yards per game) and ninth in total defense, allowing just under 305 total yards per game.
Take a look at the numbers put up by Boise State's front four, specifically sophomore DE Demarcus Lawrence, junior NT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, freshman DE Sam Ukwuachu and sophomore DL Tyler Horn. They don't just control the line of scrimmage, they dominate it.
Lawrence: 36 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles
Tjong-A-Tjoe: 35 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and two passes defended
Ukwuachu: 31 tackles, seven for loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble
Horn: 18 tackles, 7.5 for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble
Boise State's ability to win the battle at the line of scrimmage is the key to its success against Washington.
Who wins the Las Vegas Bowl?
While Washington QB Keith Price is a talented signal-caller under center, the Huskies offense has been rather stagnant all season long. Washington's passing attack ranks 87th in the nation (210.4 yards per game), 92nd on the ground (137.2 rushing yards per game) and 92nd in scoring (23.8 points per game).
This isn't the defense for the Huskies to try and get things going against.
I'm not the only one who sees Boise State coming out on top in this one. ESPN's Colin Cowherd is a believer in the Broncos as well (via Twitter):
Boise State 33-23 today in the "I don't really know who the sponsor is but I know it's in Vegas" bowl.— Colin Cowherd (@ESPN_Colin) December 22, 2012
I think he's a bit high in how many points the Huskies will be able to put up against this defense.
Boise State wins, 31-17.
Better luck in nine months, Washington, when the two teams meet to open the 2013 college football season at the end of August.
*All stats via cfbstats.com.
Rick Weiner is a member of B/R's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering all of MLB.