With the whirlwind surrounding Washington football, a bowl game may not be on the front of most Huskies' minds. After head coach Steve Sarkisian left Seattle for USC, UW announced that Boise State's Chris Peterson would fill the coaching void.
But Washington will face Sarkisian's alma mater, BYU, in this year's Kraft Fight Hunger bowl. Both teams had highs and lows during the season, and their contrasting styles will make for an interesting game.
BYU started out on a roller coaster for the first few games, looking dominant in one and awful in the next. The Cougars rattled off five wins in the middle of their schedule, but ended the same way they started, not showing much consistency.
Washington came into the year as a borderline-Top 25 squad with high hopes. The team didn't disappoint, winning four straight before losing a trio of in-conference games. The Huskies ended strong, winning four of their last five contests, and earned a third-place finish in the Pac-12 North.
BYU and UW haven't met since 2010, when Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps squeaked past the Huskies, 23-17.
Time: December 27, 6:30 p.m. PT
Place: AT&T Park (San Francisco, Calif.)
Stop the Run
BYU has struggled against strong running teams this season and will need to change that against Washington. Bishop Sankey and the 14th-ranked UW rushing offense won't be an easy task for the Cougars defense, and unless BYU can control them, it could be a long game.
If the Cougars wait until the second half to score (like they did against Nevada), they will have almost no shot against UW. In four losses, Washington has surrendered an average of 43 points, but it has given up only 14 in its wins. If Taysom Hill and the Cougars offense finds the end zone consistently, Washington could be in trouble.
Play Two Full Halves
BYU has not yet played a full game of football this season. Even in their most dominant wins, the Cougars have struggled to score or prevent opponents from scoring for a quarter or two. They will need to play a complete, well-rounded game against this very talented Washington team.
Jump to a Quick Lead
BYU hasn't proven itself as a comeback-prominent team yet, and if UW can exploit that by getting on the scoreboard quickly, a big advantage will be given. Washington has not yet lost a game in which it led at halftime, and the team should try to keep that streak rolling against BYU.
Momentum-killing turnovers have plagued BYU all season, but Washington has not been supreme at forcing them. UW's defense has caused only 22 turnovers all season, and in order to slow down the high-tempo Cougars attack, it will need to step it up.
Outrun the Cougars
Both BYU and Washington rank in the top 15 in rushing offense, and this game could potentially turn into a track meet. The Cougars are led by Jamaal Williams and mobile quarterback Taysom Hill, while UW's Sankey is one of the nation's elite running backs. Whoever can outperform the other rushing offense will be given a huge advantage in this game.
Taysom Hill (QB)
Hill entered the season with little FBS experience, but he soon molded into his role. With over 2,500 yards passing and 1,000 rushing, Hill is second in the country in QB rushing yards. His consistency has been an issue, but he is a great player with plenty of time to develop.
Jamaal Williams (RB)
With 109 rushing yards per game, Jamaal Williams has been a difference-maker for BYU. As only a sophomore, he has sky-high potential and is well on the way to being one of BYU's best running backs.
Kyle Van Noy (LB)
Statistically speaking, foregoing his senior season for the NFL draft may have been the right move for Kyle Van Noy. But stats can't tell how big of an impact he has made for BYU this season. He has been singled out by teams all year but has continued to be a dominant player.
Cody Hoffman (WR)
As BYU's top receiver in school history, Cody Hoffman has done nothing but impress. With a huge group of talented receivers in this year's draft, he may not be a first- or second-round pick, but he could be a huge asset for a pro team one day.
Kaneakua Friel (TE)
With a new offensive scheme in Provo, Kaneakua Friel has not been a huge part of BYU's passing game. He has caught only 11 passes for 128 yards on the season, but that has not prevented NFL scouts from noticing his talent. He has the potential to be drafted in the late rounds, no matter his stats.
*Bishop Sankey (RB)
Sankey is definitely one of the country's top running backs, if not the best. He ranks as third in the country in rushing yards and could be a second- or third-round draft pick.
*Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE)
The Fight Hunger Bowl may be a matchup of underused tight ends. While BYU's Friel hasn't found a niche, UW's Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been used primarily as a red-zone weapon. He still has the talent to play at the next level and could have a long football career.
Sean Parker (S)
Sean Parker has recorded four interceptions on the season from his safety position and could garner attention from scouts in the bowl game. A strong performance could move him up into the early stage of the sixth round.
Keith Price (QB)
With the amount of great college quarterbacks this season, Keith Price has not found the media spotlight. But he is projected to possibly slip into the seventh round of the draft or sign a free-agent contract.
*May declare for draft after 2013 season.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, via Jared Lloyd of the Daily Herald:
We are looking forward to the opportunity to play the University of Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. I’m proud of our team. We are excited to be in the postseason for the ninth straight year with a chance to grow our program facing an outstanding football program.
Washington interim head coach Marques Tuiasosopo, via the Daily Herald: "I’m humbled and so honored. It’s a great, incredible honor to lead my alma mater in a bowl game. We still have a lot to play for this season. I am excited to go out and get a ninth win."
This year's Fight Hunger Bowl will be an offensive shootout. BYU will be led by a solid balance between run and pass, while Washington will use its rushing game to overpower BYU's front seven.
In the end, Sankey and the U-Dub offense will be too much for the Cougars. BYU will keep it close, but the Huskies will sneak away with the victory.
Prediction: Washington wins, 35-31