The Boise State Broncos (8-4, 6-2 MW) travel to Honolulu, Hawaii this week to take on the Beavers of Oregon State (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Both teams are coming off of disappointing regular seasons, but looking to finish the year off strong with a bowl game victory.
Oregon State limps into this game having lost it's last five games, and Boise State staggers into Hawaii without its longtime leader. Head coach Chris Petersen left Boise for the head coaching job at the University of Washington earlier this month.
The game itself will be played on Christmas Eve, with kickoff at 8:00 p.m. ET.
It will be the only bowl game on that day, so it should get a decent amount of attention. However, since it will be Christmas Eve, it could end up being just background noise, depending on how the game transpires.
There will be plenty of distractions for both teams going into this one, and the team that is best able to focus and execute most likely brings a trophy back home.
Let's look at what Boise State has to do to insure they are the team coming home with the prize.
Any trip to Hawaii can be distracting. However, for the Boise State Broncos football team, it could be just what the doctor ordered.
Weather has been less than stellar in the Treasure Valley lately. In fact, the first snow storm of the season set in the day after Chris Petersen announced he was leaving for Washington, and the cold hasn't let up since.
The loss of head coach Petersen is probably the biggest distraction right now for this team. That is to be expected after how much he meant to them and to the community as a whole.
However, those players must somehow rise above all of that right now, and prepare for the bowl game.
The warm beaches of Hawaii and all of the distractions that go along with that will also need to be blocked out by a team in need of focus.
The weather can be enjoyed by the team as they prepare, but they can't afford room for any let down. It will be a balance that interim head coach Bob Gregory will have to attempt to achieve as the Broncos prepare for Oregon State.
The last time Boise State played in the Hawaii Bowl was in 2007. The game was against an East Carolina team that the Broncos should have handled.
However, they started very slow and by halftime it was 31-14 in favor of the Pirates. It was clear to Broncos fans watching that their team wasn't fully prepared to play.
In the second half Boise State came back, but it was too large of a deficit to overcome. The game ended 41-38 in favor of ECU.
With everything that has transpired in Bronco Nation this season, it may be difficult for this team to find motivation heading into this game.
Nevertheless, motivation is what they need right now.
For the 16 seniors on this squad, you know they will want to finish their collegiate careers with a victory. But, that is easier said than done, and every player on this Boise State team will need to reach deep for the passion, hunger and motivation needed to bring home victory.
This game will be a true test of what the 2013 Broncos are truly made of.
Will the team simply show up, go through the motions and sleep walk through this game?
Or, will this team diligently prepare and show up inspired, dedicated and playing to its potential?
We will all find out Christmas Eve.
One of the biggest keys to victory for Boise State will be the ground game.
Jay Ajayi and the rest of the running backs are going to need to have a big game against the Beavers.
The run will open up what the offense can do, and keep the pace of the game where Boise State needs it to be.
Oregon State is ranked No. 91 in rushing defense, according to NCAA.com. As a whole, they allow 193.2 yards per game on the ground.
This should point to success for a Boise State team that is ranked No. 32 in rushing offense averaging 201.8 yards per game.
If the Broncos are effective on the ground, they have a very good chance of controlling the outcome of this game.
The biggest key to this game for Boise State will be its pass defense.
Oregon State has the No. 3 ranked passing offense in the nation, and the Broncos have struggled greatly at times this season in the defensive secondary. The Beavers average an incredible 382.1 yards per game in the air.
Of course, Boise State has already played the No. 1 ranked passing offense of Fresno State this season. Fans of the Broncos probably remember how hard it was to watch the secondary get picked apart by Derek Carr and the Bulldogs.
For Boise State to win this game, its passing defense will need to step up in a big way. The team cannot afford another performance like it had against Fresno.
If you want to know how this game is going on Christmas Eve, just look at the yards quarterback Sean Mannion has, especially to wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
The passing defense of Boise State will be the deciding factor in this game.
Play well, and the Hawaii Bowl trophy comes to Boise.
For Boise State to have success in this game it will require every single Bronco player to play inspired, relentless and physical football.
The defense must fly to the ball and not let up.
The defensive line must not relent the entire game. The Oregon State quarterback is vulnerable to sacks, having gone down 25 times this season. Demarcus Lawrence and the rest of that line should be able to cause serious chaos.
The defensive secondary will have to step up its game in a big way. They can't afford to give an inch to very talented Oregon State receivers.
The offense must execute and strive and strain for every extra bit of yardage.
Jay Ajayi will need to have an incredible effort, but so will those who back him up. Wide receivers will need to fight for the ball and not drop passes that can move the chains.
The offensive line will have to give the quarterback the protection he needs to find the open man, and whether that quarterback be Joe Southwick or Grant Hedrick, he must make good decisions and not turn the ball over.
Every Boise State player must be absolutely relentless in Hawaii. If they are, chances of bringing home a trophy are high.
This will need to be a total team effort. The Broncos will need to rise above the distractions, reach deep for motivation, run the ball effectively and play the best pass defense of the season.
It sounds like a tall order, but with the talent on the Boise State roster, they are more than capable.