BYU-Arizona Football: Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl Preview

Ted Leroux @@TedLerouxCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2008

Coming into the 2008 season the BYU Cougars were ranked 16th in the AP poll and had very real aspirations to get a BCS at-large bid. The Arizona Wildcats had received only three votes to be in the Top 25, so to say these two teams came from opposite ends of the college football bowl spectrum would be about accurate. Regardless, the BYU Cougars (10-2) will face off against the Arizona Wildcats (7-5) in the 18th annual Las Vegas Bowl.

This season the BYU Cougars finished where they started—ranked No. 16. This season was expected to be a launching pad for BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and his Cougar team to national prominence. BYU started the year with six straight wins, including a controversial, 28-27 win over the Washington Huskies. 

The Cougars then faced a tough TCU team lead by their ferocious defense. That defense ended up shutting down the Cougar offense in a 32-7 win for TCU. BYU ended up winning its next four games before losing in the "Holy War" to arch-rival Utah, 48-24, a loss that cost the school a shot at a BCS bowl game.

Arizona started off 5-2 and if you ask many of the members of Wildcat Nation they would tell you that they should have started 7-0 because of losses to lesser teams in New Mexico and Stanford.

The rest of the season they played Pac-10 powers like USC, Oregon, and Oregon State and played them tough as they lost all three games but only by a combined 19 points. The Arizona season was salvaged by winning over arch-rival Arizona State 31-10 in the final game of the regular season.

When it comes down to it in the Las Vegas Bowl the outcome of the game will be which quarterback plays better. BYU quarterback Max Hall has thrown for 3,629 yards and 34 touchdowns and leads a potent offensive attack with the passing combination of Hall to Austin Collie, who is one of the best receivers in the nation.

Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama has 2,763 yards and 21 touchdowns this season but lacks a go-to receiver like Hall has. One factor that does favor Arizona is its ability to run the ball with Nic Grigsby, who is a 1,000-yard rusher, a dimension that BYU lacks.

In the end BYU will be able to pass for only so long. The Arizona defense is very opportunistic and can force turnovers. The one dimensional passing attack of BYU will not be able to over come Arizona's defense as Max Hall as struggled with pressure this season.

Final prediction: Arizona puts a lot of pressure against the one dimensional Cougar offense and Willie Tuitama makes enough plays to win the Las Vegas Bowl.

Arizona 30, BYU 24.