Originally written December 20, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Las Vegas bound The Washington Huskies’ season didn’t go exactly as planned, but the past is behind them and they’re headed to Las Vegas to take on the Boise State Broncos in the MAACO Bowl Saturday, Dec. 22. Washington at Boise State When: 12:30 PM PT Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, LAS VEGAS, NV TV: 12:30 PM PT, ESPN Team Records: Washington (7-5), Boise State (10-2) Standings: Washington 4th Pac-12 North, Boise State 1st Mountain West These two teams have only faced off one other time—a Huskies victory in 2007—but this contest is the first of three matchups over the next three seasons. Game Notes UW will face the Boise State Broncos three times in the next three years. (Photo: Getty Images) Coming into this game, the Huskies are fresh off their shocking loss to the Washington State Huskies. That game was a disappointing way to end the regular season, and they’re looking for a bounce-back performance against the Boise State Broncos. Boise State had another solid season, but their loss to the San Diego State Aztecs on Nov. 3 is what keeps them out of a BCS bowl game. These two teams were much better on defense this year than they were on offense. This game may not feature a ton of points, but a good matchup should be in store for anybody traveling to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. What to Watch: Washington The Huskies had an inconsistent showing from their front line this season, but if they want to have any success on offense, the offensive line has to step up and protect the backfield against the Broncos. Washington allowed 2.83 sacks per game this season, which was only good enough to rank 101st in the nation. Keith Price needs more time in the pocket to be successful, and that time is going to come from the linemen doing what needs to be done. UW finished eighth or lower in every major offensive stat in 2012, and a big reason is that they simply didn’t get the kind of showing they hoped for up front. The big men need to step up in this one, as Boise State’s defense is going to be on the prowl from the get-go. What to Watch: Boise State Following the departures of Kellen Moore and Titus Young, the Boise State Broncos entered somewhat of a rebuilding stage in 2012. As a result, it was their defense that propelled them to a share of the Mountain West championship this season. The team from Boise allowed just 14.9 points per game, and their specialty came in the form of their passing defense. They gave up just 163.4 yards per game through the air, which was good enough for fourth in the country. Boise State was much more middle-of-the-pack when it came to stopping the run, but their overall defense was what kept their opponents to just 304.7 total yards per game (ninth in the nation). UW Offense vs. Boise State Defense On the surface, the big question here is, what can we expect out of Keith Price? The UW quarterback was inconsistent this season, and now he’s going to be facing off against one of college football’s best passing defenses. When Bishop Sankey plays well, so do the Washington Huskies (Photo: Ted Warren/AP) If Price can have a good game—and if the offensive line can give him some help—Washington might be able to surprise the Broncos. That being said, when the Huskies were winning, it was almost always when Bishop Sankey was on top of his game. Bishop Sankey finished the year with 1,234 yards and 15 touchdowns, and at one point he was averaging more than 161 yards per contest in a three-game winning streak. Boise State was just 40th in the country in rushing defense in 2012, so if Sankey can get going early, the team from the Pacific Northwest will have the advantage. UW Defense vs. Boise State Offense Boise State’s offense wasn’t anywhere near as spectacular in 2012 as we’ve come to expect over the last few seasons. With their quarterback and top receiver gone, they shifted their focus to defense, and their offense became extremely ordinary. Washington was solid on the defensive side of the ball this year, and the passing defense was the major reason why. They allowed just 188.9 yards per game through the air, which was good enough for 16th in the entire country. Defensive end Josh Shirley didn’t have a great season, but the important thing at this point in the year is that he is finishing strong. Four of his 6.5 sacks came in the team’s final three contests, and he has the chance to be a big-time player in this one. Washington has to shut down quarterback Joe Southwick and running back D.J. Harper come Saturday. If either of the Broncos’ back-fielders get going, it’s going to be tough for the Huskies’ offense to make up the difference. Prediction Boise State 24 – Washington 21 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE HUSKIES CLUBHOUSE PAGE AT NWSPORTSBEAT!
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