Bowl Breakdown: Las Vegas
It's rare to draw a bowl matchup between two top 20 teams before Christmas
Kellen Moore could be rusty just 11 days after his stint on the awards circuit
Utah's offense struggled for much of the season; Boise's struggled for a half
No. 10 Boise State (11-1) vs. No. 20 Utah (10-2)
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch: It's two top 20 teams playing in a bowl game before Christmas. It's the last chance to watch a Boise State team that both galvanized and polarized the sport for nearly three months. And it's the last game for several decorated Broncos veterans, most notably receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young (the school's all-time receptions leaders), safety Jeron Johnson (318 career tackles) and defensive end Ryan Winterswyk. For Pac-10 fans the game is an early chance to scout incoming member Utah, though the Utes will be without starting quarterback Jordan Wynn (shoulder surgery).
Keep an eye on: Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. The Heisman finalist is always fun to watch, but it will be interesting to see whether Moore is as sharp as usual. The game will be played just 11 days after his stint on the Orlando/New York awards tour, during which Moore missed two days of practice. That said, the entire team took a week off for finals, and it may be that the early bowl date actually staves off the rust that sometimes befalls January bowl participants.
Did you know: Utah has won nine straight bowl games dating to 1999, and sixth-year coach Kyle Whittingham, who joined the Utes' staff in 1994, is 10-1. This will mark the second time in three years Utah has faced a top 10 bowl opponent, the first time being a 31-17 win over then fourth-ranked Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Final analysis: Boise State is the far better team. But for one disastrous half at Nevada (which still could have been salvaged with a chip-shot field goal), its offense proved balanced and powerful, its defense dominant. On the other hand, Utah's offense struggled most of the season, including blowout losses to TCU and Notre Dame. The only question is whether the Broncos will be deflated after missing a BCS bowl.
The pick: Boise State 30, Utah 17
SI.com NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline shares his thoughts on the top pro prospects in this matchup:
Boise State: OL Nate Potter -- Potter manned the left tackle position his first two seasons before spending time at guard in 2010. His play this season was uninspired after fantastic campaigns as a freshman and sophomore, but Potter has the skills required to be a first-round pick if he gets his game back on track. Grade: Second-round prospect.
Utah: CB Brandon Burton -- Burton is coming off a brilliant campaign and is creating a buzz in scouting circles. He's a terrific athlete who's developing a complete game. Scouts on the West Coast feel that Burton, who's expected to enter the draft, has starting potential at the next level. Grade: Second- to third-round prospect.
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