Boise State vs. Washington: Las Vegas Bowl Breakdown
No. 20 Boise State (10-2) vs. Washington (7-5)
Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: Boise State simply brings it at this time of the year. The Broncos have won three straight bowl games and lost the two prior by a combined four points. They're playing in the postseason for the 11th consecutive year and in Las Vegas for the third consecutive year after failing to bust the BCS again. But don't sleep on Boise just because it didn't land a marquee matchup: Chris Petersen's teams have produced some of college football's best bowl highlights in recent years via trick plays, timely touchdowns -- and sometimes both. Washington has a flare for the dramatic as well, falling just short in last year's most exciting bowl game, a 67-56 shootout against Robert Griffin III and Baylor. The Huskies have struggled often this season, but they ripped off four straight wins at the end of the year before losing to Washington State in OT in their finale. At its best, Washington is capable of beating an elite team like Boise, as demonstrated by its upset of No. 7 Oregon State in October. Huskies quarterback Keith Price actually outplayed RGIII in their barnburner last season, throwing for more than 400 yards and totaling seven touchdowns. But the junior gunslinger didn't make the leap many expected him to this season. Maybe Las Vegas is just the stage he needs to rediscover his swagger. Price is finally showing signs of his 2011 form again after throwing for eight touchdowns and just one interception in his last three games.
• Keep an eye on: The Broncos' stingy defense, which has dethroned the high-scoring offense as Boise State's signature unit. The team's offense is still averaging 30.4 points per game, but that's a significant step back from its 44.2 average last season. Luckily for Petersen, his defense has become one of the nation's best, allowing the sixth-fewest points (14.9) in the FBS while generating the third-most turnovers (33). Boise's defense will have its sights -- and game plan -- centered on Price. The unit boasts the seventh-most efficient pass defense in the country and yielded only three passing touchdowns all season.
• Did you know: Boise State and Washington have only met once, in 2007, but the two schools will become plenty familiar over the next three years. Not only do the two close out their 2012 seasons against one another in Las Vegas, but they coincidentally open their 2013 seasons with a showdown at Husky Stadium. They will then complete the home-and-home series in Boise in 2015, setting up for a potential grudge match to end the trilogy.
• Final analysis: It's tough to pick against a team with a superior offense, defense and bowl history. Washington's best hope is to steal an early lead and force Boise State to throw the ball. Washington ranked 16th in the nation in pass defense (188.9 yards per game) and will face an offense that has struggled some in the transition from Kellen Moore to Joe Southwick under center. But Boise State's margin of victory average was more than two touchdowns this season -- and nothing on paper suggests this one will be any closer.
• The pick: Boise State 38, Washington 14