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About the Huskies: Washington comes into the game with an opportunity to post its highest win total since 2001. The Huskies should have rolled into the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas riding a five-game winning streak, but they blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead against rival Washington State and suffered what many considered a humiliating defeat. Quarterback Keith Price ended up being the goat in that game after his fourth quarter fumble started the comeback and his interception in overtime led to the Cougars’ game-winning field goal. Shaking off that loss might be tougher than Washington thinks.
About the Broncos: Boise State finished with at least 10 wins for the seventh consecutive season, but this is the first time in quite awhile the Broncos haven’t been in the thick of the BCS bowl conversation. A lot of that had to do with changes to the offense, which stunted the Broncos in some games this year. They also lost two games for the first time since losing three in 2007. Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick struggled to replace Kellen Moore most of the year, but finished strong with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in the final three games of the regular season.
A signature win for the Broncos?: It feels odd that a Boise State season has been devoid of a signature win considering the run of recent success the team has had under the Petersen regime. But Boise, which is playing in the postseason for the 11th consecutive campaign, began the year with a tight loss at Michigan State, and Petersen's squad suffered its second loss to San Diego State at home, which was just its second regular-season loss in 73 home games. The Broncos rank 80th in the nation in passing with Joe Southwick at quarterback, so the defense that surrendered just 14.9 points per game has been heavily relied upon. But as well as that unit has played, it will get tested by Price, running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Perhaps the Broncos defense can get aided by miscues, though. Besides turnovers being an issue, Washington has been hit with 106 penalties for 959 yards. Petersen's bunch generates the third-most turnovers (33) in the FBS, so turnover margin will be a key stat to watch.
Washington finished 5-4 in the Pac 12 North under coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies lost at Washington St to close out the regular season 31-28 to snap a 4 game winning streak for the Huskies. Washington has home wins over San Diego St 21-12, Portland St 52-13, Stanford 17-13, Oregon St 20-17 and Utah 34-15, along with road wins at California 21-13 and last week at Colorado 38-3. The Huskies have additional road losses at LSU 41-3, Oregon 52-21, Arizona 52-17, along with a 24-14 home loss to USC. The Huskies are 7-5 ATS and the total is 4-7 this season.
Boise St finished tied with San Diego St and Fresno St for the Mountain West title under coach Chris Petersen. All three teams finished 7-1 in the conference, but the Broncos won the tie breaker because they were 10-2 and the the other two were 9-3. Boise St and San Diego St are scheduled to join the Big East next year. The Broncos have losses at Michigan St 17-13 and at home to San Diego St 21-19. The Broncos have won 3 straight game since the SDSU loss. Boise St has home wins over Miami-(Ohio) 39-12, BYU 7-6, Fresno St 20-10, UNLV 32-7, and Colorado St 42-14, along with road wins at New Mexico 32-29, Southern Miss 40-14, Wyoming 45-14, Hawaii 49-14, and at Nevada 27-21 to close out the regular season. The Broncos are 6-6 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season.
BOISE STATE Boise St is averaging 390 yards per game on offense, including 216.9 passing and 173.1 rushing yards. The Broncos are outscoring teams 30-15 this season. Boise St is +18 in turnovers with 15 giveaways. The Broncos average 44.4 penalty yards per game and have allowed 9 sacks this season. Boise St is 79/177 on third and fourth down conversions and 45/56 scoring in the red zone with 33 touchdowns. On defense, Boise St is allowing 304.7 yards per game including 163.4 passing and 141.2 rushing yards. Boise St is in the top 10 nationally in total defense, against the pass, and in points allowed. The Broncos are 40th against the run. Boise St has forced 33 turnovers and 34 sacks this season. Bronco opponents are 88/205 on third and fourth down conversions. Boise St has 5 defensive touchdowns this season.
WASHINGTON The Huskies are averaging 347.4 yards per game, including 210.2 passing yards and 137.2 rushing yards.Washington is averaging 23.8 points and giving up exactly the same. Washington is 87th or worse in all offensive categories. On defense, the Huskies are allowing 353 yards per game, including 188.9 passing yards (#16 nationally) and 164.1 rushing yards per game. The Huskies have forced 32 turnovers, and have a turnover margin of +7. The Huskies average 79.9 penalty yards per game and have allowed 34 sacks this year. Washington has forced 26 sacks. The Huskies are 69/192 on third and fourth down conversions, and 35/47 scoring in the red zone with 31 touchdowns. Husky opponents are 69/188 on third and fourth downs, and 32/38 scoring in the red zone with 19 touchdowns. Washington has 3 defensive touchdowns this season.
9 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Boise State’s accomplishments in recent years have been staggering. In its past six losses (since 2007), the Broncos have been outscored by a total of 14 points, never losing by more than four points. Under Chris Petersen, Boise State has won at least 10 games each of the past seven seasons, the longest streak in the nation.
2. Washington is looking for its first eight-win season since 2001 under Rick Neuheisel. Boise State has reached the eight-win plateau every season since 1999.
3. Both schools have one common opponent this season: San Diego State. Washington beat the Aztecs 21-12 in the opener; Boise State lost 21-19 in November.
4. Petersen’s squad is familiar with the Las Vegas Bowl. Boise State has won this bowl each of the past two years, including last year’s 56-24 rout of Arizona State. Ironically, both Boise State and Washington scored 56 points in their respective bowl games last season. However, Washington dropped a 67-56 decision to Robert Griffin III and Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.
5. Don’t expect a quick start offensively for Washington. The Huskies average 11.8 points in the first half, tied for 87th best in FBS. Boise State has shut out seven opponents in the first half of games this year, most in FBS. No team has allowed fewer points in the first half than Boise State, who have outscored opponents 235-40.
6. Washington QB Keith Price has struggled compared to last season. He’s thrown 15 fewer touchdowns with the same amount of interceptions (11). In the red zone, his completion percentage has dropped from 74.1 percent last year to 57.6 percent this year. In four games against currently ranked teams, Price has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions.
7. Boise State has allowed just three passing touchdowns all season, fewest in FBS. Two of those touchdowns came late in the fourth quarter when leading by at least 17 points.
8. Boise State QB Joe Southwick hasn’t thrown for more than 311 yards in a game this season. Last year, with Kellen Moore at quarterback, the Broncos exceeded that total six different times. The team averages 96.5 fewer pass yards and has thrown just 17 touchdowns, 25 fewer than last year. Petersen seems to have adjusted play calling without Moore, as Boise State throws the ball 47.6 percent of the time in the 1st half, down from 57 percent last year.
9. Give the field position edge to Boise State. Boise State’s average drive has started on the 37-yard line, 2nd best in FBS. In fact, Boise State has ranked in the top five in average starting field position each of the past four seasons. One reason is its +18 turnover ratio (4th in FBS). On the other sideline, Washington has turned the ball over 25 times this season (T-89th in FBS), including 15 times in its five losses.
An interesting subplot to this game is that Washington’s defense coordinator, Justin Wilcox, made some of his hay serving as the defensive coordinator for Boise State from 2006-2009. In that time, he helped the Broncos win two Fiesta Bowls (against Oklahoma and TCU) and was part of the staff that went 49-4 in his four years in Boise. Wilcox left after the 2009 season and spent 2010 and 2011 coaching at Tennessee before Steve Sarkisian lured him back west for this season.
Boise St. is 12-2 ATS in its last 14 games coming off a conference win by less than a touchdown. Washington is 3-11-1 ATS in its last 15 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in its previous game.