The #6 ranked Boise State Broncos (11-1) will be taking on the Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6) in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas on Thursday night after their first season as a member of Mountain West Conference. The game will close out the year for both teams and be the final college game for Broncos QB Kellen Moore and the graduating seniors of the Boise team. Those Broncos seniors have taken part in creating a record-setting legacy with a 49-3 record over the past four years. Those wins have included victories over MWC champion TCU in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, the Georgia Bulldogs, Oregon (twice), Oregon State, Virginia Tech, Utah, Southern Miss, and all the teams in both the Western Athletic and Mountain West Conferences.
While the game will be a season finale for both teams, it also sets the tone for next year as both teams will be rebuilding. A win by the Sun Devils over a top-ranked team like Boise State would redeem a miserable season that started off full of promise with an initial 5-1 record and wins over Missouri, Southern Cal, Oregon State and Utah, only to suddenly reverse themselves and end their final 6 games with 5 losses that included losing their last 4 games to CAL, Washington State, UCLA, and Arizona. That sad finish to an otherwise respectable start cost Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson his job.
The MAACO Bowl will get underway this Thursday, December 22, 5 PM PT, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas and will be televised on ESPN.
If there is a redeeming factor for Boise State after being left out of a BCS game, it is that for once this year the Broncos won't need a blowout win just to cover the spread. Boise State is only a 13.5 point favorite going in, giving Arizona State the underdog factor. But anyone who thinks it will be all-Broncos might want to think again. Erickson will still be coaching the Arizona State team in Las Vegas and will be looking to make a statement in his final game. The Devils and their coaches have also had plenty of time to refect and correct mistakes. And Erickson will be reminding them that nothing could be better for the Arizona State program than to end their season with a high note and send the team home with a win over a top-ranked Broncos team.
The Sun Devils might find that hard to do, with the Bronco defense in good shape going in and achored by DE Shea McClellin. Other seniors in the Broncos' defensive lineup are expected to be DL Billy Winn who is back in the action, DE Tyrone Crawford, and standout LB Bryon Hout. George Iloka is in the backfield, where he has turned the saftey duties over Travis Stanaway while he takes over at cornerback. All together, the Boise State defense only allows 18.3 points a game, which ranks 10th in the country.
But the 'Devils can't be underestimated. They are right behind the Broncos in the passing game. The ASU squad is led by junior QB Brock Osweiler, and the Sun Devils are ranked 11th nationally in passing. Osweiler has passed for 3,641 yards this year, and completes 63% of his passes and 24 TD's. But he has also been sacked 24 times and tossed 12 interceptions. One of his favorite targets is WR Gerell Robinson who has caught 64 balls for 1,156 yards. But in the past two games Owseiler has thrown 4 TD's and 4 INTs and that has to change if he expects to get a win over the Broncos. That is why he will be handing the pigskin to RB Cameron Marshall to take the pressure off his game. Marshall has burned defenders for 1,038 yards and 18 TD's. Marshall can also catch an unexpected pass now and then.
Quarterback Kellen Moore ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency. Completing 74 percent of his passes, he has 41 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. While he likes to spread it around, WR Tyler Shoemaker has been a favorite along with rising star WR Matt Miller and WR Mitch Burroughs. RB's Doug Martin and D.J. Harper will be running the ball against the Sun Devil D-line.
This could very easily be one of the most exciting ball games of the year for both teams. That's why I have it closer than the than the oddsmakers:
My prediction: Boise State 41, Arizona State 35.