The Hawaii Bowl kicks off on Christmas Eve (8 p.m. ET on ESPN) between Oregon State and Boise State, and there is no more talk of players getting sent home for doing or not doing certain things off a balcony. This game has a lot of playmakers for each side of the ball, and we will take a look at the three key players from each side that could make a difference.
Boise State key players:
1. Demarcus Lawrence, DE: The junior will eventually make his way to the NFL either this year or next due to his ability to get to the backfield to hurry the quarterback or snuff out a running play. Oregon State does give up two sacks ans six tackles per loss per play which is slightly above average within the Pac-12. Those numbers mean that the Beavers offensive line is vulnerable to some negative plays because of that. Lawrence will more than likely see some double team coverage or at least be clipped by a tight end to slow him down before a tackle takes over. For Boise State to have a big game they need Lawrence to get to Sean Mannion and force him to get rid of the ball quickly.
2. Grant Hedrick, QB: Saying the quarterback is key to a win is overstated but with Boise State no longer having the services of Joe Southwick for the bowl game it makes keeping Hedrick healthy even more of a priority. The Boise State offensive line has not allowed Hedrick to get beat up all that much, but if somehow Hedrick does go out of the game then in comes Nick Patti and his FBS experience is pretty much non-existent. As for Hedrick's play he needs to continue play like he did in his three wins down the stretch where Boise State scored over 40 points.
3. Boise State's secondary: This might be a cop out but it is true nonetheless. Oregon State gets possession wide receiver Kevin Cummings back in the lineup and do not forget 2013 Biletnikoff award winner Brandin Cooks. Also, Mannion is an excellent quarterback that has the ability to shred this Boise State secondary. In addition to the secondary needing to hold their own, the defensive line could help out the defensive backs with some pressure.
Oregon State key players:
1. Kevin Cummings, wide receiver: Cummings is not the threat that Cooks is in the receiving game, but he is key in converting first downs. Seven of his 14 third down receptions went for a first down with two of those being over 15 yards and one over 25 yards. Also, both of his touchdowns came on third down in the red zone; Cummings did this in just eight games.
2. Brandin Cooks, wide receiver: Cooks won the award for the best receiver this year with 120 catches, 15 touchdowns and averaged 139 yards per game. Now with Cummings back he could help the offense even more even if he doesn't catch as many passes. Cooks will get his own but with Cummings back the Boise State secondary can not just key in on Cooks on third down and that could leave him in single coverage and that would be dangerous for which Boise State defender has the task of covering Cooks.
3. Sean Mannion, quarterback: Leading the Pac-12 in passing is no small feat and neither is surpassing Connor Holliday who is in Mike Leach's Air Raid attack at Washington State. Even when Mannion struggled against good pass defenses like Stanford and USC he still put up over 270 yards in each of those games. While Boise State's passing defense gives up 248 yards per game, which ranks in the bottom-third of the FBS, they make up for that for being one of the best in the nation at interceptions at 15. Mannion is prone to throw interceptions with about one per game, so this battle could come down to the smart decision making that Mannion makes against an aggressive Boise State secondary.