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Las Vegas Bowl Preview: Washington vs. Boise State

The Mountain West champions travel to Vegas to take on a familiar foe

NCAA Football: Boise State at Colorado State Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Bowl season is here and the Boise State Broncos will travel to Vegas to play in the Las Vegas Bowl for fifth time this decade. The Broncos have been victorious in all four of their previous Las Vegas Bowl appearances, but this one has a different feel to it. Boise State will take on the Washington Huskies and will face off against former Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who will be coaching his final game for Washington. Petersen stepped down after the regular season concluded.

When: Saturday December 21

Time: 5:30 MT

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada (Sam Boyd Stadium)

Head-to-Head: This one is knotted up at 2-2, so it is a rubber match of sorts.

Which team has the most to play for? Who is sitting out?

This Boise State squad has something to prove. Bryan Harsin was vocal on Boise State’s status as a power, and the majority of the fan base felt like the Broncos earned a more noteworthy bowl game. Not only were Boise State fans disappointed with the location, they were also disappointed with the opponent. Bronco fans would like to see Coach Pete go out with a bang, and both sides want the players to be the storyline.

Washington will also be motivated to perform well for Coach Petersen, who is beloved by players past and present. Both teams are familiar with each other and run similar systems. The majority of Washington’s staff has worked or played for Boise State at some point, so I am sure they don’t want to leave Vegas with a loss. Washington has already announced that they will be missing some key players that will be preparing for their careers in the NFL. Will Boise State be without any of their players? We probably won’t know until kickoff.

Can the Broncos score against the best defense they have faced?

Washington’s defense is the best Boise State has faced this year. The Broncos can’t afford to go long periods without scoring like they have at times this year. Time of possession and ball control will likely decide the winner in a game that has all the makings of a slugfest.

I’m going to be honest, I would like Boise State’s chances better if Hank Bachmeier were starting. But, Jaylon Henderson has earned the right to finish out his career as a starter in the bowl game. The quick, passing game has improved under Henderson, but the downfield attack has taken a step back. The Broncos will need to be hitting on all cylinders if they are going to put up points against this Husky defense.

Will this game impact how we look back at this team?

It shouldn’t. I am a big believer that bowl games should have zero reflection on a season. The only exception are New Year’s Six and playoff games. It is becoming commonplace for teams to be without coaches and key players for the postseason. With that being said, Boise State has every reason to be motivated for this game. They are returning nearly all of their talent at skill positions and will be one of the favorites for the New Year’s Six game heading into the 2020 season. If the Broncos can come away with the win, they will likely finish in the top 15 and should start the 2020 season comfortably inside the top 25.

Vegas Line: Washington -3.5

My Prediction: These games are nearly impossible to predict. I was somewhat surprised to see that Washington was favored; I’m not sure how much of that is the fact that this is Coach Pete’s last game. The Huskies will want to send Coach Pete out with a win, but the Broncos need this game more for leverage purposes. For that reason, I think both teams will be highly motivated, and we will have a game that won’t be decided until the final minutes. There are few outcomes that would surprise me in this one. But I’m going to give Boise State a slight advantage. Boise State 21-Washington 20