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Dr. Saturday

Maaco Bowl Las Vegas preview: Boise State vs. Washington

(USA Today Sports Images)

Maaco Bowl Las Vegas
Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2)
Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

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.

Key number: 2
This is the first of two consecutive meeting between these two teams. Boise State travels to Washington to open the 2013 season against the Huskies. And this, after these two teams had met just once in their histories.

(USA Today Sports Images)

The breakdown: While Boise State’s offense was better in the final fourth of the season, it was the defense that carried it to a 10-2 record and it will be the defense to watch on Saturday. The Broncos are allowing just 14.9 points per game and just 304.7 yards per game. That’s not good news for a Washington offense that has struggled at times to put points on the board. The Huskies average just 23.8 points per game, which is 92nd in the country. If the Boise State offense and defense are playing the way they have been playing as of late, it could make for a long day for Washington.

Predictions
Frank Schwab:
Boise State 28, Washington 14
Boise State was not its typical BCS-buster self this year and didn't have a key player like Kellen Moore keeping it in the spotlight. But this was a good team that kept getting better and better without much fanfare thanks to a stellar defense. The Broncos ranked in the top 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense, which will make life tough for a Huskies offense that doesn't move the ball well.

Graham Watson: Boise State 35, Washington 17
Boise State isn’t the Boise State that took the nation by storm, but it’s still pretty good and played a lot better down the stretch. Quarterback Joe Southwick finally seems comfortable and the rest of the offense has responded. Washington is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Washington State and things won’t get any better in Vegas.

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