Continuing his 2012 college football bowl previews, Joe Healy previews the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.
The 2012 edition of the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl is a meeting between two teams that are more than likely disappointed with their respective regular seasons.
The Washington Huskies had been steadily improving under Steve Sarkisian. They had made bowl games in back to back seasons and with Keith Price, one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation in 2011, coming back, there was little reason to think that they would take a step back.
But take a step back they did. They finished 7-5. That doesn’t seem all that bad on the surface, but it’s how they arrived at that record that’s the real disappointment. They were absolutely blown off the field on a couple of occasions, including a 41-3 loss to LSU that wasn’t even as close as that score would make it seem, if that’s possible. There was also a tough 52-17 loss to Arizona, a team that really isn’t much better than the Huskies on paper.
To top it all off, they wrapped the season up with an overtime loss in the Apple Cup to rival Washington State, one of the worst teams in college football.
Make no mistake about it, though, this team has some serious talent.
As I alluded to, quarterback Keith Price is a unique talent. Although he hasn’t piled up rushing yardage this season, he is elusive and works hard at extending plays. His numbers, 2,486 passing yards and an 18/11 touchdown to interception ratio, don’t knock your socks off, but his skill set opens things up for others on offense.
Namely, he opens things up for running back Bishop Sankey, who rushed for 1,234 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. The bulk of the production on the receiving end of Price’s passes came from tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams. The two combined for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns.
One real bright spot for the 2012 Huskies is the defense. Last season, their defense was lampooned after they gave up 67 points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. This season, they finished 37th in the nation in scoring defense. Freshman Shaq Thompson, a freshman safety who spent the summer playing baseball in the Red Sox minor league system, was a breakout player for UW. He is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 8.5 and is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with three.
The 2012 Boise State Broncos ended up being a victim of previous success. When you compare this season to seasons past when the Broncos were in the national title hunt, it looks like a disappointing campaign. But when you take a step back and realize that this was basically a rebuilding season for the program, things went pretty well.
They finished 10-2 with their only losses being to two pretty good teams, Michigan State and San Diego State. They also ended up sharing the Mountain West Conference title.
The success the Broncos have had this season is largely due to the play of their defense. The unit averaged allowing only 14.9 points per game, good for sixth-best in the nation.
Defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence was the star of the unit with his 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, but he was far from alone on that side of the ball. Fourteen total players tallied at least one sack and ten players recorded at least one interception.
He’s certainly no Kellen Moore, the record-setting four-year starting quarterback at Boise State, but Joe Southwick had a solid season. He completed 66.7% of his passes, threw for 2,466 yards and had a 17/7 touchdown to interception ratio.
The biggest playmaker on that side of that is running back D.J. Harper. The senior from the great state of Texas rushed for 1,135 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season.
It may not be a banner season for Boise State, but future opponents shouldn’t rest easy. This team will be back in the mix for the national title, particularly with a playoff system beginning soon. They are still well-stocked with talent and this 10-2 season might end up being the low water mark for them as a program.
I think we’re in for a good game. Boise State has a way of playing well in bowl games and Washington has far more talent than they showed for much of the regular season.
It’s tough, but I’m leaning toward the Broncos here. The have a physical defense that I think will give Washington’s playmakers trouble and you know that Chris Petersen will have his guys ready to go.