In the first week of the bowl season, the best matchup could occur in the desert. Boise State and Arizona State are both teams that expected more out of this season, but they will instead be paired up in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, which could be a real treat for football fans.
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Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) vs. No. 7 Boise State Broncos (11-1, 6-1 MWC), Thursday, Dec. 22, 8 p.m. [ESPN]
For the second year in a row, Boise State was a missed field goal away from being in the BCS Title game discussion. That missed field goal came as a delight to many who don’t want to see a Boise State or a TCU in the national title game, but those missed kicks took a lot away from the Broncos.
BSU quarterback Kellen Moore is the winningest player in college football history, but he could have finished his career with three consecutive perfect seasons. Regardless of what you think about Boise State’s standing in the college football world, you have to admit that’s pretty impressive.
But Boise State has a kicker who chokes under pressure, so that discussion is moot.
That may come into play in this game, which is likely to be very close. Arizona State is hoping that kicking trend will continue in Vegas, but the Sun Devils got to this game with some disappointments of their own.
ASU was looking like a possible Pac-12 champion early in the year, beating up on USC and winning the first three games of their conference schedule. But the party ended in Eugene, when they were beaten 41-27 by Oregon on Oct. 15. The Sun Devils would go on to lose the final four games of their regular season — to UCLA, Washington State, Arizona and California.
With four losses in a row to teams that aren’t exactly world-beaters, Arizona State fired head coach Dennis Erickson (but allowed him to stay on and coach the bowl game). They have a 1-4 record away from home, so there are plenty of reasons to believe Boise State is going to win by even more than the 14-point line.
Call me crazy, but I think this will be a close game. Arizona State still has plenty of great athletes, including 6-foot-8 quarterback Brock Osweiler. In a disappointing season, Osweiler averaged 303.4 passing yards per game, ninth-best in the country. If he can notch another game of 300+ yards, the Sun Devils should be able to stay in this game.
But they’re facing an offense that averages 43.3 points per game (No. 7 nationally) and 483.1 total yards per game (No. 10 nationally), and regardless of who their opponents were, that’s impressive.
When ASU is on defense, keep an eye on linebacker Vontaze Burfict, if he plays. In their final game of the regular season, Burfict was benched for a personal foul (he has committed a slew of them this year) and refused to re-enter the game when the coaches un-benched him. Erickson said Burfict will travel with the team, but is not positive he will play.
If he plays, watch him. He’s certifiably insane. But that’s what you want from a linebacker, right?
I expect the Sun Devils to rally around their fired coach for one more game, and I expect Boise State to be a little disappointed to be playing in a bowl game before Christmas despite a top-10 BCS ranking.
My prediction: Boise State 41, Arizona State 38