Pac-12 in Bowl Games: Las Vegas Bowl


Because of NCAA sanctions (read: treachery), USC will not be participating in this year’s bowl season. While we knew that entering the 2011 football season, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow in light of the Trojans going 10-2 and defying all odds and expectations. But fear not, Trojan fans! Just because USC isn’t in a bowl doesn’t mean there aren’t still some worth watching. Of course, we all know that the Big Dogs—Orange, Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and the National Championship—will be good games—in theory, anyway.

So instead, Reign of Troy is going to take a look at five Non-BCS bowls that could prove to be very TV-friendly games, as well as the bowls that Pac-12 teams are in to see how they might fair.

First up on the list is a bowl between two teams who will go into this game in bad moods: The MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.

The Boise State Broncos and the Arizona State Sun Devils will meet in the desert for the MAACO Bowl in what will prove to be an interesting game. On one hand, we have the Broncos who have been denied a second straight BCS berth, and for the same reason: a missed field goal. Last season, Boise State blew a huge lead over Nevada, and then shanked a field goal that would have been the game winner. Then in overtime, Nevada scored on its first possession and then when Boise State got the ball back, they missed the field goal again. Nevada shocked the universe and upset the Broncos, who had been making a case for the BCS National Championship. That loss knocked them out contention and sent them to—surprise!—the Las Vegas Bowl. This season, Boise State met a similar fate when they faced the TCU Horned Frogs. This time around, the only thing that separated them from BCS glory was a 39-yard field goal. That proved to be too much, and the Broncos saw their BCS hopes and dreams shatter before their eyes again.

So obviously, Boise State is going into this game with a huge chip on its shoulder due to that -1 on their record that denies them a major bowl appearance.

On the other hand, we have ASU, who at the beginning of the season looked like a Pac-12 force to be reckoned with. They deftly handled USC but after that…well, things got ALL bad for the Sun Devils. ASU lost its final four games and saw its coach, Dennis Erickson, get fired. For a team that was supposed to be a BCS-buster, this is about as far in the other direction as they could’ve gone. It seemed that ASU couldn’t handle the pressures of actually being a competitive team, and the sun hastily set on these devils. But still, Arizona State isn’t a bad team and if they play like they did in the top half of the season, they have a shot at challenging the Broncos.

However, if the Sun Devils choose not to show up in this game, they will get absolutely destroyed by Boise State.

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore in the winningest quarterback in college football history (32-8), and the Broncos will undoubtedly put in work to make sure that Moore not only ends his collegiate career on a high note, but also to remind the nation that this team is no joke. This season, he has thrown for 3507 yards, 41 touchdowns, and has a completion percentage of 74.1. Not only do the Bronco’s have Moore, but they also have Chris Peterson, who has coached Boise State to national relevance, starting with their crazy upset over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Boise State will enter this game poised and disciplined, and they are pretty familiar with the notion of playing in bowl games.

The same cannot be said of Arizona State.

The Sun Devils haven’t made a postseason appearance since the 2007 Holiday Bowl, which they lost. Furthermore, their confidence is probably shaken, considering they boasted a 6-2 start and then experience an epic collapse at the tail end of the season. And it’s no secret that head coach Dennis Erickson has had all of zero control over this team—just look at middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s antics both on and off the field if you need proof. It’s really no surprise that ASU let him go after the way Erickson let the season unfold. However, Erickson will be allowed to coach in the Las Vegas Bowl, so he might muster up something to go out with a bang for the Sun Devils.

Offensively, both teams are pretty evenly stacked: ASU averages about 450 total yards per game, and Boise State, just over 483. Both teams can be deadly through the air and rank 13th and 14th respectively in passing yards per game (320 yards per game for ASU and 314 for Boise State). ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler is just as big of threat to Boise State as Kellen Moore is to ASU: Osweiler has passed for 3641 yards this season, and 24 touchdowns. When it comes to combating those offenses though, Boise State might have the advantage. The Arizona State defense has been porous as the season progressed, giving up 419 yards per game, as well as an astounding 36 points per contest during the month of November. In spite of that, ASU still has Burfict, who is going to enter this game ready to eat Broncos for dinner.

If his head is in the game, that is.

Everyone knows that Burfict is kind of a head case—and by “kind of” I mean REALLY is a head case—so who knows what he will do come kickoff. During ASU’s game against Cal on Nov. 25th, Erickson benched Burfict for a personal foul, and later he refused to go back in the game. It’s that selfish attitude that will absolutely plague Burfict as he goes on to the NFL, but he will travel to the Las Vegas Bowl. If he decides to show up, he stands to cause a lot of mayhem for Kellen Moore and the Boise State offense.

Boise State is 7-4 all-time in Bowl Games while Arizona State is 12-11-1, so history would favor the Broncos in this game. On the flip side though, the schools have met once before in 1996, and the Sun Devils molly-whopped the Broncos, 56-7.

Ultimately, we have to believe that Boise State pulls this one out. These are NOT your fathers Broncos, and they’re aiming to let you know that on a national stage against another well-known program. No longer are they the team that has to rely on trick plays; they’ve got the talent and coaching to stand toe-to-toe with the big dogs. This is an audition for both Kellen Moore and Vontaze Burfict, and Kellen has shown a poise in big games that Vontaze hasn’t. Burfict may be the best player on the field, but Moore is the best leader, and that will make all the difference in the Boise State victory.

The MAACO Las Vegas Bowl takes place on Dec. 22nd, and kick-off is at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Be sure to tune in to see how this match-up plays out.