2010 Las Vegas Bowl - Utah vs. Boise State
Utah QB Terrance Cain & Boise St QB Kellen Moore
Utah QB Terrance Cain & Boise St QB Kellen Moore
Posted Dec 17, 2010

Flash back to six weeks ago before Utah got pasted by TCU and Boise State lost to Nevada. The Broncos vs. the Utes would've stopped the world in an epic showdown of two top five teams. Now it's a battle for a December bowl game. The Mountain West says goodbye to one program and welcomes in another in what should be a strong 2010 MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.

2010 MAACO Las Vegas

(10-2) vs. Boise St. (11-1)

Wednesday, December 22nd, 8:00 ESPN  

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Pick ATS: Boise State  Confidence Score: 51
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 15 out of 35
SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for all the CFNers' confidence picks and bowl history

By Pete Fiutak

On October 31st, this would've been an epic showdown between two top five teams.

Now it's the Las Vegas Bowl.

There but for the grace of a Kyle Brotzman kick went the Broncos' dream season, likely missing out on a shot at Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl if they had gotten by Nevada. Completely ignored in the BCS process, and with the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl beneath a team worth of playing in the BCS Championship, Boise State going to the Las Vegas Bowl isn't exactly a nice consolation prize, but a blowout win over the Utes could mean a top five finish and an impressive fourth season in the last five with at least 12 wins. In the last game as a member of the WAC, before moving over to the Mountain West, it's statement making time. This is when Boise State wants to show the world that yeah, it really was good enough this year.

National Rankings
BSU   Utah
4th Total
4th Total
2nd Scoring
4th Scoring
24th Rushing
6th Rushing
6th Passing
3rd Passing
18th Turnover
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
BSU   Utah
5 QBs 3
4 RBs 4
5 WRs 3
5 O Line 5
5 D Line 4.5
4 LBs 4
5 DBs 3
3.5 STs 4
5 Coach 5
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
The Broncos came back to beat eventual ACC champion Virginia Tech 33-30 in the season opener, and it lost on the road in overtime to a Nevada team that finished 12-1. That was it as far as the drama as they obliterated everyone else in their path by double digits. The lowest scoring output of the season was the 31 put up against Nevada, and the defense allowed more 20 points in four games. Yeah, the schedule was full of bums and dregs, but Boise State did what a great team is supposed to against bad teams allowing a grand total of 19 points against Wyoming, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Fresno State, and Utah State. Throw in the seven points allowed against the loaded, high-powered Hawaii team, and in the seven WAC wins the Broncos allowed just 55 points.

As bad as the schedule might appear, Boise State played three teams currently ranked in the BCS top 25, compared to the mere one that Oregon played, and with two wins over ranked teams compared to none by Stanford. Strength of schedule-wise, the Bronco slate is ranked 44th in the nation and was tougher than Virginia Tech's, Stanford's, Ohio State's, Wisconsin's, Connecticut's, TCU's and Oregon's. The respect never came as America waited and hoped for that one big slip to come to keep the little-guy-not-really-a-little-guy from playing for the national championship. That's unfortunate.

Rip on Boise State's slate all you want, but the program is 37-2 over the last three seasons with one loss coming on the Brotzman miss and the other a one-point loss to TCU in the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl. Beating Utah still wouldn't exactly bring the national love, but a blowout might force everyone to look at this team differently after all the criticism and all the scrutiny throughout the year.

On the other side, Utah needs a win to save some face after a rough final month of the year. After an 8-0 start with a win over Pitt and a 68-27 blasting of Iowa State on the road, everything was set up to make a statement on a national scale. GameDay came to town, the defense had allowed 12 points in its previous two games, and the national title talk was starting … and then TCU showed up. The 47-7 loss to the Horned Frogs was uglier than the final score, and the hangover didn't go away with a miserable 28-3 gaffe at Notre Dame. But just when it seemed like the season was careening into a cliff, the team rallied to get by San Diego State in a wild shootout before squeaking by BYU to close out the Mountain West portion of the program's life with a rivalry win.

Utah hasn't been pretty, the offense doesn't have franchise quarterback Jordan Wynn to rely on, and the expectation will be for Boise State to come out and dominate, but this isn't Utah State. The Utes have won ten games three years in a row and have won a whopping 50 games over the last five seasons. The program knows how to win, even when the expectations aren't high, and head coach Kyle Whittingham is great at getting the team up for bowl games.

One of the most dominant post-season performers in college football, Utah is on a nine-game bowl winning streak and have won ten of its last 11 going back to 1994. From a win over Cal in last year's Poinsettia, to the dominant beating of Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, to Las Vegas Bowl wins over USC and Fresno State, playing well with time to prepare hasn't been a problem. But Boise State isn't bad in the bowls, either.

Since the program's phenomenal run started more than a decade ago, Boise State is just 6-4 in bowl games. However, all four losses were nailbiters that could've gone either way, losing the 2004 Liberty, the 2005 MPC Computers, the 2007 Hawaii, and the 2008 Poinsettia by a total of 14 points. Few teams have played in more tough bowl battles over the last several years with the last seven bowl all decided by a touchdown or less. The Las Vegas Bowl has to hope for some of that excitement to rub off.

Traditionally one of the biggest dog with fleas, the Las Vegas Bowl has been a disaster over the years with just one of the last four games even remotely entertaining, and with just three of the last 13 bowls decided by fewer than double-digits.

Mountain West, start rooting for your shiny new addition. Pac 12, hope your new brother makes a big statement. Las Vegas Bowl, hope the game lives up to the matchup like it would've been in October.

Players to Watch: Really, is Kellen Moore that good? He's not a pro prospect – he's not big enough and he doesn't have the biggest arm – but he's deadly accurate, whip-smart, and he doesn't make mistakes. Boise State might be great, but he's a big reason why the program has gone to a whole other level ranking second in the nation in passing efficiency this year while completing 68% of his passes over his first three seasons for 10,528 yards and 97 touchdowns with a mere 18 interceptions. Even though he has thrown 1,181 times so far, he has thrown multiple picks in just two games. One was the 42-7 obliteration against Hawaii this year, and he also happened to throw for 507 yards and three touchdowns in roughly three quarters. The other was as a freshman when he threw three picks in the epic win over Nevada, but he also threw for 414 yards and three scores. It should be noted, though, that the two multi-pick games came the two times he threw for over 400 yards.

It also helps to have a phenomenal pair of wideouts to work with. Moore might not be high on the NFL radar, but Austin Pettis and Titus Young are. At 6-3 and 197 pounds, Pettis has good size, excellent quickness, and a nose for the goal line when he gets a chance to make the big play. While not necessarily a field stretcher, he can be used on the deep ball from time to time. His stats weren't phenomenal, catching 59 passes for 804 yards and nine touchdowns with two scores coming in the opener against Virginia Tech, but he earned First Team All-WAC honors without a question. Pettis will probably go in the fourth round, because he won't time all that well, but he'll hang around the league for a while. Young is the stronger prospect with better speed and the potential to be used as a returner. He caught 65 passes for 1,151 yards and nine scores on the year, highlighted by a phenomenal grab to keep the Nevada game alive, and he'll be used in a variety of ways.

For Utah to win this game, it needs to keep the high-powered Boise State off the field, and that starts with needing to break through a run defense that's sixth in the nation and a defense that's first in the nation in sacks and second in tackles for loss. That's where the Utes' all-star line comes in. Senior Caleb Schlauderaff is the star up from earning First Team All-Mountain West honors as a pounding, consistent left guard who doesn't have next-level athleticism, but will go down as one of the program's greatest blockers. TCU's Jake Kirkpatrick was the Rimington Award winner, but Utah senior center Zane Taylor had almost as strong a season with a great year as the anchor in the middle. The 6-2, 309-pound senior is a very smart, very tough quarterback for the offense and was a rock after moving over from playing at right guard earlier in his career. 6-6, 310-pound right tackle Tony Bergstrom earned Second Team All-Mountain West honors and he should be one of the Pac 10's best blockers next year. With good size and toughness, he's a good pass blocker but he's not an elite one. He's better when he gets to put his hands on a defender and push.

Utah will win if ... it dominates the time of possession. Boise State can strike quickly, but while it's known for its high-powered passing game, Doug Martin and the ground game takes the will out of defenses. How did Nevada beat the Broncos? The Pack didn't actually stop Boise State, but Colin Kaepernick and the Wolf Pack converted several key third down chances, ground out 269 yards, and held on to the ball for over 35 minutes. The only other close call this year for the Broncos was the opener against Virginia Tech, and the Hokies hung on to the ball for 34:20. Utah isn't quite as pound-it-out physical as it should've been this year considering the talent up front and the veterans in the backfield, but the efficient attack should be able to keep the chains moving as long as Terrance Cain has a big game. And that's the other issue.

Quarterback Jordan Wynn didn't have a huge sophomore season, but he had his moments as the program's burgeoning star. However, he's out for the bowl game and all of spring ball after undergoing shoulder surgery meaning it'll be up to Cain to quickly regain his early season form. The senior stepped in when Wynn had a banged up thumb early in the season and completed 20-of-23 passes for 248 yards and three scores against New Mexico and was great against UNLV. However, when he stepped in against BYU he was awful completing just 2-of-7 throws for eight yards with two interceptions. He's not all that big, but he's a veteran from the JUCO ranks and he can move. He has to be fantastic in his final game for the Utes to have a shot.

Boise State will win if ... Kellen Moore gets hot early. The Broncos are great at jumping all over teams early and taking away their will to live, and that could happen against the Utes if Moore is ultra-efficient. As is, the Boise State passing game is the second most efficient in America behind Auburn's, and Utah's secondary has been picked clean at times by decent quarterbacks. San Diego State's Ryan Lindley and TCU's Andy Dalton threw without a problem, and Moore should be able to do the same. Utah's pass rush is fine, but it's hardly special, even though it led the Mountain West in sacks, and if Moore isn't under pressure, it'll be uh-oh time. If needed, Moore and Boise State can throw on Utah, while Cain and the Utes can't bomb away to come back on the Broncos.

Really, it'll be all about attitude. If Boise State comes in trying to prove to the world that it's one of the best teams in America, and if it doesn't make a slew of mistakes and if the offense gets a solid balance throughout, with Moore playing like a Heisman finalist, there shouldn't be any problems. Utah is a very good team, but it's a flawed team and it doesn't have the punch to match the Broncos point for point if this gets into any sort of a shootout. Boise State is the better team in almost every phase, and now it needs to play like it.

What will happen: Utah will come out roaring. It's not like the Utes are that bad, and it's not like they don't know how to play in the post-season. Head coach Kyle Whittingham will play up the mega-underdog angle, and with the pressure totally off, the defense will fly around in the Boise State backfield, the offense will be sharp in the first half with Cain looking like a world-beater, and it won't be enough. The Broncos will settle in, eventually the passing game will be too much for the Utah secondary, and Doug Martin will pound away in the fourth quarter as the offensive line starts to take over late. It won't be a dominant performance by Boise State, but it'll be an effective one after some early drama.

CFN Prediction: Boise State 34 … Utah 20 ... Line: Boise State -17.5
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Pick ATS: Boise State  Confidence Score: 51
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 15 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Utah   Pick Confidence - 26
- Mountain West old star, meet your replacement. Considering Boise State got hosed out of a BCS appearance, this isn't a bad matchup against the future Pac 12 member that could make future appearances here. It would've been great if Utah QB Jordan Wynn was healthy to make this a battle of young guns, but Terrence Cain is a good, veteran passer and the Utes will give the Broncos a game. An argument could be made that this is the best non-New Year's Day matchup.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - Utah   Pick Confidence - 19
- This is an interesting match up between former BCS busters, who had much higher postseason expectations at one time. There'll be a lot of irony here, with the Utes exiting the Mountain West as the Broncos are set to arrive.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Boise State   Pick Confidence - 27
- Laudable and admirable that college football bowl games brokered deals to make this matchup happen; would that this could happen for all bowl games. Expect Utah to be fired up in the first quarter; if the Utes max out, they can hang. That's a big "if," however.

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Boise State  Pick Confidence - 32
- - How disappointed are you if you're Boise State? Utah is living off its 2009 reputation and a very weak 2010 schedule. Hide the women and children for this one.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Boise State  Pick Confidence - 34
- The battle of two of most notable non-AQ teams of the BCS era. Watch out for the letdown, because this is not where Boise State wants to be.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Boise State   Pick Confidence - 22
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Utah Pick Confidence - 7
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Utah  Pick Confidence - 29
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Boise State  Pick Confidence - 18
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Utah   Pick Confidence -  1

Las Vegas Bowl History
2009 BYU 44, Oregon State 20
2008 Arizona 31, BYU 21
2007 BYU 17, UCLA 16
2006 BYU 38, Oregon 8
2005 California 35, BYU 28
2004 Wyoming 24, UCLA 21
2003 Oregon St 44, New Mexico 14
2002 UCLA 27, New Mexico 13
2001 Utah 10, USC 6
2000 UNLV 31, Arkansas 14
1999 Utah 17, Fresno State 16
1998 N Carolina 20, S. Diego St 13
1997 Oregon 41, Air Force 13
1996 Nevada 18, Ball State 15
1995 Toledo 40, Nevada 37 (OT)
1994 UNLV 52, Central Mich 24
1993 Utah State 42, Ball State 33
1992 Bowling Green 35, Nevada 34