Thanks to a few missed kicks, late season brain freezes and injustice of the BCS system, the Las Vegas Bowl will have its best matchup ever pitting No. 10 Boise State (11-1) against No. 20 Utah (10-2).
Not only does Wednesday’s night game at Sam Boyd Stadium have the best combined records to be playing in Las Vegas, but it also is one the most intriguing competitive bowls of the season.
The only problem this West Coast college football fan can see with the matchup is that they are playing each other rather than showing the SEC, Big-10, ACC or Big East that they can beat most of their teams.
It’s almost like last season when they put TCU and Boise State in a closet as undefeated teams to play each other and essentially prove nothing to the East Coast bias.
After Utah got whacked by TCU when both were undefeated, they fell asleep at Notre Dame in an emotional downer stemming from the TCU game. The Utes bounced back with two gritty wins against San Diego State and BYU and come in having won nine straight bowl games – two came in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Boise State holds a 4-2 all-time edge against Utah and has won the last three – the last a 36-3 victory in 2006. The Broncos have outscored opponents in 11 of 12 games. While the offense has been impressive, their defense allows 13.6 points and 259 yards a game, both good for fourth in the nation.
Both teams have been successful against the spread (Utah 7-4-1, BSU 8-4), but the public is sure to side with the Broncos after being severely let down by Utah against Notre Dame.
A great trend to follow over the last few years has been to take the points in any game before New Year’s Day when getting 8 or more. I can make a case for Washington, Tulsa and Army in that situation, but it’s hard to go against Boise State.
The Vegas Bowl is usually pretty awful weather with cold, nasty winds. The extended forecast calls for possible showers at about 57 degrees which could be a good reason to consider UNDER 61 points.
The best possible scenario – coming from a homer Mountain West supporter – is to send Utah to the Pac-10 with a bad loss and have it come from the conference’s new entry, Boise State. I’ll take BOISE, 35-16.
Hawaii and San Diego State are essentially playing home games for their bowls. In the case of San Diego State, fans rarely show up. Maybe playing a first bowl game since 1998 will get them fired up, or, maybe not, seeing how the fans witnessed three bowl losses in a row dating back to 1969.
Navy has the advantage of playing in the backyard of the West Coast’s largest Naval facility. Navy is also going for the second straight 10-win season, which would be a first in Academy history. Look for Midshipmen QB Ricky Dobbs to give the Aztecs fits with their triple option attack. I’ll take a shot with both underdogs in TULSA and NAVY.
College hoops: Just when we thought UCSB’s improbable win as a 16-point underdog at No. 22 UNLV would be the upset of the week, a 4-7 Illinois-Chicago team upends No. 14 Illinois as a 17-point dog.
Upsets like that one are why we love college basketball so much. In each case with UNLV and Illinois, their opponents took it to them and with that their confidence. Illinois shot only 32 percent from the field in its loss, a figure any team would be hard pressed to win with against anyone.
Tennessee: One week after praising the exploits of the Vols for extraordinary play despite the cloud over the program, they fall twice as 12-point favorites to Oakland and Charlotte. How is it Bruce Pearl is still on the sidelines despite his infractions when Michigan State’s Tom Izzo gets suspended one game for his minor violation?
Central Florida: The unbeaten Knights are sure to be ranked this week after beating Miami. UCF now has three wins against Florida schools. Sophomore Marcus Jordan (son of Hall of Famer Michael Jordan), has doubled his scoring average this season to 16 ppg, shooting 49 percent from the field and 41 for 3’s. Next: UMass, Furman. Look-ahead game Jan. 26 at Memphis.
Michigan: Keep an eye on the Wolverines (9-2) for possible value in the next few weeks. After narrow losses to Syracuse and TEP on successive days came six straight wins against the likes of Clemson, Utah and suddenly potent in-state rival Oakland. The Wolverines (15-17 last season, 7-11 in Big-10) begin conference play next week at home as a probable dog vs No. 17 Purdue.
Top matchups: The Game of the Week has Georgetown (10-1) visiting Memphis (8-1) where the host Tigers are 7-0 at home. The Hoyas are ranked No. 1 in the RPI ratings because of their strength of schedule and opponents they have beat. Locally, UNLV (10-2) gets a major test to its psyche traveling to Kansas State (9-2) Tuesday night. Fortunately for the Rebels, it’s in Kansas City instead of Manhattan. The bad news is the Wildcats come in angry off a 57-44 loss at Florida.