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Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Boise State
Betting Line: Boise -17 o/u 60.5
The Las Vegas Bowl isn't a big time brand, but the two schools competing in
the game sure as hell are. The Utah Utes (10-2) are set to put their nine bowl
game winning streak on the line against heavily favored Boise State (11-1). The
Broncos had the Rose Bowl or BCS Championship in mind, but that all went down
the drain when kicker Kyle Brotzman missed a game winning FG against Nevada and
then missed another in OT.
Both were chip shots. Utah was undefeated before a
47-7 thrashing at the hands of TCU. They lost the following week against Notre
Dame but finished out year the unbeaten with a win over a feisty San Diego State
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Boise State opened as a 16.5 point favorite and the line has since moved to 17. The action favors the Broncos 68% to 32% for the Utes. The Broncos average 46.7 PPG compared to 35.6 PPG for the Utes. They are also better on defense statistically speaking with 13.6 PPG allowed compared to 19.8 for Utah. The Utes are 7-4-1 ATS this year, but Boise State is slightly better at 8-4. The last time these teams met was in 2006 and it resulted in a 36-3 win for the Broncos.
The Broncos of Boise State have countless offensive weapons. The show begins with QB Kellen Moore. The senior was a Heisman candidate this year and for good reason. Performances like a 215 yard 3 TDs effort against Virginia Tech should tell you that Moore is a gamer. He put up 3 TDs without an INT in 6 different games this year.
Tough defenses have troubled him in the past though. In the past two bowl games he has failed to throw a TD pass. Granted those games were against an ultra tough TCU defense. Moore has WRs like Titus Young to bail him out. The senior has 65 catches for 1,151 yards and 9 TDs. Fellow senior Austin Pettis has 59 catches for 804 yards and 9 TDs. Throw in RBs Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin who have combined for 1,500+ yards and 22 TDs and this offense will almost assuredly create problems for the Utes.
We can expect Utah to pound the ball in this bowl game. Seniors Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata are very good and can find the end zone. They have combined for 1,356 yards and 19 TDs this year. Wide had 10 carries for 66 yards and 2 TDs against San Diego State. Asiata's best game came when he posted 2 TDs against Colorado State. If Utah is going to have a chance at the win they need QB Jordan Wynn to play his head off. The sophomore looked great passing for 362 yards and 2 TDs against San Diego State. He is still a bit green and may find some trouble with this defense. Utah doesn't have tons of flashy players like the Broncos, but they know how to score. They rank 18th in the nation in Points For at 35.6 PPG as we previously mentioned.
Boise State has rock solid defense, but it isn't impregnable as Nevada proved by racking up 528 yards. They have 14 sacks in their last 4 games. Playing great defense isn't always needed as the Broncos offense almost always gets theirs. However, in a game where they will need to cover 17 points it becomes greatly important. They shut out Fresno State and gave up only 7 points to Hawaii. If they play their best game then Utah could be in very big trouble.
Utah can play a bit of defense too. They held the high powered Notre Dame offense to 256 total yards. They only allowed Pittsburgh to gain 266 yards. They haven't seen anything close to as good as the Broncos are on offense this year though. In both of their losses the Utes lost the turnover war. If the defense can come up with some big time INTs or fumble recoveries they could keep their team in the game.
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Motivation is always a factor in Bowl games. Will Boise St be disinterested? Or will they want to prove they deserved better? While most of the football world is in love with Boise, this handicapper isn't. I'm glad they lost to Nevada so we don't have hear them whine. Their schedule is among the weakest in all of college football. When they stepped up in competition, they stumbled.
Unfortunately, The Utes schedule wasn't much stronger. But it was stronger. To illustrate why you shouldn't be overly impressed with Boise, let's take a look at a common opponent, San Jose. Utah beat them 56-3. Boise beat them 48-0. Utah also owns wins over the same quality opponent as we see on Boise's schedule. 56-14 over New Mexico, 68-27 over Iowa State, 59-6 over Colorado State, 38-10 over UNLV. Heck, those teams might be of better quality than the Boise schedule with few exceptions.
The point being, many teams would have those impressive stats if they played the Boise schedule. Those stats don't look as impressive if you look at Virginia Tech, Nevada and Oregon State only. It's just amazing to me how many "football experts", those on TV each week on the pre game shows and what not, buy into the Boise State pipe dream. My contention is not that they can't play with any given team, on any given day. They likely could give Oregon or Auburn a good game. My contention is that they couldn't play a major conference schedule week in and week out. If they did, they'd be just another team.
As for this game, our numbers show Boise winning, but not by enough. Both teams have similar yards per point numbers, and this is important because when you consider that Utah played a slightly tougher schedule, yards per point has this game dead even. Utah has an 11 on offense, as does Boise. Boise is 3 points better defensively at 19, while Utah has a 16 on defense. So yards per point favors Boise by 3 before taking schedule into consideration.
Likewise, a method we use to arrive at a predicted final score, which does
take schedule strength into account, has Boise winning by 12, 32-20. So there's
enough wiggle room according to our numbers for Utah to get a cover here. Losing
47-7 to TCU and 28-3 to Notre Dame is what keeps this game from being a Key
Release for us. Those two games tell us we can't trust Utah here.
Opinion - Utah +17