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Maaco Las Vegas Bowl
This is the second bowl game between MWC and Pac 12 schools. While the Pac 12 has the advantage in the Nevada-Arizona matchup, Boise State is currently being listed as 5-point favorites over Washington at 5 Dimes Sportsbook. It makes sense because even though Arizona and Washington have the same record, Arizona put a beating on the Huskies by 35 points earlier in the season.
The line for this game is a tad influenced by the last two games for each of these teams. Washington lost at Washington State in overtime to finish out their season. Maybe they didn't care much as they knew they were already in a bowl game, but losing to one of the worst teams in the conference (and an in-state rival) is never good. Boise State on the other hand, had possibly their best win of the season at Nevada. The Broncos are a team that tends to struggle on the road and getting that road win against a bowl-level school was needed.
The Huskies have some ugly losses on the year, but on their way to a 7-5 record they had some very big wins over Stanford and Oregon State. They won those games with their defense and will need to do the same against a very similar defensive-minded Boise State team.
Washington does not have a very good offense like most other Pac 12 teams in bowl games. They only average 23.8 points per game. In conference play, they only scored more than 30 points twice. The most points they scored against a team with a winning record was coincidentally against a MWC school, San Diego State. The Huskies won 21-12 in the first game of the season. Boise State lost at home to the Aztecs in early November, 21-19.
The Husky offense doesn't succeed without its run game. Bishop Sankey is the main piece to the puzzle and needs to find room for this offense to get anything going. He's had at least 23 carries in five straight games and they've only lost one of those. Unsurprisingly, Sankey had his worst yards per carry average in that loss at Washington State. Boise State allows just over 140 yards per game on the ground as a defense. Quarterback Keith Price took a step back in the passing game from his 33-TD 2011 season, but he's still led the team to the same 7-5 regular season record.
Boise State played their way to a 56-24 win in last year's MAACO Bowl over Arizona State. However, the difference between that team and this one is easily noticeable. Without Kellen Moore under center, Boise State has struggled to score all season.
Joe Southwick's overall numbers aren't bad with 17 TDs and seven INTs, but when playing against tougher defenses, he hasn't done much. Against Michigan State, BYU, Fresno State and San Diego State, here are his numbers: 591 passing yards, two TDs, three interceptions. Because of that, D.J. Harper will need to have a good game for the Broncos if they want to win. On the season, Harper has a solid 1,065 yards and 15 TDs. The over/under on this game is sitting around 46 points for a reason. These two teams play very defensive and have struggled to score points all season.
This is a game where you have to focus on schedule strength. If you look at the yards per point numbers of these teams, you find Boise with a very good 13 on offense and 20 on defense for a +7 differential (those numbers are rounded off). Washington on the other hand is a mediocre 14 on both sides of the ball. But this is a case where you cannot consider those numbers unless you adjust for schedule strength as the Huskies schedule was roughly two touchdowns more difficult. Boise hammered some bad teams, but their wins over "good" teams were by 6 points or less, with the exception of their 10 point win over Fresno. Meanwhile, when you look at Washington, those Stanford and Oregon State wins really stand out as well as going toe to toe with USC. We must admit though, that Arizona game is a concern.
One of the things our model does well is take into account schedule strength. When we run this game through our model we come up with Boise on top by 3 in some cases, and with Washington on top by 2 in others, all depending on the time frame used. Either way, it's a close one, according to the model. We agree. This isn't the Boise team we've been accustomed to seeing over the last several years that scores points in buckets. This is Boise team that has been known more for it's defense and again, their wins against "good" teams have been narrow ones. Washington +5
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