Bowl Breakdown: Washington-Boise State

Washington RB Bishop Sankey

Our Washington and Boise State publishers give you players to watch, keys to victory and more for the Las Vegas Bowl.

Editor's note: For selected games during bowl season, our Scout.com publishers will go head-to-head to break down the game, giving you the players to watch, reasons to believe in each team and more.

Las Vegas Bowl

Washington vs. Boise State
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (in Las Vegas)
CFN's Las Vegas Bowl prediction

Washington Huskies

By Chris Fetters, DawgMan.com

Three players to watch

Bishop Sankey, RB: Sankey came from a true freshman season backing up NFL-bound Chris Polk to producing his own 1000-yard season in 2012. Sankey was one of five 1000-yard rushers in the Pac-12 this year, joining a pretty elite class (Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Oregon's Kenjon Barner, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor).

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE: Sankey's fellow sophomore was one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end. He finished with 63 catches for 791 yards.

Desmond Trufant, CB: Defensively, the top Husky is the senior Trufant, who led UW's secondary to a massive improvement in their pass defense, going from 92nd nationally last year to 16th. Trufant was Washington's only first-team All-Pac-12 performer.


Desmond Trufant was Washington's only first-team All-Pac-12 player.

Three strengths

Washington's secondary went from a liability in 2011 to an unquestioned strength in 2012. They gave up nearly 100 yards per game less through the air than a year ago.

The Huskies' defense also became a very opportunistic one, forcing 32 turnovers this season -- including 19 in the last five games.

Keeping on the defensive theme, the Huskies did a good job of getting off the field on third down compared to a year ago. In 2011 they were allowing offenses to complete third downs by a rate of nearly 50 percent -- in 2012 that percentage went down to 37 percent.

Important thing you may not know

During the last five games Washington did an incredible job of not allowing turnovers to dictate sudden-change situations to put them in a hole. They gave up the ball nine times, but those turnovers resulted in only 11 points for the opposition.

On the flip side, half the top 10 most penalized teams this year came from the Pac-12, and Washington was one of the worst. They were flagged a school record 106 times for 959 yards, an average of nearly nine penalties for 80 yards a game.

What Washington must do to win

Clearly Washington has to stick to the basics -- run the ball, stop the run, force turnovers, play mistake-free special teams and win the battle of third down. With both defenses playing well and both offenses spotty at best, the game certainly looks to be a low-scoring affair.

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The Huskies have to avoid coming out slow and not allow Boise State to dictate the pace and tone of the game. UW quarterback Keith Price needs to continue to make smart decisions and step in and through the pocket, instead of to the side and toward the sidelines.

The Huskies' defensive line has to force pressure on Boise State to create third-and-long situations. the Broncos have been converting at a 45 percent clip, so UW has to put a dent in that to give its offense more chances to score.


Boise State Broncos

By Kevin Hiatt, BroncoCountry.com

Three players to watch

Joe Southwick, QB: As he goes, the Broncos offense goes. When Southwick is on it's nearly like it was with former starting quarterback Kellen Moore. When Southwick is off, well ... the Broncos have failed to score an offensive touchdown in multiple games this season.

D.J. Harper, RB: The sixth-year senior is the workhorse on offense and he's been steady. Also watch for Jay Ajayi, Harper's bruising backup.

Demarcus Lawrence, DE: The sophomore junior college transfer chose Boise State over Tennessee and has SEC talent and speed at DE. He's been unstoppable and is by far the MVP of the Boise State defense.


Boise State's fortunes should be largely determined by Joe Southwick.

Three strengths

Defensive line. Replacing all four players -- with three of them currently playing in the NFL and one on a practice squad -- seemed daunting, but the Broncos defense just reloaded. The pass rush is particularly effective.

Pass defense. The Boise State first team defensive backfield has given up just three passing touchdowns all season, and only one that was against the first or second team, on a trick play. CB Jamar Taylor will be playing on Sundays next season.

Coaching. There's a reason why Chris Petersen's name comes up for every job opening in FBS. He has been outcoached before ... but you can count the times on one hand. You don't end up the only two-time winner of the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award for no reason.

Important thing you may not know

Boise State's kicking woes have been fixed -- as long as the kick is inside 30 yards. The Broncos' kicker is perfect from 30 in, and a big goose egg from 30-plus yards.

What Boise State must do to win

Find a way to slow down Keith Price on one side, and then figure out how to score on a Justin Wilcox defense that Broncos fans are intimately familiar with. No easy task.

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Their defense will in all likelihood keep the Broncos in the game, but the offense is the question mark. If it's the offense that showed up at the start of the year, it will be a long night for Bronco fans. If it's the second-half of the season's offense, then the Broncos have a shot.

Either way, it's likely to be a close game. The last time the Broncos lost by more than four points was the 2007 season -- the same season the Broncos last played the Huskies, a 14-point loss in Seattle.

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