Utah Utes (10-2 SU, 7-4-1 ATS) vs. Boise State Broncos (11-1 SU, 8-4 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Maaco Bowl, Wednesday, December 22, 2010, Sam Boyd Stadium, Whitney, Nevada, TV: ESPN
By Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: UT +17/BSU -17
Over/Under Total: 60.5
On December 22 in Las Vegas, the Maaco Bowl features a pair of top-20 teams when the Utah Utes take on the Boise State Broncos. These teams are both somewhat crestfallen. It wasnt long ago that both of these squads were undefeated, with their sights set on glamorous BCS bowls. Well, that didnt happen. This bowl, however, allows the winner to finish the season on a high note with a win over a quality team.
The Utes have won 9 straight bowl games. More recently and pertinent perhaps is the fact they have only covered 1 of their last 5 games. The massacre to TCU surely resonated throughout the latter part of the season for Utah. They were supposed to be at least competitive with the Horned Frogs, but a 40-point annihilation sent them in the other direction. They went from an undefeated team to a group that appeared to be circling the drain. They came back with a 25-point loss to Notre Dame.
Utah deserves credit for coming back late to beat San Diego State in their next game. After a pair of resounding defeats, the Utes looked like they had packed it in, until rallying from a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to nip the Aztecs at the wire. They ended the year with a one-point win against BYU. While these are not overly promising results, they show the heart of a team that did well avoiding a total and utter flameout.
Starting Utes QB Jordan Wynn is expected to miss the game. Replacement Terrance Cain struggled in relief against BYU, but is 9-1 in his career as a starterenough to give Utah backers a touch of confidence. This is an offense with good ability and variety. RB Eddie Wide has 13 touchdowns, with big playmakers RB Matt Asiata, WR DeVonte Christopher and WR Jerome Brooks being major contributors. Defensively, they have been stout for the most part, not counting the TCU game. This unit is 23rd in total yards, 10th in rushing yards, and 24th in points allowed. Their recent woes have distracted people somewhat from the fact that, at the end of the day, this is still a heck of a team.
Maybe Boise State never fulfilled their promise this year, but 11-1 isnt too shabby. If you remove one game from their schedule, they looked like one of the very few top teams in the nation all season long. Their sleepy performance against Nevada was a serious letdown. Nevertheless, if their kicker drilled a short field goal, their season would take on a whole different light. As it is, theyre playing in Vegas 10 days to 2 weeks before the best teams play each other. It has to be considered a major disappointment.
They still have a lot going for them. Heisman finalist Kellen Moore completed over 70% of his passes, while throwing for 33 touchdowns with only 5 picks. RB Doug Martin had 1113 yards with 13 touchdowns. WR Titus Young (65-1151-10) was a major threat all year. It seems safe to say that the Broncos playmakers are more compelling than what the Utes bring to the table. In addition, Boise State has a defense that is ranked 4th in total yards and points allowed.
It is difficult to gauge where Boise State is spiritually at this point. After watching them get up for even routine games, it was puzzling to see them so flat in the Nevada game. Their opponent had a lot to do with that, but that Boise State performance was weird. It was as if they got lulled to sleep. It was just one of those things. This bowl placement probably stings the Broncos more, while the Utes had more time to mentally resign themselves to the disappointing nature of this season. Boise State might still be a bit woozy.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Spread: Sure, Boise State might be experiencing a letdown here, but where is Utah at this point? Against a surging team, Boise States spirits might be more of a factor. The bottom line is that Utah looks to be a deteriorated team. Getting waxed by a mediocre Fighting Irish squad didnt inspire confidence. Neither did scraping by San Diego State and nipping a down BYU team at home. QB Terrance Cain is unquestionably a capable field general, but a bowl game is no time to have a new face in that position.
Boise State knows the only thing they can do is to lay it to Utah. Its not the victory they were looking for, but it would be a good way to end things on a positive note. Look for Kellen Moore and Company to put up enough big plays early to take a lead, before surging late to put this game away. Take Boise State minus 17 points.