Editor's Note: For the sixth consecutive year, the Mountain West will send five teams into postseason bowl games. The league has earned 56 bowl bids since 1999 and holds a 31-20 (.608) all-time record in those contests. Over the last eight seasons, the MW has captured the Bowl Challenge Cup four times and owns the best win percentage in bowl games among the 11 FBS conferences with a 24-12 mark (.667). The MW is the only conference to win the trophy four times since the award's inception in 2002-03. This is the third in a series of five previews analyzing the matchups between this year's MW bowl participants and their respective opponents.
Overview: Mountain West tri-champion Boise State is making its third straight appearance in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. The Broncos topped Utah 26-3 in the 2010 game before blitzing Arizona 56-24 in last year's contest. One of just 10 teams nationally to play in 10 or more consecutive bowl games, the Broncos, who are 8-4 in FBS bowl games, will be making their 11th straight postseason appearance and 12th in the past 13 years. The game marks the third consecutive postseason appearance for Washington following last season's 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. The Huskies, who finished fourth in the Pac-12 North, have an all-time bowl mark of 16-15-1.
When Boise State Has the Ball: While the loss of four-year starting quarterback Kellen Moore was destined to have a significant impact, the Broncos nonetheless averaged 30.4 points and 390.0 yards per game. Junior Joe Southwick, who assumed Moore's spot behind center, concluded the regular season completing 66.7 percent of his pass attempts (222-of-333) with 17 touchdowns. In his last two games, Southwick has completed 36-of-46 passes for 415 yards. Senior running back D.J. Harper, a second-team All-MW selection, eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in the team's regular-season finale at Nevada and has accounted for 15 of BSU's 42 touchdowns in 2012. The Broncos will be facing a Washington team that ranks 16th nationally in pass efficiency defense (2nd in Pac-12) and 30th in total defense (3rd in Pac-12). Only three teams in the Pac-12 allowed fewer points per game (23.83) than the Huskies during the regular season.
When Washington Has the Ball: Led by dual-threat quarterback Keith Price, the Huskies have endured their share of offensive struggles in 2012, ranking 10th in the Pac-12 and 99th nationally in total offense (347.58 ypg). Washington, which will be facing the nation's No. 9-ranked defense, has been limited to 21 or fewer points seven times this season. Now the Huskies are presented with the challenge of finding the end zone against a Boise State defense that is yielding an average of just 14.92 points (No. 6 nationally) and has not allowed more than 21 points in a game since Week 4. Four BSU players --- DL Mike Atkinson, DE Demarcus Lawrence, LB J.C. Percy and CB Jamar Taylor --- earned first-team All-MW honors, with Percy becoming the program's first player to record more than 100 tackles in a season (101) since 2006. Lawrence's 9.5 sacks led the MW. Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a finalist for the John Mackey Award, presented annually to the nation's top tight end, holds school records for receptions, yards and touchdowns by a tight end. His 63 receptions this season ranks second nationally among tight ends and also represent a single-season school record.
Special Teams: Broncos senior placekicker Michael Frisina has already connected on 12 field goals in 2012, quadrupling his total from all of 2011 (three). The Broncos' average of 25.77 yards per kickoff return ranks 9th nationally, while senior Chris Potter ranks 18th in the country with an average of 11.83 yards per punt return. Washington placekicker/punter Travis Coons has converted 7-of-11 field-goal attempts this season and is averaging 39.5 yards per punt.
Analysis: While Washington does possess its share of weapons in Price, Seferian-Jenkins and sophomore running back Bishop Sankey (102.83 ypg), this is a tall order for the Huskies, who must deal with a team that ranks fourth in the nation in turnovers gained (33) and is tied for fourth in pass defense (163.42 ypg). The Broncos are also sixth in scoring defense, seventh in pass efficiency defense (101.42) and ninth in total defense. Nationally, Washington ranks no higher than 86th (passing offense) in any offensive category.