Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.
Forecast: 55 degrees, partly cloudy
Spread: Boise State by 5
Watchability: A ton, as the Huskies always seem to bring out the best in bowl opponents and the Broncos always seem to provide drama in the postseason. There should be plenty of intrigue in this one.
Shining stars: Washington -- QB Keith Price. Price hasn't had the season expected out of him after throwing 33 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions last season. He has just 18 scoring passes as a junior but matched his turnover total from last year. But he'll give the Huskies their best scoring option against a tough Broncos defense, and he has some good bowl experience. This is the guy who threw for 438 yards and four touchdowns against Baylor last season in a 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss. Boise State -- RB D.J. Harper. Harper was not particularly prolific in terms of yardage, finishing eighth in the Mountain West Conference with 88.75 yards per game. But he found the end zone often, ranking third in the conference with 15 touchdowns. Against a Washington defense that ranks 66th against the run, Harper will be crucial.
Who could steal the show: Washington -- DE Josh Shirley. Like Price, Shirley had a disappointing season. Like Price, he finished strong. Shirley had four of his 6.5 sacks in the Huskies' final three games, showing the kind of bounce-back he displayed last year, when he had 6.5 quarterback take-downs in the final four games. Again, like Price, he was huge against the Bears in the Alamo Bowl, totalling three sacks. Boise State -- DL Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence came up big for the Broncos for much of the year, leading the conference in sacks (9.5) and tying for the conference lead in tackles for loss (14). Most importantly, he took someone down in the backfield in all but two games, and that kind of consistency helped lead the Boise State defense to a No. 14 ranking in sacks.
Magic number for Washington: 110.58. Under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the Huskies improved tremendously against the pass this season. A year after ranking 78th in passing efficiency defense, Washington allowed opposing quarterbacks just a 110.58 mark in passing efficiency to rank 16th in the nation.
Magic number for Boise State: 304.67. Don't expect quite the same fireworks out of Washington in this year's postseason. The Broncos are no Baylor. They're much better. Boise State ranked ninth nationally by allowing just 304.67 yards per game.
3 keys to a Washington win
- Price bounces back: The junior quarterback regressed from a season ago, and now he'll be tested by a Boise State defense that has allowed a FBS-low three passing touchdowns while intercepting 16 passes this year. Price has the ability to do big things, but he thought too much this year in the pocket and wasn't able to find the end zone enough. He'll need to against the Broncos.
- Just give it to Sankey: RB Bishop Sankey was at his best in Washington wins, particularly in a four-game winning streak near the end of the season. He had 189, 156 and 139 yards in a three-game streak before being bottled up by Washington State in the Huskies' regular-season-ending loss. Sankey, who finished with a solid 1,234 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore after just 187 yards and one score last year, should be a major factor.
- Stay strong up front: Washington had an up-and-down season up front, but it was mostly down. The Huskies finished 101st nationally in sacks allowed with 2.83 per game, and Price is simply going to need more time if he's going to make an impact. The play of the battered offensive line was the chief reason Washington finished eighth or lower in the Pac-12 in all major offensive categories.
3 keys to a Boise State win
- Get more than just an ordinary Joe: Assuming the starting role from the great Kellen Moore, junior quarterback Joe Southwick struggled mightily in the Broncos' two losses. He had just 169 yards and an interception on 15-of-31 passing in a season-opening, 17-13 loss to Michigan State, then had just 164 yards in a Nov. 3, 21-19 loss to San Diego State. He finished on a high note, though, with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last three games, including a solid 199-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 27-21 season-ending win over Nevada.
- Stay stout in the trenches: More impressive than the Broncos' defensive effort up front was the offensive performance in protecting Southwick. Boise State allowed just nine sacks to rank seventh in the country, and against a Washington defense that can bring it -- albeit inconsistently -- the beefy front will need to remain strong.
- Shut down Price: If the Price is wrong, the Broncos will know why. Their pass defense is that good. Boise State has simply blanketed the opposing passing game, ranking fourth nationally in pass defense and seventh in passing efficiency defense. They'll keep Price guessing, and that could be enough to propel the Broncos to the win.
Prediction: Boise State 34, Washington 30