One of the biggest storylines of bowl season outside of the College Football Playoff pertains to the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl, where No. 19 Boise State (12-1) and Washington (7-5) will meet in potentially the final game of Washington coach Chris Petersen's coaching career after he announced he will step down from his post after this season.
Petersen, 55, has a 146-38 record as a head coach and is arguably one of the most successful and impactful coaches this century as he led Boise State — fittingly, Washington's opponent in the bowl game — to four top-10 finishes in his eight seasons as the school's head coach. The Broncos went 13-0 in 2006 and 14-0 in 2009, becoming one of the most dominant programs in the country. Petersen's successor at Boise State, Bryan Harsin, has kept the program humming, as seen by the Broncos' 12-1 record and a Mountain West championship this season.
Boise State vs. Washington: Las Vegas Bowl prediction, preview
Boise State was a 3-point road loss at BYU from entering bowl season undefeated, which arguably would've made the Broncos the Group of Five representative selected for the Cotton Bowl and given them another shot at another undefeated season this century. While a perfect season is off the table, Boise State has the chance to beat its second Power Five opponent of the season after it started the fall with a 36-31 win at Florida State.
But that won't be easy against a Washington team that's very good on offense (No. 23 in the SP+ rankings) and defense (No. 27), as well as elite on special teams (No. 2). Boise State is typically a sure bet to score at least 30 points (14th nationally at 36.8 points per game) and its offense will need to be humming against a Washington defense that allows roughly 20 points per game.
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Three Boise State quarterbacks have seen notable game action this season due to injury — freshman Hank Bachmeier led the Broncos to the road win at Florida State and they're undefeated in the games he's played in this season, Chase Cord has thrown at least 10 passes in four different games this season and he got the start in Boise State's loss to BYU, and senior Jaylon Henderson took over in November and led the team to the Mountain West title.
Henderson has the most rushing attempts and rushing yards of the three, which means he arguably provides Boise State's offense with a different running threat at the position, but it's clear that the Broncos have been strong this season almost regardless of who's under center.
Washington fell short of its ceiling as a potential contender for the Pac-12 Championship, but the Huskies' five losses were by a combined 26 points and they were competitive against the conference's two division winners.
Advanced analytics will tell you that Washington is the best 7-5 team in the country and one whose efficiency is similar to many 9-3 and 10-2 teams, so don't let the Huskies' record fool you into overlooking them.
Quarterback Jacob Eason was productive in his first season playing for Washington after transferring from Georgia, completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,922 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Two of his top three targets are tight ends — leading receiver Hunter Bryant (52 receptions, 825 yards, 3 TD) and Cade Otton (29 receptions, 330 yards, 2 TD) — while leading rusher Salvon Ahmed enters the bowl game with exactly 1,000 rushing yards on the season.
Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who's the coach-in-waiting and will take over from Petersen after the season, has a unit that ranks in the top 40 nationally in many major statistical categories, like scoring defense, total defense and explosive plays allowed. Linebackers Joe Tyron (eight sacks) and Ryan Bowman (5.5 sacks) are the best on the team at getting to the quarterback, while Elijah Molden (13 passes defended, three interceptions, two forced fumbles) is a difference-maker to watch in the secondary.
Prediction: Boise State 35, Washington 30
Boise State vs. Washington: Peach Bowl time, TV channel
The 2019 Las Vegas Bowl will be played on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Click or tap here to access live stats. The game will be broadcast on ABC.