The Pac-12 is sending seven of its members to bowl games this season. The first of those takes the field tonight, as the Arizona State Sun Devils face the tough task of trying to beat the Boise State Broncos in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.
Beating Boise State is tough enough these days under ordinary circumstances. But these aren't ordinary circumstances for ASU. The Sun Devils will do battle tonight knowing that it is the last game that Dennis Erickson will coach at Arizona State. Erickson was fired after ASU's 47-38 loss to Cal in the regular season finale. ASU has hired former Pittsburgh/Tulsa/Rice head coach Todd Graham to take Erickson's place as the head Devil.
But before the Graham era begins, there is a bowl game to play. ASU faces Boise State (# 8 AP, #6 USA Today Coaches poll, #7 BCS), which settles for a Las Vegas Bowl bid after missing out on a BCS bowl bid. Such is life for a non-conference champ of a non-BCS conference.
Vegas, baby! This is your open thread for the Las Vegas Bowl. Talk about all the action here as you see whether ASU does the Pac-12 proud in Coach Erickson's final game. Can the Sun Devils pull a bowl season shocker and mess up your bowl pick 'em sheet? Or will Kellen Moore and Boise State carve up the ASU defense like Zach Maynard on a Friday after Thanksgiving?
See more game info after the jump.
Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6 overall, 4-5 Pac-12) vs. Boise State Broncos (11-1 overall, 6-1 MWC)
The obvious storyline to this game is Boise State's BCS snub and this being the last college game of Boise State senior quarterback Kellen Moore, the winningest starting quarterback in college football history. And with Arizona State having lost its last four regular season games to hasten Erickson's firing, it's easy to think that the Sun Devils have no chance in this one tonight.
We shall see. But don't be surprised if this one turns out to be a shootout. According to this article last week in the Idaho Statesman, ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler could do some damage against the Boise State secondary.
The Sun Devils rank 11th in the nation in passing thanks to a talented quartet of wide receivers who have contributed 200 receptions for 2,592 yards and 20 touchdowns - about two-thirds of the team's receiving yards and 80 percent of the receiving TDs.
They'll face a Broncos defense that moved four-year starting free safety George Iloka to cornerback for the last two games of the regular season to fill the void left by injuries to the top three cornerbacks. The No. 8 Broncos (11-1) also are starting true freshman Lee Hightower at corner.
Coaches haven't said yet whether Iloka will stay put or if junior starter Jamar Taylor (knee) will return for the MAACO Bowl (6:06 p.m. MST, ESPN).
"They have a solid front seven. I'm looking forward to going up against their secondary," Arizona State senior wide receiver Gerell Robinson said. "From all the games I've watched, I don't think they've gone against a set of receivers like we have here. I think they'll have some trouble keeping up with us."
The Broncos allowed 823 passing yards and eight touchdowns in consecutive games against TCU and San Diego State last month. That led to the Iloka shuffle, which cut opponents' passing production to 223 yards and one score in the last two games.
Robinson is right, though - the Broncos haven't faced a passing attack quite like this all year. Fresno State, which finished 27th in the nation at 272.6 passing yards per game, was the most productive of their opponents.
The Sun Devils (6-6) average 310.2 passing yards per game and have thrown for at least 290 yards in five of their past seven games.
"That's the main staple of our offense," Robinson said. "We're going to go forward with it and put some points on the board."
Enjoy the game.
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