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No. 19 Boise State vs. Washington: Las Vegas Bowl preview and picks against the spread

No. 19 Boise State (12-1) vs. Washington (7-5) 

Location: Las Vegas | When: Dec. 21 (7:30 p.m. ET) | TV: ABC | Line: UW -3.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Boise State: Another year, another Las Vegas Bowl. It’s the team’s second trip to Vegas in the last three years and the Broncos’ third Vegas Bowl appearance in the last eight seasons. Boise State got here by virtue of winning the Mountain West title. Again. The only blemish on Boise State’s record is a 28-25 loss at BYU on Oct. 19. If it wasn’t for that game, Boise State would probably be in the Cotton Bowl playing Penn State. Vegas isn’t a terrible consolation prize. Especially given the storyline surrounding this game. 

Washington: The preseason Pac-12 favorites had a bad season. The first loss came at home to Cal in a game delayed by thunderstorms that ended in the middle of the night for most of the country. Washington got to 4-1 after that but then lost at Stanford. The Cardinal finished 4-8. Consecutive losses to Oregon and Utah came in the weeks after the Stanford loss. Washington led in the second half of each of those games. And then the Huskies lost at Colorado on Nov. 23 before its customary win over Washington State in the Apple Cup. 

Washington head coach Chris Petersen is stepping away from coaching after the Las Vegas Bowl. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

This one is pretty simple. It’s the final game for Washington coach Chris Petersen. He’s been one of the most successful coaches of the 2000s and it’s fitting — if not painful for him — to see him coach his final game with the Huskies against the team that he brought to prominence.

Petersen has a career record of 148-38 as a head coach. That includes a 92-12 record in eight years at Boise State where he led the Broncos to two undefeated seasons. The team’s worst campaign was an 8-4 season in his final year before he took the Washington job in 2014. 

Petersen will be replaced by Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake after the game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver: Watch Weaver try to chase after Jacob Eason all day. It’s likely going to be his final college game after an extremely productive three years at Boise. Weaver enters with 13.5 sacks in 2019 and 34 in his career. He also has 47.5 tackles for loss in his career, an astounding total given he has just 126 career tackles. He’s one of the most dominant defensive players in school history. 

Washington RB Salvon Ahmed: The junior has rushed for exactly 1,000 yards on 5.5 yards a carry this season in his first year as Washington’s feature back. He’s been up and down, however. He’s rushed for over 100 yards in four games while also tallying fewer than 50 yards in four games. 

Boise State linebacker Curtis Weaver has over 13 sacks in 2019. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Boise State WR John Hightower: Last season, Hightower was a sparsely used but highly effective big-play machine. This season, the 6-2, 185-pound playmaker developed as a full-time receiver and fascinating prospect. Although he’s still raw as a former junior-college track star (400-meter hurdles), his upside really is interesting. Hightower can blow by people, but this might be the best secondary he’s faced. Then again, he might be the fastest receiver the Huskies have seen this season.

— Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Boise State: This is a bit of a consolation game for the Broncos because of that BYU loss. But a win would give Boise State a fourth season with 13 wins or more. And they’ve all come in the last 17 years. That’s a record of excellence few teams can match. 

Washington: A win in Petersen’s final game, obviously. But it would also be Washington’s first bowl game win since a victory in the 2015 Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Huskies have been to major bowl games in each of the past three seasons but has lost them all to very good opponents. Washington is just 4-8 in bowl games since 2000. 

PICKS

Sam Cooper: Washington -3.5

Nick Bromberg: Boise State +3.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Boise State +3.5

Pete Thamel: Boise State +3.5

Dan Wetzel: Boise State +3.5

Sean Sullivan: Boise State +3.5

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