In his final game as the head coach of the Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen will be matched up in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl against the program he put on the map, the no. 19 Boise State Broncos. Game time is set for 7:30 EST on Saturday, December 21 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.
Oddsmakers list the Huskies as 3.5-point favorites over the Broncos with an over/under of 49.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of this year’s bowl games and betting odds for every game.
It has been a disappointing season for Petersen and the Huskies. After winning the Pac-12 title last year, Washington had high hopes heading into 2019, only to stumble early and often. The Huskies actually finished with a losing record in Pac-12 play at 4-5 and were just 7-5 overall. On the heels of three straight seasons with at least 10 wins, it was a significant step back for the Huskies. Of course, after the regular season, Petersen shocked many by announcing he would be stepping down as head coach due to stress, possibly ending his coaching career for good.
On the flip side, it was another banner year for Boise State. A 3-point loss to BYU is all that kept the Broncos from finishing the regular season undefeated. While they were disappointed not to receive an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl, Boise State finished 12-1 on their way to winning their second Mountain West championship in the last three years. The Broncos are now hoping that they actually get to play a bowl game after last year’s contest with Boston College was canceled due to weather.
As most people know, Petersen came to prominence in the coaching ranks at Boise State, coaching the Broncos from 2006 to 2013, taking them to new heights. His replacement, Bryan Harsin, has continued to make Boise State a Mountain West powerhouse and a top-25 team. Petersen has come out and expressed his disappointment in having to face Boise State in his final game at Washington. However, if this ends up being his last game as a coach, it seems fitting in a weird way.
Of course, this won’t be Petersen’s first time facing the Broncos as Washington’s coach. These two teams kicked off the 2015 season against one another with the Broncos prevailing 16-13 on their home field. Boise State (with Petersen as head coach ) also beat Washington in a bowl game played in Las Vegas in 2012. However, the Huskies got redemption against their future coach, beating the Broncos 38-6 in what would become Petersen’s final season in Boise.
This is a tough game to call because emotions will surely be running high. The Washington players will want to send Petersen out with a win and end a frustrating season on a winning note. However, I’m not convinced the Huskies are the better team. Washington struggled to beat the better teams on their schedule, and with the Huskies needing to cover 3.5 points, I feel safer leaning toward Boise State to at least beat the spread in this game.
Granted, some of Boise’s offensive numbers are a little exaggerated from playing in the Mountain West. But the Broncos were consistent and reliable on that side of the ball this year, despite using three different starting quarterbacks. Current starter Jaylon Henderson made the most of his chance, throwing 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions over four games as a starter. The Broncos also have a steady running game with George Holani and an offensive line that should be able to hold its own against a power-conference opponent.
As for the Huskies, they were frustratingly inconsistent offensively despite averaging 31.5 points per game. They were held to 20 points or less on four occasions, including a pair of games late in the season against Oregon State and Colorado, two teams that aren’t playing in a bowl. At times, quarterback Jacob Eason looks like a pro prospect. But he also has games when you wonder if the Huskies might have to make a change at quarterback.
Having a little bit of extra time to practice should help Eason and the UW offense get on the same page. However, I don’t expect the Boise State defense to make it easy on them. The Broncos held nine of their 13 opponents to 24 points or less, doing so in each of their last five games. The Boise State defense has consistently held teams in check on the ground, daring the opposing quarterback to beat them. While Eason may be capable of doing that, it’s not a given with the rollercoaster of a season he’s had.
All things considered, this feels like a game that could go either way and will be competitive in the fourth quarter. Obviously, these games can be difficult to project because one play can decide everything. However, I feel more comfortable siding with the underdog, especially when the spread is more than a field goal. I’ll take my chances with Boise State in Petersen’s farewell.