PHOTO: USA Today Sports
Boise State Broncos (8-4) vs Oregon State Beavers (6-6)
Tuesday, Dec 24th @ 8 PM EST (ESPN)
Line: Beavers by 3
How Boise State got here: The Broncos "struggled" to an 8-4 record this season. The big two losses were a season opening blowout to Washington and an October game at BYU in which they got handled. The other two losses (Fresno State and SDSU) both came by three points or less. This Boise team is not as good as they have been in recent years but they are still a solid football team.
How Oregon State got here: Oregon State started the season poorly (losing to Eastern Washington) and ended the season poorly (losing five straight games). The six games in between? The Beavers won those. This Oregon State team is still a bit of a mystery.
For Boise State to win: This will be the first game that Boise State has played without Chris Petersen in quite some time. Bob Gregory, interim head coach and linebackers coach, will have his work cut out for him. Without their trusted leader on the sideline it will be very interesting to see what type of gameplan the Broncos come out with and what happens when crucial coaching decisions need to be made. For the Broncos to win this game, they can't afford to have any coaching issues and coaching with just an eight man staff puts them in a tough situation.
For Oregon State to win: The Beavers defense has to play well. In losses, they given up 20 plays of 30 or more yards and they can't afford to give up the big play against the Broncos. They are also allowing opponents to convert 48% of third downs in losses (Boise State is the best in the Mountain West at converting on third down). Cut down on the big plays, force Boise to go on long drives to score and show up on third down.
Key Player (Boise State): Jay Ajayi, RB. Oregon State is giving up a Pac-12 worst 5.19 yards per carry. Ajayi has been very consistent this year and he will be a key for the Broncos especially with the QB situation up in the air as both Joe Southwick, who was returning after an injury, and Nick Patti have been suspended. Ajayi will set the tone for the Broncos. Look for a heavy dose of Ajayi on first and second down. If the Beavers can't find an answer for him, it will be a long night.
Key Player (Oregon State): Sean Mannion, QB. In a league that features Mike Leach as a coach, Oregon State has the most passing yards in the league. Mannion will be the key in this game for the Beavers and he has to play better than he did down the stretch of the season. In the games against USC, Arizona State and Washington he had 4 TD passes and 10 INTs.
Key Stat: Boise State has won their last four bowl games under Chris Petersen. Petersen was also 8-2 against Pac-12 opponents. While Boise State isn't ushering in a new head coach in this game, they are starting a new era. A new era without Chris Petersen and this will be our first chance to see what it looks like.