SALT LAKE CITY — Boise State or Nevada?
When it comes to Utah's probable opponent in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas on Dec.. 22, the No. 21-ranked Utes (10-2) know they'll be in for quite a challenge.
The ninth-ranked Broncos are 10-1 and the 14th-ranked Wolfpack are 11-1. Nevada dealt Boise State its only defeat of the season, 34-31 in overtime, on Nov. 27 at Reno.
"Either one would be great," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "They're two very good football teams, obviously, both top 25 teams. A big challenge, whichever one it is."
The Utes are already familiar with both teams. While sequestered at team hotels before Saturday games this season, they saw Boise State and Nevada contests on television.
"We watched pretty much all their games," said Utah cornerback Lamar Chapman, who added that it became kind of a running joke throughout the season to see so much of the Broncos and Wolfpack.
In recent days, as speculation mounts about the bowl game in Las Vegas, Whittingham acknowledged the Utes are looking at tape of both.
Utah should learn who its opponent will be by Sunday at the latest. Boise State plays Utah State today, while Nevada travels to Louisiana Tech.
The outcomes will play a role in who goes where and why.
Whatever happens, two ranked opponents are expected to square off at Sam Boyd Stadium later this month.
"Whomever we play against, I already know we're going to work our hardest and we're going to give them 100 percent," defensive tackle Sealver Siliga said after Friday's practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "It's going to be a good game."
Cornerback Brandon Burton agrees.
"Two ranked teams against each other would be a great game," he said. "I don't really have a preference. They both have high-profile offenses, which is always a great challenge for a defense."
The Utes' offense is also looking forward to the opportunity.
"I'm excited to play Boise. I'm excited to play Nevada," said wide receiver DeVonte Christopher. "Any school that we do get to play I'm excited to play."
A bowl match-up against Boise State or Nevada, he noted, could provide a measure of redemption as well.14 comments on this story
"Most definitely — especially when you have a competitive team as we do," Christopher continued. "We relish this opportunity to get out and play another team like Boise, especially after the TCU loss and the Notre Dame loss. We're looking at this as a good opportunity to go out and prove ourselves again."
The Broncos and Wolfpack will also put the nation's longest active bowl win streak to a test. Utah has won nine consecutive postseason games.
"The bowl streak is always at risk, every year," Whittingham said. "It's what it's all about. Roll the dice."
Viva, Las Vegas.
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
No. 21 Utah (10-2) vs. TBA
Weds., Dec. 22, 6 p.m.
Sam Boyd Stadium,
TV: ESPN HD
Radio: 700 AM