LAS VEGAS — Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham and Boise State counterpart Chris Petersen agree on at least one thing about the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Each believes their team will have its hands full Wednesday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
"I think it's an evenly matched game and I think it's going to come down to a play here or a play there," Petersen said. "I think it's going to be one of those games. You never know when that play is. But it'll be less than a handful of plays that really determine the outcome of this game."
It's not the most popular prediction, however.
"They're the big favorites. We're the big underdogs," Whittingham said. "So the experts don't think it'll be competitive."
And that's exactly how the Utes like it.
"We do. Our players historically have done a nice job when we're in the underdog role, which has been quite often," Whittingham said. "They seem to play well when they have a chip on their shoulder."
Will it be enough?
That remains to be seen.
Until then, speculation will swirl about which team (or both) will really have its hands full.
"I think both coaches are right. They'll have their hands full because we are going to come out banging. I think the same with us. They are going to give us a game," said Utah safety Brian Blechen. "I know it's going to be a war and I'm going to have to be ready for four quarters."
Utah's defense will likely have its hands full with Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore leading the Boise State offense.
"He's the best quarterback in college football, probably. So he's the real deal," Blechen said before noting that the Broncos' receivers are also playmakers. "They've got a couple of big stars and they are going to be ready to make plays."
Senior receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis have combined for 124 catches, 1,955 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.
Whittingham said they rank right up there with San Diego State receivers DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown, who netted a combined 2,362 receiving yards with 126 catches and 17 scores.
Boise State's weaponry, though, isn't limited to offense. The Broncos are among the national leaders in passing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense.
Petersen, though, insists that anyone who studies tape will understand how talented Utah is and why he's expecting a tight battle.
When asked about a key to the game, Peterson said there is none.
"It's just fundamental football," he explained while reeling off such intangibles as tackling, breaking tackles, turnovers and holding ground. "It'll be something like that."26 comments on this story
Like Blechen, Utah center Zane Taylor thinks both coaches are right when it comes to who will have their hands full.
"I don't think anybody can handily beat either team going into this game," he said. "So it's going to be a dogfight. It's going to be bloody. It's going to be messy. It's going to be dirty. And that's the way football should be played. So I think it will be a pretty exciting thing to watch and play."
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
No. 20 Utah (10-2) vs. No. 10 Boise State (11-1)
Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
TV: ESPN Radio: 700 AM