LAS VEGAS — So here we are on game day in Las Vegas. The rain continues to fall, which will likely make for a bit of a sloppy affair tonight at Sam Boyd Stadium. I will say this for tonight's game, it doesn't have the feel of a pre-Christmas bowl game.
Everything always seems bigger here in Las Vegas and this bowl game feels the same way. From the luncheon yesterday ... to the national coverage that ESPN is giving this game with Brent Musburger (one of my all time favorites), Kirk Herbstreit and Tom Rinaldi ... to the nationally ranked Utes and Broncos, this is no ordinary bowl game.
This one has the feel of a New Year's Day bowl game more than something that's a warm-up for the holidays.
I had a chance to catch up with two of the Ute seniors who will be playing in their final games as Utes tonight, Christian Cox and Zane Taylor. You won't find a pair of better representatives of Kyle Whittingham's program than these two guys.
Both say they're looking forward to their final game in crimson and are awfully excited about the chance to play — and beat — Boise State. Taylor said something very interesting to the media and to me when we spoke, noting that this game means a ton to him and his teammates, because he wants to win his final game, but also to keep Utah's consecutive bowl wins streak alive. But what struck me most was the passion with which Taylor talked about keeping the streak going for the "hundreds" of other players who came before him at Utah.
To me that speaks of the foundation that has been laid at Utah and the respect for the history and tradition that Whittingham and his staff have instilled in the team.
Now, keeping that streak alive and stretching it to 10 games, that may be the most daunting task that a Utah team has faced since the streak began.
Many would point to 2008 and the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, but I will tell you that this Boise State team is nearly as talented and likely much more motivated than that Alabama squad.
While both the Crimson Tide and Broncos were disappointed in how their regular seasons ended, I don't think that Boise State will play with the hangover that hit 'Bama for the first quarter-and-a-half at the Superdome.
The other thing the Broncos really have going for them is a healthy respect for the Utah football program, because in many ways they are mirror images in the way they handle and conduct their business.
When listening to Chris Petersen and Austin Pettis talk on Tuesday you got the feeling that both think they will have their hands full with the Utes.
So how will this thing play out tonight? That seems to be the question on everyone's mind. The boys that run the books here in Sin City like Boise State and like them a ton! The latest line in most of the books down here has the Broncos as a 15- to 17-point favorite, which is down slightly but not by much.
So how will the Utes fare tonight? Traditional logic says run the ball and stop the run. But you can throw traditional logic out the window for this one. Utah must give Boise State a healthy dose of Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide and Terrance Cain, but on the defensive side of the football they have to get to Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore.
The Broncos set up all of their offense through the vertical game. The Utes don't need to sack Moore, they just need to hurry him, make him uncomfortable, and limit the big plays downfield.18 comments on this story
Here's my guess on tonight's outcome: The team whose offensive line plays better will win this game. If Utah can run the football or if Boise State can protect Moore, then that's where the win will come.
My guess is that Utah plays keepaway and walks away with a hard-fought 10th straight bowl win.
Talk to you tonight from Sam Boyd Stadium here in Vegas.
Bill Riley can be heard as the radio voice of the University of Utah on game days and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show on ESPN 700 AM.