The 2011 Arizona State University football team will finish its rocky and tumultuous season on Thursday night when they face the 11-1 Boise State Broncos in the 2011 MAACO Vegas Bowl. The Sun Devils lost their final four games to go from BCS contention to this trip to Las Vegas. The Broncos were one missed field goal away from an undefeated season and feel disrespected by not getting invited to a more prestigious bowl game.
Both of these teams have something to prove, but for good reason it's Boise State that enters the game as a 14-point favorite. They have one of the top offenses in the country led by outstanding quarterback Kellen Moore who put up 43 points per game.
The ASU defense carries most of the blame for the late season collapse. Lacking leadership and suffering from injuries in the secondary they repeatedly gave up big plays at the wrong time. Against the Broncos, the Sun Devil defense will have to play with a lot more pride to keep this game close.
The 2011 Vegas Bowl also marks the final opportunity for Dennis Erickson to coach his team and could be his final game of his long career. Erickson was replaced after the season by Todd Graham but has remained through this final game.
Erickson might have a lot of faults, but he earned the respect and love from his players who are saying the right things:
Erickson era nears end as football faces Boise State | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University
Junior quarterback Brock Osweiler: "Coach Erickson has meant everything to me. He’s the man that brought me to ASU. Obviously I want to send him out on a winning note. He deserves that. Coach Erickson has been a father figure so I owe it to him. All the things he’s given to us as players, we understand what’s at stake."
Of course, it's not all positive as Erickson was forced to suspend DE Junior Onyeali for a public outburst aimed directly at his outgoing coach. The Sun Devils will also be without dangerous WR/KR Jamal Miles due to "personal reasons".
SB Nation's Bill Connelly has a detailed break down of the game with examination of both teams. Here's his conclusion:
Boise State Vs. Arizona State, Las Vegas Bowl 2011: Stable Vs. Unpredictable - SBNation.com
Boise State by 16.7: Boise State holds advantages in all three phases of this game (including, yes, special teams, which cost the Broncos a shot at the national title), and if they show up ready to impress in the final game for one of the nation's most accomplished senior classes, they should not struggle for too long.
They are disciplined in all the ways that Arizona State is not. But the Sun Devils are so deliciously unpredictable and unstable that you never feel confident picking for or against them. Whether a tight game or a blowout, this one should be entertaining.