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Hawaii Bowl: Can Boise State overcome Chris Petersen’s absence to handle Oregon State’s passing attack?

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday

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Oregon State's Brandin Cooks (USA Today Sports)

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Boise State vs. Oregon State
Honolulu, Hawaii
Dec. 24, 2013

There shouldn't be a shortage of offense in the Hawaii Bowl as Oregon State’s third-ranked passing attack faces off with Boise State, a team averaging nearly 40 points per game.

On top of the explosive offenses, there are a few other intriguing storylines here.

Boise (8-4, 6-2 Mountain West) will be playing in a bowl game for the 12th consecutive season, but Chris Petersen won’t be on the Broncos’ sideline for the first time since 2001. Petersen left Boise to take the head job at Washington and Boise hired Bryan Harsin to replace Petersen. With Harsin (who played at BSU and was an assistant with Boise from 2001-2010) focusing on recruiting and next year’s team, assistant Bob Gregory will lead the team in Hawaii. It remains to be seen how Petersen’s absence will impact the Broncos.

There was a question as to who would line up under center for the Broncos, but that was before Joe Southwick was sent home for a violation of team rules (apparently peeing off a balcony violates team rules). Junior Grant Hedrick, who started Boise’s last five games when Southwick was out with an ankle injury, is expected to start.

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Boise State's Jay Ajayi (USA Today Sports)

The Broncos feature a balanced offensive attack led by sophomore running back Jay Ajayi (1,328 yards and 17 TDs) and receivers Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes. Oregon State’s defense has given up 193 yards on the ground per game, so Ajayi should see plenty of carries.

On the other side, Oregon State (6-6, 4-5 Pac 12) boasts one of the nation’s best passing connections: Sean Mannion to Brandin Cooks. Cooks, the winner of the 2013 Biletnikoff Award, hauled in 120 catches for 1,670 yards and 15 touchdowns. As the duo put up eye-popping numbers, the team’s play deteriorated as Pac-12 play rolled on. The Beavers lost their last five games, including a heartbreaking 36-35 loss on the road against in-state rival Oregon.

Mannion threw 11 interceptions in those five losses, but if he can avoid those costly turnovers, the OSU passing attack will be an immense challenge for Boise State to stop – especially with the uncertainty that comes with playing without a long-time head coach.

Mascot Fight

Just imagine a Bronco and a Beaver fighting and you tell me what you think will happen. I picture the Bronco trying to kick the Beaver right in the face, then the beaver would go back into the water and try continue building its dam or something. It wouldn’t even be fair. Edge: Broncos – due to an overwhelming size advantage.

Predictions

Graham: Oregon State 45, Boise State 31. Boise State heads into the postseason in unfamiliar territory. Not only has it lost four games for the first time since 2005, it is also without Chris Petersen, the coach that essentially put the program on the map. This has the potential to be a high-scoring game, but Oregon State will jump out to a big lead early and Boise State won't be able to catch up.

Nick: Oregon State 45, Boise State 43. Oregon State unfortunately has chosen to wear black, which means we won't get to see orange and blue collide. But Joe Southwick's suspension means that Boise loses its all important potential mustache mojo, and Mike Riley cranks it like a chainsaw on Christmas Eve so hard that the North Pole turns into a Stihl dealership.

Sam: Boise State 42, Oregon State 38. Boise State's defense isn't anything special and the last time the Broncos faced a comparable passing attack, Derek Carr torched them for 460 yards. The Broncos will give up yards -- a lot of them -- to the Beavers, but the Boise defense has intercepted 15 passes this year, and Mannion throws plenty of those. Boise will pull out the win.

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