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College football forecast: Petersen finale blast from past

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

December 21, 2019 05:45 AM
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Chris Petersen's final season as Washington coach has been a flop so far. The Huskies were picked by most to win the Pac-12 Conference but bring a 7-5 record to the Las Vegas Bowl.
© Imagn

Even if Chris Petersen goes out with a win on Saturday, it’s not going to be a storybook ending for the retiring Washington coach.

The Huskies were picked by most to win the Pac-12 Conference and contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. A season with lofty goals should not end before Christmas.

Petersen’s parting gift is a blast-from-the-past finale against the program he raised to national prominence. Washington (7-5 straight up and ATS) is a 3½-point favorite against Boise State (12-1, 8-5 ATS) in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Broncos won the Mountain West, which was a weak league this season, and the significance of their season-opening win at Florida State has faded. Boise has two capable quarterbacks — senior Jaylon Henderson and freshman Hank Bachmeier — and a defense that did not allow more than 24 points in any of its last five games.

The Huskies will be without tight end Hunter Bryant and left tackle Trey Adams as both sit out to prepare for the 2020 NFL draft. After a disappointing and erratic season, quarterback Jacob Eason might return for another year at Washington if he’s not projected as a first-round pick.

Eason needs an impressive bowl performance, and there will be major motivation to send Petersen out in style, but that might not be enough. The Broncos are 7-0 all-time at Sam Boyd Stadium, going 3-0 against UNLV and 4-0 in this bowl.

The sharp oddsmakers at Circa Sports opened Washington as a 6½-point favorite. I see the Huskies’ talent level as superior. It’s tough to get a true read on Boise because the Mountain West was so soft below the Broncos, and the conference is already 0-1 in the bowl season after Utah State went down to Kent State on Friday night.

I’m leery of laying the hook in what should be a low-scoring game, so I bet the Huskies minus-160 on the moneyline. For the picks in this column, I’ll go with Washington -3½ and Under 49, a number still available at the South Point.

Four more bowl plays for the next week:

Gasparilla Bowl, Monday

Marshall (plus-17½) over Central Florida: After playing on big bowl stages in the Fiesta and Peach the past two years, the Knights could be disinterested favorites. Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday is 6-0 in bowl games. Marshall comes in hot, winning six of seven down the stretch.

Hawaii Bowl, Tuesday

BYU-Hawaii (Over 64): With a poor run defense and explosive passing offense, Hawaii can get into shootouts. Warriors coach Nick Rolovich will let quarterback Cole McDonald air it out. The Cougars beat the Warriors 49-23 in 2018 in Provo, Utah.

Independence Bowl, Thursday

Louisiana Tech (plus-6½) over Miami: It’s unlikely the Hurricanes are excited to be in Shreveport for Christmas, and coach Manny Diaz has struggled to motivate his team. Miami is 1-8 in its past nine bowls. Bulldogs coach Skip Holtz owns a five-game bowl win streak.

Holiday Bowl, Friday

USC (plus-2) over Iowa: The blue-collar Hawkeyes make it look ugly with defense, but they have not faced an offense with the Trojans’ speed and big-play weapons. Kedon Slovis passed for 515 yards and four touchdowns against UCLA. The announcement that coach Clay Helton is returning has not created much enthusiasm among USC boosters, but it’s the players who matter here and Helton’s situation should provide a boost for this game in San Diego.

Season: 55-55-3 against the spread

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