The Boise State Broncos are something akin to the perpetual bridesmaids of the BCS National Championship Game. For each of his seven seasons as head coach, Chris Petersen has led the Broncos to a 10-or-more-win season, but due to Boise State's status as a member of the mid-major Mountain West Conference, not even a pair of perfect finishes in 2006 and 2009 (that concluded with Fiesta Bowl wins over Oklahoma and TCU, respectively) were enough to propel the Broncos to the promised land. Those bitter setbacks, however, don't change the fact that Boise State has been built into a perennial contender by Petersen, who has guided the program to five top-10 finishes in the BCS standings in the last six years.
This is the team's second trip in as many years to the Las Vegas Bowl, where they hope to engineer a repeat performance of the 2011 game in which they shellacked a listless 6-6 Arizona State squad by a final score of 56-24. Boise State will likely face a more worthy opponent in Washington than last year's Sun Devils squad that announced the firing of head coach Dennis Erickson a few weeks before the 2011 game, but only if Steve Sarkisian can shake the road woes that have plagued his squad all season long. Either way, you can be sure that what happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas, especially not for a UW fanbase that views 2013 as a possible make-or-break year for its young head coach.
Quarterback: All things considered, Boise State has handled the loss of college football's all-time most-winning quarterback with an amazingly small amount of drop-off. When college phenom Kellen Moore ended his collegiate career, he did so with a 50-3 record, and a mind-blowing ratio of 143 touchdowns against 28 interceptions. As you might expect, Joe Southwick hasn't lived up to his predecessor's lofty standard, but that hardly makes him a failure. Southwick has completed a respectable 66.5 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and sports a 141.10 quarterback rating, good for 41st in the nation. He's very much a pocket passer, but with a reported 4.64 40-yard dash time, Southwick has got the ability to move if he has to. Thanks to a stellar offensive line, though, he hasn't had to test those abilities a whole heck of a lot in his first year as the Broncos' starting quarterback.
Running Back: D.J. Harper is concluding his sixth year with the Broncos, after suffering season-ending knee injuries in 2009 and 2010. Harper previously spent most of his career backing up the Muscle Hamster, and has made the most of his opportunities in his final season with the Broncos, rushing for 1,065 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging over 5 yards per carry. At 5-9, 205 lbs., he's deceptively quick and has a knack for shedding tacklers, and Justin Wilcox's defense will likely rely on linebackers Travis Feeney, Shaq Thompson and John Timu to stuff the Broncos' ground game. His primary backup is redshirt freshman Jay Ajayi, a 6-0, 222 lb. physical specimen who averaged just a hair under 7 yards per attempt in 10 games this year.
Offensive Line: Though its stats are somewhat skewed by the fact that the Broncos play in the Mountain West Conference, it would be foolish to dismiss any team that allows just eight sacks in 12 games, a figure that ranks Boise State fourth in the nation. Boise State's starting five linemen consists solely of fourth- and fifth-year players, giving the squad a consistency that Dan Cozzetto could only dream of achieving in 2012. Boise State seems to have had amazingly good luck with the health of its offensive linemen this year, with no one missing time due to injury other than backup right guard Jake Broyles, who is listed as questionable for the Las Vegas Bowl.
Wide Receivers: Redshirt sophomore Matt Miller has used his prototypical 6-3, 215 lb. size to establish himself as the No. 1 receiver option that Boise State hoped he would become this year, hauling in 60 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns this season. He's complemented in the red zone by Chris Potter, a 5-9, 159 lb. target who has nonetheless brought in four touchdowns on just 25 receptions.