Utah's bowl winning streak in jeopardy

Utah is a 17-point underdog, a huge point spread for a team that thrives at this time of the year.

The Utes have won nine bowls in a row -- the nation's longest active streak.

Florida State, which won 11 bowls in a row from 1985 to 1996, is the record holder. Utah is tied with Southern California (1923 to 1945) for the second spot.

"It's important to our players and something our guys are very proud of," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Sunday. "It's really due to their work ethic and their focus and their preparation."

The No. 20 Utes (10-2) face No. 10 Boise State (11-1) in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The Utes began their streak in the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl with a 17-16 victory over Fresno State. They returned two years later to defeat USC, 10-6.

Utah also won two Bowl Championship Series games during this span, including a 31-17 upset victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2008 season ranked second.

"Our team seems to function pretty good when they're in the underdog role and have a chip on their shoulder," Whittingham said. "It was the same way in '08 going into that Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Nobody gave us a chance, and our guys responded very well in that situation."

n HAPPY TO BE HERE? -- Boise State made no secret it preferred to be in Las Vegas rather than at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.

But there's also no doubt the Broncos mostly preferred to be in a BCS game. They were on their way to one of the elite bowls -- and perhaps even a spot in the national-championship game -- before a 34-31 overtime loss at UNR on Nov. 26.

The outcomes of bowls often come down to which is the more motivated team, and Utah could catch a Broncos squad not completely enthused.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen, however, said his team is ready to go.

"When there was the possibility of being in this game, there was a lot of excitement," Petersen said.

n BRING RAIN GEAR -- The Las Vegas bowl always seems to be played on one of the coldest days of the year, and those attending this game also will have to prepare for other elements.

Weather.com forecasts a 70-percent of chance of rain Wednesday, with a high of 57 degrees and a low of 44.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.