Bowl results often come down to which is the more motivated team: the side that sees the game as a reward, compared with the one that wishes it was playing somewhere and someone else.
Given the more glamorous bowls Boise State and Arizona State once were pointed toward, it wouldn’t be a shock if both went through the motions when they meet at 5 p.m. Thursday at Sam Boyd Stadium in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
The Broncos (11-1) are here because of a one-point loss to Texas Christian that kept them out of not only a Bowl Championship Series game but perhaps even a history-making national championship matchup with No. 1 Louisiana State.
Arizona State (6-6) is in the Las Vegas bowl after a collapse in which the Sun Devils lost their final four games and five of six. It wouldn’t, of course, be the Las Vegas bowl without the Pac-10/12 Conference representative losing its way into the game.
But maybe both schools will come out fired up, and each team has plenty of reasons to want to end its season in a memorable way.
For Boise State, it’s the final college game for quarterback Kellen Moore, who has a chance to send himself and his fellow seniors out with a school-record 50 career victories. Moore already is college football’s all-time winningest quarterback.
“There’s no issue about what bowl game (we’re) in,” Moore said. “We’re thrilled to be in this game. We’re still playing a very quality team. Arizona State beat USC. They’re as talented as anyone that we’ve faced.”
Boise State is ranked sixth by the coaches and eighth in The Associated Press poll. The Broncos have the chance to finish in the top 10 of both major polls for the third straight season and the fourth time in six years.
Broncos coach Chris Petersen said a lack of motivation is not an issue.
“We really appreciate and enjoy being here in Vegas,” Petersen said. “We were here last year and really enjoyed it. Our guys were excited to come back, and I think they’re really excited to play Arizona State.”
Arizona State, which beat Southern California 43-22 Sept. 24, spent much of the early part of the season in the polls and was 18th entering November.
The Sun Devils once dreamed of a Jan. 2 date in the Rose Bowl; now their season will end three days before Christmas.
But they’re playing, and that might be enough to fuel their desire. ASU is in its first postseason game since losing to Texas in the 2007 Holiday Bowl. Its last bowl victory was over Rutgers in the 2005 Insight Bowl.
“There was no letdown,” Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler said. “We’re just excited to be in a bowl game. I think it’s a bonus that we get to play such a quality football team like Boise, so we’re excited about the opportunity. We’re going to go out there and lay it all on the line.”
The Sun Devils also will want to send out coach Dennis Erickson, on a positive note. Erickson was fired Nov. 28 but is staying on to coach in the bowl, even though Arizona State has hired Todd Graham as his replacement.
With so much focus on Arizona State’s future, Erickson said the seniors should have little trouble finding motivation to make a statement.
“They have done a great deal for this program,” Erickson said. “Obviously, we didn’t have the season that we wanted this year at the end, but they’re the ones that have really kind of moved this thing forward, because this program’s in pretty darn good shape.
“I’ve said this before, they got lost in this whole thing. They just got lost. Nobody ever talks about our seniors, who have been here for a long time. To me, it’s about them.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.