No. 20 Boise State to face Washington in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

Washington’s practices were more spirited last week, the idea of coming to Las Vegas firing up the Huskies.

Yes, it’s the rare Pac-12 Conference team that views a trip to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas as a good thing. And the Huskies are probably more enthusiastic than this year’s Mountain West Conference representative.

Washington (7-5) will make its first appearance in the game, meeting No. 20 Boise State (10-2) at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 22 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The game will be on ESPN (Cable 30).

"We are really excited to be headed to Las Vegas," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. "It’s a great destination for not only our football team but for our fans and for Huskies faithful to come support us. It’s a tremendous bowl game, one that’s got a great deal of history in our conference."

First-year Las Vegas bowl executive director Dan Hanneke said he and the committee had been watching the Huskies closely for several weeks.

Not only is it a chance to land a school that hasn’t played in this game since it was formed in 1992, but Hanneke noted Seattle is one of the top feeder cities of tourists to Las Vegas.

It’s also a fairly easy trip from Boise, Idaho, and Broncos fans have a history of traveling well.

Whether they travel as well this year is a question. This is Boise State’s third straight appearance in this bowl, and the Broncos open next season at Washington.

But Hanneke said neither he nor the committee considered that an issue.

"Washington loves it," Hanneke said of the matchup. "We wanted them from the get-go. Boise isn’t as interested, but they’re going to be excited."

This also could be the bowl’s last opportunity to land Boise State, which next year heads to the Big East Conference.

Hanneke, though, said that didn’t factor much in the decision of whether to take the Broncos or Fresno State (9-3). Those teams shared the Mountain West title with San Diego State (9-3). Each went 7-1 in league play.

"Ultimately, we wanted to have the best game," Hanneke said.

Fresno State will play Southern Methodist in the Hawaii Bowl, and San Diego State stays home to meet Brigham Young in the Poinsettia Bowl.

As for Las Vegas’ game, getting a nationally known team such as Boise State doesn’t hurt with drawing a TV audience to ESPN’s broadcast.

"We are excited to return to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas and face the University of Washington," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said in a statement. "Coach Sarkisian and his staff do an excellent job in preparing their team and we look forward to the challenge of playing a Pac-12 opponent for the second straight year. The bowl staff in Las Vegas does an outstanding job hosting this event and we have had very good experiences playing there the past two years."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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