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MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Boise State, Utah in a Battle of Media Darlings

Apologies for the sparse posting, as I was preparing for and then making the annual holiday journey to Atlanta.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, December 22, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: Frequently a target of politically incorrect "ha Mormons in Las Vegas" jokes; BYU had gone to the bowl five straight years until this season. This year? Simply one of the better early bowls on the menu.

The teams: Utah and Boise State

How Utah got here: The Utes started moving up the polls for no real reason by defeating Pittsburgh and the dregs of the Mountain West and the WAC. Then they annihilated a mediocre Iowa State team in Ames, and everyone who hadn't taken them seriously began to take notice. But Utah also lost to the best team on the schedule -- TCU -- and for reasons passing understanding, Notre Dame. The Utes have an efficient offense and a strong running defense. They also have a subpar passing defense, which should not be cause for alarm against Kellen Moore at all TAKE THE OVER.

How Boise State got here: The worst game of the year by one of the best kickers in the country. Most people saw or at least read accounts of the Broncos' epic meltdown against Nevada on the cusp of an appearance in the BCS. Aside from that, Boise buzz-sawed through a schedule with three other quality teams on it, which is why you heard the complaints about strength of schedule. (It doesn't help that Virginia Tech left the national consciousness for weeks after losing to James Madison.) You've heard about the offense, but the defense is also one of the best in the country, at least statistically. In fact, the only thing the Broncos don't do particularly well is punt, and they don't do much of that.

College football fans care because: You've spent all year hearing about Boise State; you might as well watch the bowl game.

SEC fans care because: It's one of your last chance to complain about how ESPN covers the non-AQ teams.

Watch this game if...: You want to see a good game before Christmas.

The result: Boise State 49, Utah 37