Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 | 5:16 p.m.
The Boise State football team will spend its postseason in Las Vegas for the second consecutive year.
No. 8 Boise State (11-1) will meet Arizona State (6-6) in the 2011 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Dec. 22 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Bowl officials announced the matchup Sunday evening.
The Broncos came a point away from an undefeated season and possible national championship berth by losing 36-35 to TCU last month.
Because it was ranked in the top 16, Boise State was still eligible for an at-large bid into one of the four BCS bowl games. But bowl selection committees spurned the Broncos Sunday, leaving them available for Las Vegas.
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas could have picked any bowl-eligible Mountain West Conference team to play in the game. Organizers chose Boise State over MWC champions TCU.
Boise State played in the 2010 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, defeating Utah 26-3, and its fans traveled well to the event. That could have played a role in the selection process.
“It’s not a good deal to go into a bowl game where there’s not a lot of energy and excitement,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen told the Idaho American Statesman. “Wherever we go, these seniors deserve a really fun atmosphere in truly their last game as a Bronco.”
One of the strongest senior classes in the nation leads the Broncos. Senior quarterback Kellen Moore was a Heisman finalist last year and ranks 12th in the nation with 292 passing yards per game this year.
Boise State’s leading rusher, Doug Martin, and leading receiver, Tyler Shoemaker, are also seniors. A slew of standout defenders, including linebacker Byron Hout and defensive lineman Shea Mclellin, will play their final game at Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
Boise State will open as heavy favorites against a reeling Arizona State squad that finished third in the Pac-12 South division.
The Sun Devils went 0-4 in November to put the brakes on a once-promising season. The Arizona State administration fired coach Dennis Erickson, but he will coach the team in the bowl game. Erickson has gone 31-30 in five years as Arizona State’s coach.
“I am proud of what we accomplished in five years,” Erickson said in a statement announcing his termination. “The program is in good shape for the next coach.”