Hawaii Bowl breakdown: Boise State Broncos vs. Oregon State Beavers
Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6)
Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: Hawaiian shirts! Okay, maybe not, although the idea of Mike Riley sporting a lei with his headset is enticing. The reason to flip to this one instead of watching A Christmas Story or indulging in some egg nog is to see what the Beavers offense can do. Boise State has a solid defense overall, but the Broncos struggle in passing downs, ranking 72nd according to Football Outsiders. Earlier this season the duo of Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks was putting up eye-popping numbers, but Oregon State faded down the stretch against a backloaded schedule of Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon. The time off can do one of two things: get a team’s mind right, or lead to a group mailing it in completely and just enjoying the weather.
• Keep an eye on: Cooks, who led the nation with 1,670 yards and was second with 120 receptions (two behind Fresno State’s Davante Adams). Oregon State likes to move Cooks all over the field, so you’ll see him in the slot or lined up wide. While Pac-12 teams did a good job shutting the Beavers down late in the year, Cooks still managed to haul in at least six catches a game and went over 90 yards all but twice.
• Did you know: This is the 12th straight bowl game for Boise State, one of the longest streaks in the nation, now stretching under three coaches. Assistant Bob Gregory will be coaching the team in this one, as new coach Bryan Harsin starts to settle in. Harsin was with the Broncos for the first eight games of that streak before making his way to Texas and then coaching Arkansas State this season. The Broncos played in three straight Las Vegas Bowls before moving further west to the islands this year.
• Final analysis: Even in a down year with quarterback Joe Southwick missing significant time, Boise State still managed to go 8-4. Both teams could vary in how they show up on Christmas Eve. Oregon State’s late-season slide could continue, or the Beavers could rally to end the year on a high note. With a coaching change and Chris Petersen no longer on the sidelines, Boise State’s leadership comes into question. The Broncos are a better team on paper, especially defensively, and the prospects of Harsin coming home should be enough to eke out a win.
• The pick: Boise State 31, Oregon State 24