SEATTLE — The Washington Huskies will head to Sin City for a chance to atone for the ugly ending to their 2012 regular season.
Not that it will be easy. What had been rumored for days became official Sunday afternoon when it was announced that Washington will play Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Dec. 22. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
The Broncos come in at 10-2 overall, rated No. 20 in the latest Associated Press poll and having won the previous two Las Vegas Bowls.
That’s more than enough of a challenge for a UW team hoping to end the year on a good note after a surprising 31-28 loss to Washington State in the Apple Cup on Nov. 23 ended the regular season with a thud.
The game against the Broncos will also allow UW to preview its 2013 season opener as Washington and Boise State will play Aug. 31 in the first game in the newly renovated Husky Stadium.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian, in a statement released by the school, said playing Boise State in two straight games — albeit eight months apart — was fine with him. UW is also scheduled to play at Boise State on Sept. 19, 2015.
“I think it can become one of those classic rivalries that get set up,” he said. “Everybody loves a good rematch, you know?
“Somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose this first one. Then we are going to come back to see who can win the second one.”
The Las Vegas Bowl had the first choice among Mountain West Conference teams and the fifth choice for Pac-12 teams.
Boise State, which finished sixth in the nation in scoring defense this year by allowing just 14.92 points per game, finished in a three-way tie in the MWC at 7-1 with Fresno State and San Diego State. But BSU had the best overall record, the highest ranking and a history of getting good support at the bowl. Boise State beat Utah 26-3 in Las Vegas in 2010 and Arizona State last season, 56-24. And with Boise State scheduled to head off to the Big East after this year, it may also be the last time the bowl has a chance to host the Broncos.
Bowl officials had a choice of three 7-5 Pac-12 teams in UW, Arizona and Arizona State. ASU was ruled out quickly since the bowl didn’t want a rematch of last year’s game. That left UW and Arizona, and there were a lot of rumblings that the bowl committee went back and forth between the two before ultimately deciding on UW.
“We couldn’t have gone wrong with either team,” said Dan Hanneke, the bowl’s executive director.
Hanneke said “there wasn’t any one thing” that pushed the decision to UW, but cited the fact that Washington had never played in the game before as one factor — Arizona played in it in 2008.
“We really try to work things for teams that haven’t been exposed to our city before,” he said.
He echoed Sarkisian’s sentiments about the rematch between the two teams to start the 2013 season.
“We think it’s a great way to kick off the beginning of a rivalry,” he said. “So that really wasn’t a factor (in the decision) at all.”
The bowl game is the third straight for UW under Sarkisian, who is in his fourth year as coach. He won his first bowl appearance in 2010 against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, 19-7, in a rematch of a Cornhusker win earlier that year in Seattle. UW then lost to Baylor, 67-56, in the Alamo Bowl last year.
Sarkisian said Saturday he thought the Huskies had developed a good plan for bowl preparation that it will likely stick with this season.
“I thought that we’ve gone into the games really well-prepared,” he said. “When there are opportunities to have our fun, we have our fun. When it’s time to be business and go to work, we go to work, and I think that that format’s been good to us. We won the first game; I like to think we should have won the second game, and hopefully we can win the third game.”
Each team was allotted 11,000 tickets to sell. UW set up a page with ticket information on its website at GoHuskies.com.