Okay, so I know that the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl isn't what Bronco Nation had their hearts set on. I know that I didn't. The Broncos loss to Nevada may have cost the school a lot of dough, but it sure saved me some. I would've mortgaged the house to make it to a national championship or the Rose Bowl...the Meineke Las Vegas Bowl...not so much. But my apathy over the December 22nd matchup against Utah doesn't mean that the Broncos aren't playing for anything and that's why after the jump I'll state my case as to why the Hertz Rent-a-Car Las Vegas Bowl is a must win for the Broncos.
1) Still working the polls
The Broncos failed to remain high enough in the final regular season polls to get to the promised land, but they're still highly ranked (10th in the Coaches' and the AP) and would do well to finish the season in the top ten. Why you may ask? Well, consistent top ten or top fifteen finishes by the Broncos show that they aren't a flash in the pan. Trust me, for a non-AQ school fighting for respect, nothing is more important than consistency. It's what allowed the Broncos to start the year in the top five and will as long as the Broncos keep stringing together undefeated or one- or two-loss seasons, the poll love will remain...as will exposure, recruiting success, and more BCS-bustin' opportunities. If the Broncos can finish the season in the top ten again it will improve their standing in NEXT year's all-important preseason polls. If the Broncos can use their opening game matchup with Georgia as another springboard we should get rewarded (or punished) with another year of whatifs in 2011.
2) Stick it to the man
The Utes and Broncos have followed a similar trajectory over the last decade (the Broncos has been better...look it up). Top ten finishes, undefeated seasons, BCS wins—the teams seemed to have a kinship of sorts. Well, that all changed just days after the Broncos were invited to the Mountain West Conference when the Utes got "the call" from the Pac-whatever. The Utes, as of next season, will no longer share a common bond with the Broncos—they'll be the establishment. This is why the Broncos need to give the Utes a proper sendoff...by destroying them.
3) Keeping up with the Joneses
You may have noticed...college football voters are extremely fickle lot with short memories and shorter attention spans. The Utes were beaten soundly by TCU, a team that languished most of 2010 in the Broncos' shadow. Then, to top that, the Utes were taken to ye olde woodshed by Notre Dame. These consecutive beatdowns did more than humble the Utes...but the Utes remain in the top-25. If the Broncos can notch another win over a top-25 squad and do it with the same "enthusiasm" that the Frogs and Domers did, voters will likely reward the Broncos in the final polls...all leading back to number one on my list of setting the polls up in our favor for 2011. TCU and Boise State have been nearly indistinguishable the last couple of years and with the Broncos likely having to scrap with the new conferencemate Frogs next year for a piece of the pie...finishing the year on a more positive note than a Rose Bowl-bound TCU squad is the way to do it.
Outside of the "money bowls", the Jiffy Lube Las Vegas Bowl is largely inconsequential. Sure, it affords the Broncos one more opportunity to land in the win column, but ten years from now people probably won't be talking about a BSU win in a lesser bowl game (although I suspect the Vandals will be talking about the "epic" H-bowl win of '09 until the sun burns out). The game will, however, be one more shot at national exposure. The Money Tree Las Vegas Bowl will be called by Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musberger, broadcast on national TV, and feature one of the better top-25 matchups outside the BCS landscape. Kellen Moore can still generate more buzz for a 2011 Heisman run...Titus Young and Austin Pettis will get one more chance to impress NFL scouts...and those few recruits still on the fence will get a chance to see what the Broncos are made of. Besides, you'll need a Ukrainian spy satellite to find the Bronco games on the tube next year, so this last little bit of televised love will do the Broncos good (provided they don't lose on another last-second missed field goal).
The Broncos, contrary to popular belief, still have something to play for in 2010. Pride. Boise State hasn't done so red-hot in bowl games of late and the Utes are riding a 9-game bowl win streak. The Broncos can definitivelly get off the bowl schnide, erase any lingering doubts about the team's worth, and break the longest bowl win streak in the nation. The Broncos do not like to lose, and I assure you, they aren't heading to Vegas for the cheap buffets and Siegfried and Roy.
Think the Broncos will be ready on December 22nd? Think the Utes stand a chance? Are the Broncos recent bowl woes due to key injuries or lack of preparation? Anyone want to fly me down for the game?