Game to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Rich Rodriguez has gone from an ostracized failure at Michigan to a beloved figure at Arizona as he guides the No. 11 Wildcats against No. 21 Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on Dec. 31. Rodriguez was fired as Wolverines coach after the 2010 season and Michigan is again looking for a coach while Rodriguez was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year after winning 10 games in his third season. The Broncos are coached by Bryan Harsin, who had an 11-2 record in his first season as coach after replacing Chris Petersen.
Boise State landed the Fiesta Bowl bid as the highest-ranked team from the five minor FBS conferences. The College Football Playoff guaranteed a spot to the best team from the non-major leagues and the Broncos captured the berth with eight consecutive victories, the final one coming against Fresno State in the Mountain West title game. Boise State is no stranger to the Fiesta Bowl, notching the famous 43-42 overtime upset of Oklahoma following the 2006 regular season and also defeated TCU 17-10 after the 2009 season.
Arizona middle linebacker Scooby Wright owns more hardware than anyone else in this contest after winning the Bednarik and Nagurski awards as the nation’s top defensive player and the Lombardi Award (top defensive lineman or linebacker) as well as being named a first-team All-American. The sophomore amassed 153 tackles and has 14 sacks among his eye-popping 28 tackles for losses. “He has a chip on his shoulder, he loves the game and is a good teammate,” Rodriguez said of Wright in a statement. “One of the reasons his numbers are so high is because of his effort.”
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Arizona opened as 4-point favorites and have been bet down to -3. The total has moved down two points from its opening number of 69.5 to sit at 67.5.
INJURY REPORT: Boise State – TE Connor Peters (questionable Wednesday, leg). Arizona – LB DeAndre Miller (questionable Wednesday, shoulder), RB Adonis Smith (questionable Wednesday, concussion), DL Parker Zellers (questionable Wednesday, ankle), S Trevor Ermisch (questionable Wednesday, arm), OL Steven Gurola (questionable Wednesday, suspension).
WEATHER REPORT: Indoors.
ABOUT BOISE STATE (11-2, 7-6 ATS, 9-4 O/U): The Broncos have a big-time running back in Jay Ajayi, who has rushed for 1,689 yards and 25 touchdowns – topping 100 yards nine times – and also has four receiving TDs. Quarterback Grant Hedrick has an impressive 70.9 completion percentage to go with 3,387 yards and 22 touchdowns but also is mistake-prone with 13 interceptions. Strong safety Darian Thompson (seven) and cornerback Donte Deayon (five) have combined for 12 of Boise State’s 20 interceptions with middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo (team-best 86 tackles) and outside linebacker Kamalei Correa (team-leading 10 sacks) also enjoying strong campaigns.
ABOUT ARIZONA (10-3, 5-8 ATS, 4-9 O/U): Quarterback Anu Solomon proved to be ready for duty as a freshman and he has excelled with 3,458 yards and 27 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Nick Wilson was the main ground force with 1,289 yards and 15 touchdowns and Cayleb Jones is the top receiving target and caught 65 passes for 902 yards and nine touchdowns. Wright gets help on defense from safety Jared Tevis (119 tackles, four sacks), free safety Jourdon Grandon (team-high three interceptions) and safety William Parks (13 tackles for losses).
* Boise State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games versus the Pac-12.
* Arizona is 1-4 ATS in its last five neutral site games.
* Over is 7-1 in Boise State’s last eight games overall.
* Under is 5-1 in Arizona’s last six games overall.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The majority of bettors are backing the Broncos at -3, with 68 percent of the wagers placed on Boise State.