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December 8, 2011Tweet
BOISE, Idaho (AP) Boise State will be making another visit to Las Vegas, this time to play Arizona State in the 20th MAACO Bowl in a matchup of two teams that had higher postseason hopes three months ago.
The No. 8 Broncos (11-1) accepted an invitation to the game Sunday despite being ranked No. 7 in the final BCS standings. It's the fourth time the Broncos have finished in the top 10 of the BCS without getting a bid to one of the high-profile, big-money games.
The Sun Devils got off to a great start and were 6-2 and ranked in the AP Top 25. But a late swoon punctuated by four straight losses led to a 6-6 record and third-place finish in the Pac-12 South. That skid was costly for coach Dennis Erickson, who was let go last week after going 31-30 in five years in Tempe.
Erickson, who is familiar to Bronco Nation thanks to his two stints coaching at the University of Idaho, is expected to lead the Sun Devils in the Dec. 22 game.
"The goal at the beginning of the year for any college football team is to play in a bowl game," Erickson said. "I am so proud of our players and my coaching staff. ... We are playing one of the nation's top teams in Boise State as well."
The Broncos also had loftier goals this season.
Behind Kellen Moore and one of the most talented senior classes in school history, Boise State beat Georgia in the opener then won its next seven games. But a missed field goal and other late mistakes cost the Broncos in a 36-35 loss to TCU in Boise on Nov. 12. That defeat diminished any real hopes the Broncos had of playing in a higher-profile bowl game and winning the conference title.
Still, coach Chris Petersen says his team is excited to return to Las Vegas, where they walloped then-No. 20 Utah a year ago 26-3. The MAACO Bowl will be the 10th straight bowl appearance for Boise State.
"We are excited about returning to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas and to again face a tough opponent like Arizona State," said Petersen. "We had a great bowl experience last year and I know the hospitality for our team and fans will again be outstanding."
The Broncos and Sun Devils have played once, in 1996, when Arizona State - on the way to a conference title and an undefeated regular season - won 56-7 in Tempe. But the Broncos now own a three-game winning streak over Pac-12 teams.