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Fight Hunger Bowl breakdown: BYU vs. Washington

Photo: Jesse Beals/ Icon SMI/Icon SMI

BYU's defense can handle All-America back Bishop Sankey and QB Keith Price, but not enough to win.

BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4)
Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Reason to watch: Both teams boast veteran standouts at highly visible positions. The Huskies will be sending off fifth-year quarterback Keith Price (65.5 percent completions, 20 TDs, 5 INTs) while prominently featuring All-America tailback Bishop Sankey (1,775 yards, 18 TDs). Meanwhile, Cougars signal-caller Taysom Hill (2,645 yards passing, 1,211 rushing) emerged as one of the nation's most prolific dual-threat quarterbacks, surpassing the 100-yard rushing mark five times. BYU's showcase star, however, remains All-America linebacker Kyle Van Noy (16 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hurries), who had a monstrous performance in last year's Poinsettia Bowl. While Washington coach Steve Sarkisian's departure to USC took some of the air out of this matchup, it is still a game between two talented teams that acquitted themselves well during the regular season against rigorous schedules

Keep an eye on: The Cougars' largely unheralded defense, which tied for 12th nationally (4.81 yards per play). Van Noy dropped off a bit as a senior but fellow linebacker Uani 'Unga (136 tackles) gets all over the field. BYU has aready faced Texas, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, but it will be interesting to see how the Cougars fare against Sankey and the Huskies' up-tempo attack.

Did you know: You'll be seeing history if you watch the Fight Hunger Bowl. The game will be the first bowl to ever feature two female officials, as the scheduled Conference USA crew includes head linesman Maia Chaka and line judge Sarah Thomas, who in 2009 was the first woman to officiate a bowl game at the Little Caesars Bowl.

Final analysis: Motivation is often a factor for teams like Washington that are playing for an interim coach. To lead them, the Huskies chose 34-year-old Marques Tuiasosopo, the team's former Rose Bowl hero, who should have his players' full attention. BYU's defense is strong enough to disrupt Price and Sankey, but the Cougars' offense, behind talented runners Hill and tailback Jamaal Williams (109.3 yards per game), is too one-dimensional to hang for four quarters against linebacker Shaq Thompson and the Washington defense.

The pick: Washington 34, BYU 17

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