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Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Primer: Washington vs. BYU

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BYU boasts a strong running game, but can they keep up with Washington running back Bishop Sankey in Friday's Fight Hunger Bowl? Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images.
BYU boasts a strong running game, but can they keep up with Washington running back Bishop Sankey in Friday's Fight Hunger Bowl? Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images.

After three consecutive seasons with exactly seven wins, the Huskies earned their eighth, 27-17 over Washington State in the Apple Cup. 

With Steve Sarkisian already in Los Angeles recruiting for USC, Washington will turn to interim head coach Marcus Tuiasosopo, the quarterback for the Huskies when they defeated Purdue in the 2001 Rose Bowl.

Going up against an independent schedule, BYU had the chance to face off against a wide variety of teams from conferences across the country. The Cougars could easily be 10-2 instead of 8-4 and a victory over a talented Huskies team would give BYU another signature win to go along with their defeat of Texas in September.

Washington                     

Motivation: While Washington broke through to eight victories, a ninth would be the most since the 11-1 2000 team quarterbacked by Tuiasosopo. In 2010, Washington traveled to Provo to open the season and fell to the Cougars, 23-17.

If You’ve Never Seen Them: Washington features NFL-caliber weapons offensively in running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the John Mackey Award winner. On defense, sophomore linebacker Shaq Thompson, who is second on the team in tackles, may one day join Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins at the next level.

Weakness: Slow starts by Washington were key in losses to Stanford and UCLA. This team showed resiliency in those contests, but expelled too much energy to complete the comeback. Against a team that runs as effectively as BYU, a slow start would be challenging to overcome.

BYU

Motivation: Other than the Texas victory, BYU went 1-4 combined against BCS conference opponents (including Notre Dame). After at least nine wins in four of his first five seasons, BYU has had only one such campaign in the last three seasons under head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

If You’ve Never Seen Them: The Cougars offense goes as far as dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill will take them. The sophomore leads BYU in rushing and has 19 touchdown passes.  BYU’s defense ranks 22nd in the country in points allowed due in large part to the play of linebackers Kyle Van Noy (15.5 TFL) and Uani Unga (131 tackles).  

Weakness: Despite his dynamic playmaking ability, Hill threw 13 interceptions and had a completion percentage less than 40 percent against Virginia, Texas and Utah. Turnovers against a Huskies team with quick-strike ability on offense can be devastating.

Las Vegas Hilton Line: Washington -4

Related: Scouting The Fight Hunger Bowl