Las Vegas Bowl Tends to Keep Fans on Edge of Seats

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Over the past two decades, Sam Boyd Stadium hasn’t exactly been a hub of quality college football—at least from late August through November. But that usually changes around this time of year, when the Las Vegas Bowl participants pick up where the disappointing UNLV football team leaves off.

While not the most prestigious bowl game or the most lucrative—this year’s per-team payouts of $1.35 million rank in the middle of the pack of 38 bowls—our postseason college football game has traditionally featured a very competitive matchup. In fact, since the Las Vegas Bowl debuted in 1992, more than half of the contests (12 of 22) have been decided by 10 points or fewer. And of those dozen games, eight had a margin of four points or fewer.

Are we headed for another nail-biter when Utah and Colorado State square off at 12:30 p.m. December 20 at Sam Boyd Stadium? Local oddsmakers seem to think so; they’ve made Utah a modest 3½- to 4-point favorite. Certainly, bowl officials (not to mention the suits at ESPN/ABC) can only hope this matchup ends up as riveting as these seven Las Vegas Bowl classics:

1992: After blowing a 28-3 halftime lead to UNR, Bowling Green scored a touchdown with 22 seconds to play to escape with a 35-34 victory and claim the inaugural Las Vegas Bowl crown.

1995: UNR fell behind early once again (21-7), rallied once again and fell short once again, this time losing to Toledo 40-37 in overtime—the first overtime game Division I-A football history.

1996: Back in the Las Vegas Bowl for the third time in five years, UNR finally got it right, jumping out to an early lead and holding on for an 18-15 victory over Ball State. The Wolf Pack sealed it with an interception with 2:03 to play.

1999: Utah’s first of now four Las Vegas Bowl appearances came down to the wire, with the Utes needing a 33-yard, late fourth-quarter field goal to pull out a 17-16 victory over Fresno State.

2004: Wyoming overcame long odds (the Cowboys were a 12½-point underdog) and an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win its first bowl game in nearly 30 years, topping UCLA 24-21 before a then Las Vegas Bowl-record crowd of 27,784.

2007: BYU kicked a 50-yard field goal to take a 17-16 lead over UCLA with 6:24 to play, and held on from there. It was Cougars’ second straight Las Vegas Bowl victory and their third of a record five consecutive appearances in the game.

2012: After crushing Utah (26-3) and Arizona State (56-24) to win the 2010 and 2011 Las Vegas Bowls, Boise State had a much tougher time against Washington. Despite jumping out to an 18-3 lead, the Broncos needed a chip-shot field goal with 1:16 to play to prevail 28-26, capping the first three-peat in Las Vegas Bowl history.