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Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins dives for the end zone on a 34-yard pass reception against Idaho State in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Seattle. Seferian-Jenkins fell a yard short, but quarterback Keith Price scored on the next play. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Analysis: BYU-Washington position preview
First Published Dec 27 2013 12:06 am • Last Updated Dec 27 2013 03:57 pm

Bowl season is in full swing and the Cougars get their turn in the spotlight tonight when they take on the Washington Huskies in the Fight Hunger Bowl. BYU’s final stretch of 2013 was a mixed bag after the Cougars took care of Nevada and Idaho State, but fell when the pressure was on against Wisconsin and Notre Dame. Overall, the Cougars can call this season a success, but a win over Washington would be an exclamation point for a team seeking a signature win. Washington was a much better team than its record, falling only to ranked teams Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA en route to an 8-4 season. Although coach Steve Sarkisian bolted for USC, the Huskies still have talented players at their disposal and will be a tough test behind Keith Price, Bishop Sankey and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Here’s a position-by-position look at this week’s matchup and which team will have the edge heading into Friday’s game:

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Quarterback:

Sophomore Taysom Hill had his share of struggles in the beginning of the season, but came into his own after a blistering four touchdown, 408 total yards game against Boise State. Removing a three interception outing in a lopsided victory over Idaho State, Hill had eight touchdowns to only two interceptions in the last five games of the year along with two rushing touchdowns. His dual threat style will also be a positive after Washington struggled against similar quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Taylor Kelly in Pac-12 play. However, Hill will have to make smart decisions with the ball while keeping the Huskies honest with his legs for the Cougars to take this one.

Senior Keith Price finally played up to his potential in his final year at Washington, serving as a great compliment to Sankey as a talented passer. Price had five games this season with over 300 yards passing and had a six touchdowns to only two interceptions in the toughest games of the season against Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA. Price won’t beat the Cougars with his legs, but has plenty of arm strength and had five touchdowns and only one interception along with 537 yards against Idaho State and Boise State, two BYU opponents this year. Overall, Price also has a better range of weapons at his disposal, giving him an edge over Hill.

Edge: Washington


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Running back:

Jamaal Williams overcame a scary concussion against Utah, but came back to be a backfield threat for BYU for the rest of the season. Williams rushed for under 70 yards only once during the last eight weeks of 2013 and had a combined 469 yards and four touchdowns in the last four weeks against Wisconsin, Idaho State, Notre Dame and Nevada. However, Williams also went through long stretches of the season without scoring, including through the first five weeks of the season. He also struggled against more talented defensive teams, going scoreless against Texas, Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. BYU will need him to rush for at least 100 yards and to reach the endzone at least once, if not twice, to win this one.

Junior Bishop Sankey was not only one of the best ‘backs in the Pac-12, but announced himself as one of the best in the nation with his play this season. Sankey had over 120 yards rushing in an astounding nine games this season with three games over 200 yards rushing. He broke the Washington single-season rushing record with 1,775 yards this season and had 19 total touchdowns as the clear focal point of the Washington offense. If the Cougars can limit only one of Washington’s weapons, it will have to be Sankey.

Edge: Washington

Pass Catchers

Ross Apo is out for this game, leaving more pressure on Cody Hoffman, Skyler Ridley and JD Falslev to produce. Hoffman will be key in his last game at BYU and will need to produce much better than he did at the end of the season after catching only nine passes for 90 yards in the final three games. If Hoffman can replicate his 113 yard, two touchdown performance against Wisconsin, the Cougars will be in good shape. Falslev scored twice in the last two games of the season and Ridley is always a solid option, but both will need to elevate their play to help Hill.

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