The Utah Utes cancelled their football series with the Boise State Broncos, but they might not be able to avoid playing the future Mountain West Conference member after all.
The Utes, who accepted an invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl Wednesday, could be paired with the Broncos for the Dec. 22 game in a best-case scenario.
Las Vegas Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy, who said her committee made a unanimous decision to invite the Utes on Wednesday, declined to comment on a possible opponent other than to say, "We eliminated some other entities and felt we had a better shot with representatives by accepting Utah first. We feel like we can have a great matchup between two Top 25 teams."
The Utes are currently ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll while Boise State dropped to No. 9 after its 34-31 loss to No. 14 Nevada.
Boise State (10-1) finishes its season Saturday against Utah State.
Nevada (11-1), which plays at Louisiana Tech Saturday, would be Utah's opponent if the Las Vegas Bowl and ESPN can't sway the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which has first pick from the WAC, to take Nevada instead of the Broncos.
"We've gone through a lot and we are just excited to be able to announce Utah," Kunzer-Murphy said. "We wanted to go ahead and get that released so fans can start making their plans to see a great bowl game."
The Utes (10-2) haven't played in the Las Vegas Bowl since 2001 when they beat Southern Cal 10-6.
Utah, whose first appearance in the bowl was a 17-16 win over Fresno State in 1999, has the nation's longest bowl win streak at nine games.
"We are excited about the opportunity to go back to Las Vegas," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It has been quite a while since we've been there and the players and coaches are looking forward to it. It's a good situation for us."
The Utes were scheduled to play Boise State in 2011, 2012 and 2013 but cancelled the series after they accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10 in 2011.
Other options for the Las Vegas Bowl were to pair Utah with another at-large team since the Pac-10 won't have enough teams eligible to fill its spot in the bowl or hold out hope that Notre Dame would be available to pair against Air Force or BYU.
However, that scenario would have hinged upon several outcomes in Saturday's games.
Pairing Utah and Boise State would be a strong sell for the bowl game, which is televised by ESPN, given the success the Utes and Broncos have had in the BCS.
The Utes are 2-4 all-time against Boise State with the last three games being losses, including a 36-3 defeat in 2006 and are 4-5-1 against the Wolf Pack, but haven't played since a 33-14 loss in 1945.
"We feel like we can have a very good matchup," Kunzer-Murphy said. "We wanted to eliminate some teams and stay in the west."
Boise State has two Fiesta Bowl wins, beating Oklahoma 43-42 in the 2007 game and beating TCU 17-10 in the 2010 game.
The Utes beat Pittsburgh 35-7 to win the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and beat Alabama 31-17 in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Tickets for the game are on sale now through http://www.utahtickets.com or 801-581-UTIX (8849).
Briefly • Whitingham said following Wednesday's practice the only injured player who should miss the bowl game is offensive lineman John Cullen, who suffered an arm injury in the BYU game.
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Las Vegas Bowl
P Dec. 22, 6 p.m., ESPN
Tickets • http://www.utahtickets.com or phone 801-581-UTIX (8849)