Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: BYU Cougars vs. Utah Utes
Date: Dec. 19, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Location: Las Vegas | Sam Boyd Stadium
Best moment: Hail Mary! In a season full of memorable moments, BYU delivered one of the first when freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum threw a 42-yard touchdown Hail Mary to Mitch Mathews with no time left to give the Cougars a 33-28 victory over Nebraska, handing the Huskers their first home-opening loss since 1985. Mangum was only in the game because starter Taysom Hill injured his foot; Mangum was playing in his first organized football game since 2012.
Lowest moment: Shutout to Michigan. Could have gone one of two ways here. BYU blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to then-No. 10 UCLA in Week 3. But a close road loss to a top 10 team is not nearly as disappointing as what happened the following week, when the then-No. 22 Cougars lost 31-0 at Michigan, their first shutout loss since 2003. BYU had 105 yards of offense, its lowest total since gaining 92 against Iowa State in 1974.
Key player: Mangum. How many freshmen throw for 3,000 yards in their debut season? Mangum became the first in BYU history and the 13th player overall to reach 3,000 yards at the school. He finished with 21 touchdown passes and seven interceptions and ended the season without an interception in his final three games.
BYU motivation level: Extremely high. Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Friday he was leaving BYU for Virginia, but would coach the bowl game. His players are going to want to send him out the right way -- in his final game with the Cougars. Plus, they will want to make up for an embarrassing performance against Memphis in the Miami Beach Bowl last year that was marred by a postgame fight that involved dozens of players and plenty of punches thrown. -- Andrea Adelson
Best moment: Utah became a national contender when it blew out then-No. 13 Oregon 62-20 in front of a stunned crowd at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks hadn't been taken to the woodshed like that at home since losing 54-0 to Washington in 1977. Utah's 62 points were the most scored against a Pac-12 opponent since joining the league in 2011, and also the most the Ducks have ever allowed in Eugene. Any remaining questions about the Utes competing in the Pac-12 were put to bed for good.
Lowest moment: With running back Devontae Booker out for the season with an injury, the Utes offense sputtered in a 17-9 home loss to UCLA, which knocked Utah out of the South Division race. Had the Utes won, they would have captured the division by beating Colorado in the season finale, which they did. It was the team's third loss in five games after a 6-0 start and probably the most painful.
Key player: While Booker was the Utes’ best player -- the unquestioned lead dog on offense -- he's not available for the postseason, so we're going with first-team All-Pac-12 linebacker Gionni Paul. Paul led the Utes with 109 tackles and 12.5 tackles for a loss. He also added three sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He's been a highly productive leader on one of the conference's best defenses.
Motivation level: High. Utah is surely disappointed it didn't get a shot at the Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl. For much of the season, the Utes were in the College Football Playoff discussion. There was a late-season slip with three losses in five games. So it's possible that the Utes won't be highly motivated by a second-tier bowl. But coach Kyle Whittingham is a master at getting his team ready for bowl games with a 7-1 bowl record. Utah isn't the sort of team that shows up to play any game without motivation. -- Ted Miller